Tag Archives: tennis

McEnroe still entertains in loss to Courier

John McEnroe admits he is part entertainer when he plays in front of crowds these days.

So after each match he played Saturday in the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Championship at Surprise Racquet Center, the tennis elder statesman took off his blue Nike shirt and tossed it into the crowd.

One adventurous fan decided to ask for more and yelled for McEnroe to throw his underwear into the stands.

McEnroe shot back: “We’re playing in Surprise. We’ll all be in for a real surprise later.”

The 53-year-old McEnroe was certainly the drawing card to a two-day tournament that featured six Grand Slam champions in the field. Former world No.1 Jim Courier defeated McEnroe 8-7 in a one-set tie-breaker in Saturday night’s final match to kick off the 12-city Powershare Series tour.

Other players included former Grand Slam winners Martina Navratilova, Michael Chang and Tracy Austin as well as Todd Martin.

In the eight-point, pro-set championship match, both players held serve until Courier broke McEnroe to go up 7-5. Courier immediately returned the service break then swept all the points in the next game to force a tiebreaker.

A clearly fatigued McEnroe, who beat Chang 6-2 in a semifinal match immediately before the championship, looked slow in the tiebreaker and didn’t move as he watched Courier place a hard-hit shot to his left to clinch the 7-1 tiebreaker win.

“I had my chances, but at the end when I really needed it I couldn’t find it,” McEnroe said. “I think in the tiebreaker I mentally got defeated.”

Courier, who is 11 years younger than McEnroe, avenged a loss to Pete Sampras in last year’s championship game in Surprise. Courier and McEnroe are long-time rivals and Davis Cup partners, and their familiarities with each other’s game made for a close battle most of the way. It also led to some humorous interplay between the two.

After the left-handed McEnroe held serve at 4-3 with a nice forehand shot that barely stayed inside the line, Courier yelled to McEnroe, “You’re supposed to miss that, man.”

Not to miss a chance to get a laugh from the crowd, McEnroe said back, “Not in my world.”

Courier made it to the championship match after beating Martin, the 2009 winner in Surprise, in a tiebreaker in the first semifinal. Courier and McEnroe also played a mixed-doubles exhibition match with Austin and Navratilova on Friday night.

“We enjoy what we’re doing,” Courier said about the kickoff of the tour that also includes Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl in select cities.

“There is a time and a place to connect with people, but it’s tennis in the end.”


Published at azcentral.com • Oct 14, 2012
Published at USAToday.com • Oct. 15, 2012

high schools

Ironwood Ridge boys, girls take Division II titles

by Jason Stone

It’s a day Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge tennis players won’t soon forget.
Just minutes apart, the boys and girls teams won Division II team championships at Glendale’s Paseo Racquet Center on adjacent courts. And they did it dramatically by winning it at the end of doubles play.
The boys won a doubles match to pull out a 5-3 win over Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, while the girls defeated Tucson Catalina Foothills, one of the state’s most decorated teams, 5-4.
But they didn’t hang around long to celebrate. There was more important business to attend to.
“I’m so overjoyed right now,” girls singles player Sara Brown said. “We got prom tonight.”
Brown had many reasons to be overjoyed. Not only did she upset state singles champion Zaina Sufi earlier in the day in singles, she was part of the doubles team with Alex Prassas that clinched the team win.
Ironwood Ridge’s girls snapped Catalina Foothills’ streak of three straight state titles and sent it home without a title for only the second time since 2000.
“It was nice to get the individual (singles and doubles) championship (last week), but it would have been great to get the team win too,” said Catalina Foothills coach Kristie Stevens, the team’s coach since the school opened in the early 1990s.
In singles, Brown beat Sufi, her training partner, in three sets to set up the dramatic doubles play to settle it.
Brown has played Sufi tough in the past — including two losses earlier this season — but never had Brown won or even taken it to a third set.
But Brown shocked Sufi by winning the first set. With the girls tied at 3 in the second set, however, Sufi hit a crosscourt winner to break Brown’s serve to take momentum in the set to win 6-3.
When Sufi took a 2-1 lead in the third set, it appeared she was finally wearing Brown down. But Brown found a second wind in the afternoon heat and proceeded to reel off the next five games, breaking Sufi’s serve three times, to win the set, 6-2, and the match.
“Sara Brown played great today,” Stevens said. “You have to give her credit. Zaina fought hard. She just came up short.”
The teams split the first two doubles matches, setting up Brown and Prassas’ dramatic win over Kirtana Bhat and Noel Karp.
Tensions ran high midway through when Brown and Prassas called for an official to judge calls after some disputed ones.
“It was good we had each other to calm each other down,” Prassas said about the short tension-filled delay while waiting for an official to arrive. “That’s the great thing about doubles.”
The win came minutes after Ironwood Ridge’s boys team won its third state championship on an adjacent court.
Ironwood Ridge’s Nos.5 and 6 singles players Michael Izzard and Ryan Knox, the third doubles team, learned the hard way that every point counts when it comes to the state championship.
Needing to win its doubles match against Cactus Shadows with their two other doubles pairs losing or have lost, Izzard and Knox held off Joey Anderson and Jack Peterson, 10-8, to set off the championship celebration.
Cactus Shadows’ first two single players — brothers Jacob and Joshua Hedderig — won their matches, but Ironwood Ridge didn’t lose the other four singles matches. That made the road uphill for Cactus Shadows, which was forced to win all three doubles matches if it were to claim the title.
Ironwood Ridge returned to the top after a two-year hiatus. It won back-to-back titles in the old 5A-II Division in 2008 and 2009.
It was able to keep Cactus Shadows from its first state championship in five years.

