By Jay Betsill
Eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi took the top prize in an evening of tennis legends at the Toyota Center in downtown Houston when he outlasted former No. 4 in the world James Blake 6-4 in the championship match at the Camden Wealth Advisors Cup.
The event, the sixth event on the 2014 PowerShares Series tennis circuit, was basically a nirvana for tennis fans as it featured Agassi, Jim Courier, James Blake, and Andy Roddick. All four players achieved top 5 rankings in the ATP Tour during their full-time playing careers, with Agassi, Courier, and Roddick each reaching No. 1 and winning Grand Slam titles.
The night kicked off with Agassi defeating Courier 6-4 followed by Blake beating Roddick 6-3. The matches were very entertaining as the players interacted with the fans and one another. Courier paused before a serve to request a towel to dry off the baseline from Agassi sweating, while Agassi had his share of fun with the ball boys. Roddick, who had defeated Blake one night earlier in the championship match in Denver, grabbed an early 2-0 lead. Blake took advantage of Roddick’s inconsistent serve to charge back and advance to the finals.
After the second semifinal, as part of the evening’s fan-friendly atmosphere, three fans got the opportunity to take the court and attempt to return Roddick’s serve. He took it easy on a few of them and cranked several of them in excess of 100 mph.
The final between Agassi and Blake, a rematch of the classic five-set duel in the quarterfinals of the 2005 U.S. Open, featured an entertaining mix of baseline rallies and several timely drop shots. It all came down to Blake serving 5-4 in a game that would go to 12 deuces and include six match points for Agassi. After Agassi attempted to replicate his forehand winner from their U.S. Open match on multiple occasions, he was able to close out the match when Blake crushed a forehand into the net.
After the match, Agassi spoke to me about the difference in an exhibition like this night in Houston compared to his grueling days on the ATP Tour.
“It’s so different in that you’re not really getting your enjoyment out of of that battle and that staring contest, but you are getting your enjoyment the entire night,” Agassi said. “You take in the people, you take in the moment and you get nervous whether you are going to play well or not. But I enjoy it in a different kind of way by just taking it all in.”
The win was Agassi’s sixth of his career on the PowerShares Series.
Next up for tennis fans in Texas is the Irving Tennis Classic ATP Challenger Tour event at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas (March 10-16) and the U.S. Clay Court Championships at River Oaks Country Club in Houston (April 7-14).