South Florida has never been hotter in February; the reason: The Delray Beach International Tennis Championships has never had such an elite line-up of players as they had this year. #1 seed Andy Roddick did pull out of the tournament at the last minute due to illness, but even so, with players such as del Potro, Fish, Querrey, Karlovic, Tipsarevic and Isner there was no need to worry. This is not to mention the legends on the Champions tour John McEnroe, Mats Wilander and of course, Mark Phillippoussis. This is one of the wonderful and singular things about this tournament. Delray Beach is the only tourney in the world to have both the ATP World Tour and the Champions tour play simultaneously.
Speaking of the Champions tour, it was such a pleasure to see them compete, but most notably was McEnroe with his notorious antics. Some things never change I guess and neither has Johnny Mac in all his glory. While playing Aaron Krickstein in the semi’s, he got a little, “upset” over a call that was called in when he thought it was out. After he starting cursing at the line judge and the ranting getting him nowhere, he then moved on to the chair umpire. When the umpire didn’t budge on changing the call to his favor, he proceeded to call him a “pompous ass”. What’s truly befuddling to me is how no one seems shocked by these things and the sheer, utter silence that ensues after his rants just never ceases to amaze me. Even funnier, half way through the match, a woman in the crowd yelled “C’mon John get your sexy on”. So what does McEnroe do? He pulls down his pants and moons her. Love it!
Regardless, it was wonderful to see McEnroe compete. He is still an amazing tennis player, just a little slower now that’s the only difference. Krickstein did manage to defeat him in three sets, and his form was very impressive as well. When I first saw Aaron on the court, I was brought back to Andre Agassi’s Autobiography… when he referred to Krickstein as one of the first men he competed against. When I finally saw the man compete in person, it was nice to see him actually brought to life on the tennis court.
So, one of the Champions biggest highlights was undoubtedly to see Mark Phillippoussis out there competing on the court again with that awesome serve of his. At the age of 34, Phillippoussis was acing his opponents with serves reaching close to 130 mph. I mean seriously, there are men competing on the ATP World Tour that can’t serve ’em up like this. His desire is to come back and play some main ATP tour events soon and I know many of us are really looking forward to his return. Mark was to take a Wildcard in to the Qualifying event of the BNParibas Open in Indian Wells this month, but couldn’t accept it because of a conflicting Senior event in Zurich, where he has already been entered.
Speaking of awesome serves, how about the Awesome Argentine Juan Martin del Potro? What a pleasure to have him back competing again on the ATP tour. Since his wrist surgery in May 2010, Juan Martin has come back in 2011 playing his best tennis in his last three tournaments, all in the U.S. Making the semi’s both in San Jose (lost to Verdasco), and in Memphis (lost to Roddick), del Potro won the championship in Delray, his first title since the 2009 US Open, where he defeated Roger Federer in 5 sets. Juan looked exhausted in the Final against Tipsarevic and at one point looked as if he was all but ready to walk away the loser in that match.
Somehow Delpo kicked in another gear however, only to be helped out by Tipsy’s onslaught of errors and lack of mental toughness, which ultimately left him the winner defeating Tipsarevic in straights (6-4, 6-4). Unshaven and looking close to death, Juan Martin addressed the crowd in his native Spanish, which we all know makes him feel much more confident whe he speaks. The look of complete bliss and utter joy in the 22 year old’s face was so precious, so sweet… like a child getting his first chocolate egg on Easter Sunday. I couldn’t help but smile looking at his picture with the winner’s trophy. I feel an incredible urge of excitement when I think of Delpo playing in Indian Wells and Miami. He will come with a new found confidence… and so let the games begin!