Published at azcentral.com • May. 5, 2012

high schools

Thatcher, Phoenix Country Day capture titles

by Jason Stone

All Ethan Bryce wanted in his high school sports career was to win a state championship — in anything.
The tennis, basketball and football player for Thatcher was 0-4 in state tournament championship games or matches in basketball and tennis and never got the chance to play for a state title in football.
But that all changed for the senior Saturday. Thatcher needed doubles play but pulled out a 5-3 win over Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian in the Division III championship at Glendale’s Paseo Racquet Center.
“This is just phenomenal,” Bryce said. “What a great way to end my high school career.”
In the girls Division III championship, Phoenix Country Day School won its third state title in four years with a 5-3 win over Miami.
Thatcher won its third boys title and first under coach Chris Cook thanks to solid wins at the bottom of the lineup.
Reed Goodman and Rex Dodge won singles at the Nos. 5 and 6 spots, respectively, to force doubles play. The doubles team of Goodman and Nathan McMaster then held back Evan Gazic and Connor Ottaway, 10-5, to clinch the title.
Thatcher needed that win because it was losing the other doubles match in progress, 8-5, at the time it ended.
Thatcher avenged a 5-4 loss to Pusch Ridge in last year’s team finals.
“We pretty much had the same result as them as last year except our No. 3 doubles team got better and Pusch Ridge might be a little younger,” Cook said.
Thatcher’s championship is the school’s first for its boys since it won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
Phoenix Country Day’s senior girls, meanwhile, were able to earn a third championship. Had it not been for a one-point loss in the finals in 2010 they would have ended their careers 4 for 4.
“We never get tense or nervous,” senior Leah Stofko said. “The one time we did we didn’t play too good.”
PCDS denied Miami to extend its state record number championships to 22. It last won it all in 2004.
Phoenix Country Day players say it was the team’s depth that paid off in the end.
“It’s not just the top two players for us,” senior Nicole Bassoff said. “We rely on the whole team.”

