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Philippoussis Beats McEnroe in Boston

BOSTON — Mark Philippoussis staved off John McEnroe 6-3, 4-6, 10-5 (Champions Tie-breaker) Sunday to win the $150,000 Staples Champions Cup for his first career title on the Champions Series circuit, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over.

Phillippoussis, 33, earned $60,000 for the title as well as 800 ranking points to become the new Champions Series points leader for 2010.

Philippoussis cruised to a 5-0 lead out of the gate before McEnroe was able to get on the scoreboard. After McEnroe threatened to make the first set competitive by winning three games in a row, Philippoussis served out the set on his second opportunity. McEnroe jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set, showing the spirit and fire that carried him into his fifth decade of competitive tennis. Philippoussis hung tough and connected on some blazing groundstroke winners — mixed with a few untimely McEnroe unforced errors — to break back in the seventh game of the second set. After each player then held their serve, McEnroe broke Philippoussis to win the second set 6-4, punctuated with a forehand volley winner, followed by a forceful fist-pump and scream of approval.

In the Champions Tie-breaker — a first-to-10-point tie-breaker played in lieu of a third set — Philippoussis proved to be too strong for the man 17 years his senior, hitting four aces, three groundstroke winners and winning six of the last seven points to close out the title.

“I knew I had to play some good tennis today,” said Philippoussis, who lost to Roger Federer in the 2003 Wimbledon final. “I wanted to play good tennis for myself more than anything. I came out good with an early break and things started to go my way. At 5-0, I had some set points and at 5-2, he started coming back and playing better and better. I think once he got into the match it got dangerous for me.”

Philippoussis, who was two years old when McEnroe won his first Grand Slam singles title at the 1979 U.S. Open, has been struggling with knee injuries over the last few years. He has undergone six knee surgeries — three on the right knee and three on the left — and is finally beginning to feel at full strength.

“This is about going out there and having fun and building strength on my body and my knee,” said Philippoussis. “This is about getting matches and getting on the court and doing what I love doing.”

McEnroe was appearing in the Boston final for a fourth time in the fifth year of the event. The 51-year-old, who won his only Boston title in 2008, said he felt extra motivated after being down 0-5 and proving that he could come back and make it a match.

“I was getting blown out,” said McEnroe. “I wanted to show that I have been playing well and hopefully if I could get it going. I felt that I had a chance at the end.

The turning point, he said, was the fumbled half-volley he dribbled into the net at 4-4 in Champions Tie-breaker.

“I had one bad point at four all,” said McEnroe. “I hesitated a little bit and the next thing you know it’s 8-4. I felt like I played well and it wasn’t like I was playing badly.”

In Sunday’s third-place match, Jim Courier and Bjorn Borg competed against each for the first time ever, Courier winning 6-4, 7-6 (4).

”It was great to see Bjorn on the other side of the court and see how graceful he is,” said the 39-year-old Courier, who earned $25,000 for finishing in third place. “It was a privilege to play him.”

The Staples Champions Cup marked the first time that Borg had played in the United States in 10 years. Following his last match of the week Sunday, Borg, 53, thanked the Boston fans for their warm welcome and said he would be interested in playing additional events in the United States in the future.

“I love playing in the States,” said Borg. “It’s one of my favorite places. If it works with our schedule and our life in Stockholm with the kids, I am more than happy to come back and play.”

The Staples Champions Cup is part of the global Champions Series tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. To be eligible to compete, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. Each event features $150,000 in prize money — with the tournament champion earning $60,000 — and ranking points that determine the year-end No. 1. Each tournament champion earns 800 ranking points. Courier finished the 2009 season as the top-ranked player on the series, followed by Sampras and Martin.

Former French Open semifinalist Fernando Meligeni of Brazil was the surprise winner of the opening event on the 2010 Champions Series, winning the title in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, defeating Philippoussis in the final.

The Champions Series circuit will resume September 30 - October 3 at The Breezeplay Championships in Charlotte, N.C., where Courier will look to win the title for a third straight year and a fourth time overall. In the 2009 final, Courier upset Pete Sampras 3-6, 6-4, 10-8 (Champions Tie-Breaker).

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InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Champions Series tennis circuit, a collection of tournaments featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events, corporate outings and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2009, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to InsideOutSE.com or ChampionsSeriesTennis.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

 

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