By Rob Lep / STAT Sports
Former World No. 4 Professional Tennis player James Blake made history Saturday night by winning the 12th and final event of the PowerShares Series QQQ Cup, defeating New York native and 7x Grand Slam singles Champion John McEnroe 6-4 in the one set championship match at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.
Saturday night’s event was the first ever tennis event at the Barclays Center and the first competitive tennis match in Brooklyn since Bill Tilden won the U.S. Open Pro Championships at the Terrace Club in 1935. Prior to that, the second-ever Davis Cup was played at the Crescent Athletic Club in August of 1902.
Blake hopes that having events like the PowerShares Series can help grow the game of Tennis in the Empire State.
“I’ve been on this tour for a couple of years and I’ve seen it grow and I’ve seen its impact,” said Blake. “I loved that feeling, and I hope we can gain that sort of excitement and enthusiasm when we bring it to Brooklyn. We can get another fun event in New York.”
Blake who was born in Yonkers, NY, learned to play tennis at the local Harlem Junior Tennis Center and competed in New York area junior tournaments while growing up in the nearby town of Fairfield, CT.
“I don’t think I have ever played more of a New Yorker in New York than myself since I was born here,” said Blake talking about going up against Mr. New York himself John McEnroe, who has lived in New York City practically his entire life and left his mark on the city with his success at the US Open winning eight Grand Slam titles (four in singles and four in doubles).
“It makes sense to cheer for John McEnroe. He has done so much for this city and so much for this sport. If I’m not playing against him, I’m in the stands cheering for him too.”
In order to reach the final, James Blake defeated his former US Davis Cup teammate and 2003 US Open Champion Andy Roddick 6-4 in the first semifinal while McEnroe defeated 4x Grand Slam Singles champion Jim Courier.
“I was just praying that he would miss a few first serves at the end,” said Blake. “I was trying to get chances early on, but he erased them all with good serves. I pray that I can serve that well at 57 years old, or moving or anything he is doing this well at 57. I am just happy to get through it. I got a little lucky at the end and took advantage of my one chance on his serve.”
The 37 year old Blake was born four months after McEnroe captured his first major singles title at the 1979 US Open, defeating Vitas Gerulaitis in straight sets 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.
During the media session before the matches, McEnroe was asked about his thoughts on how players can stay competitive in the PowerShares Series while also wanting to entertain and give the fans a good show during the event.
“Change the format - you know, make it one set so at least I have a prayer. It pushes me. I like to compete, but we obviously want to entertain - you know these guys (Roddick, Blake) are the next guys trying to take over this tour and keep it going, and I think there’s a place in tennis for a champions seniors tour” said McEnroe. “It could work out real well hopefully for the sport. That’s really what it boils down to.
”With the use of the line calling technology Hawk Eye solely instead of line judges, McEnroe had no choice but to get down on both knees and plead to both the head judge and the fans when he felt a call had been made incorrectly.
It made for one of the most memorable moments of the evening and gave fans nostalgia of McEnroe’s confrontational on court behavior and emotional outbursts during matches from his playing days, most notably his “You Cannot Be Serious” outburst during Wimbledon back in 1981.
The PowerShares series has proven to be a perfect way of bringing together two different generations of tennis fans while pitting various retired champions up against one another in a four player tournament and should only continue to grow in 2017.