Published at azcentral • May 5, 2012

high schools

Estrella Foothills shines in singles

by Jason Stone

Goodyear Estrella Foothills isn’t known as a tennis school. But Max Schell and Erin Cory are doing their parts to change that.
Winning dual Division III state singles championships just minutes apart Saturday should help that goal.
“Nobody really cares about tennis at our school,” Cory said after winning her second straight singles state championship. “We’re trying.”
Estrella Foothills’ singles sweep highlighted a day of championship action at Glendale’s Paseo Racquet Center that had promised some high drama.
Schell and Cory posted identical 6-1, 6-1 wins to begin the championship day, Schell over Delaney Harbin of Phoenix Christian and Cory over Kindra Holliday of Miami. The pair has known each other since second grade, and Schell’s mother is Cory’s coach, making the championships even more special for the pair.
Schell won it all in his first year on the team after only playing club previously.
“I wanted the team experience, and it was so much fun,” Schell said.
Alex Lawson of Tempe Corona del Sol won his second straight Division I singles title and fourth state championship overall, defeating third-seeded Nolan Bauer of Scottsdale Chaparral 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
“Sometimes you’re not at the top of your game, and I sort of fought thought it,” said the left-handed Lawson, who is bound for Notre Dame this fall.
Tucson Salpointe Catholic’s Courtney Amos rallied from behind to upset top-seed Madison Clark of Phoenix Xavier Prep 7-5, 3-6, 6-0 in the Division I girls singles finals.
Clarke had lost only once all year entering the match and looked to be cruising when she won the first four games of the first set. Plus, Amos was especially vulnerable at that point because she had played a 2 hour, 55 minute semifinal match earlier in the day.
Instead, Amos found a second wind, rallied to win the opening set and then blew past the freshman Clarke, who is the No.1-ranked 16-year-old in the Southwest Region of the U.S.Tennis Association.
“It’s my senior year and I really wanted to win,” the Yale-bound Amos said. “I just thought, ‘Just go for it.'”
Gilbert Campo Verde’s Dominic Patrick successfully defended his boys Division II singles title, defeating Jacob Hedderig of Cave Creek Cactus Shadows 6-1 6-7, 4-3 (retired). Hedderig had to drop out late in the third set because of a left leg cramp.
“It’s always been tough playing him,” Patrick said. “That isn’t the first time there was cramping. We always play hard three-set matches.”
Top-seeded Zaina Sufi of Tucson Catalina Foothills added to her family legacy with her first singles championship in girls Division II, defeating Phoenix Sunnyslope’s Aleeza Kanner 6-1, 6-3. Sufi’s older sister, Hala, won four-straight singles state championships from 2000-2003. Zaina and two other siblings have a total of five doubles state championships as well.
“I lost in the championship my freshman and sophomore years so going out like this is a good feeling,” said Zaina Sufi, who won a doubles title last year.
Boys doubles winners included: Salpointe’s Matt Dunn and Andrew Dunn over beat Hudson Blake and Zach Cihlar of Phoenix Brophy Prep, 6-4, 6-4, in Division I; Griffin Dales and Joshua Hedderig of Cactus Shadows over Alec Petford and Cody Petford of Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge, 6-4, 6-4 in Division II; and Matt Fisher and Jamie Sydnor of Fountain Hills won the Division III title with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win over Thatcher’s Brandon McMaster and Ethan Bryce.
Girls doubles winners included: Maggie Cohen and Scarlet Rush of Xavier, who beat Lauren Amos and Claire Baxter of Salpointe in Division I, 6-3, 6-1; Catalina Foothills pair Rachana and Kirtana Bhat over Marissa Baca and Katrina Domingo of Ironwood Ridge, 7-5, 7-5, in Division II; and Leah Stofko and Nicole Bassoff of Phoenix Country Day School, who were 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 winners over Sami Towne and Gabby Courtney of Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian in Division III.

Published at azcentral.com • April 28, 2012

blogs

Anyone for Tennis?

by Jason Stone

First Adult Tennis University class is now history! And it was awesome!
Nothing better than being a group where every last person is at the same skill level.  It’s nice that we were all hitting balls all over the place, we all apologized profusely to our teammates when screwing up and everybody got yelled at equally! I’d say we’re doing OK!
The best part of the night was I felt totally in shape to do it. I wasn’t struggling to keep my breath or getting tired or too weak to do anything! All my training the last few months has already paid off. I even burned almost 1,000 calories doing it.
The best surprise of the night: I can backhand! Who knew? Forehand is still inconsistent, and I can serve a little it appears, but backhand just felt natural and that was the one I was worried about. But as one MFP friend pointed out to me, the backhand is supposed to be the easy shot … I never knew that. it certainly isn’t for me in racquetball.
I am meeting the classmates (our “team”) tonight for another round of drills, this time without the coach. As part of the classes, we get free court time to practice and use of the ball machine.  The best part is it’s only a mile away from my house and its an official USTA center.
In October, Pete Sampras, Michael Chang, Jim Courier, Chris Evert and others will be there for a two-day tournament. I’m getting a media pass to cover it and I cannot wait!!!
So I ask again, anyone for tennis???

For information about the Surprise tennis program, click here.