L.A. Tennis Challenge Brings out the Best

Top-ranked men's tennis player Novak Djokovic vs. Mardy Fish at the LA Tennis Challenge at Pauley Pavilion in (Westwood) Los Angeles CA. Photo Credit: Kevin Reece/News4usonline.com
Top-ranked men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic does his thing against Mardy Fish at the LA Tennis Challenge at Pauley Pavilion in (Westwood) Los Angeles CA. Photo Credit: Kevin Reece/News4usonline.com

LOS ANGELES-Tennis in Los Angeles should happen more often. Judging by the buzz in the crowd attending the restored Pauley Pavilion for the first L.A. Tennis Challenge, tennis could very well become a big hit.

It didn’t hurt to have Novak Djokovic, the top-ranked men’s player in the world, bringing his talents to the City of Angeles and headlining the one day tournament. It was also not a bad thing to include the great Pete Sampras, winner of 14 grand slam championships, and who one could argue as perhaps the greatest tennis player ever.

When you’ve won 64 titles, take home seven Wimbledon championships, and compile an astonishing 762-222 overall career mark as Sampras has, it’s hard to argue that the youngest player to win the U.S. Open, at least belong in the ‘greatest ever’ conversation.

Some of the celebrity sightings in the crowd caught Dr. Phil (McGraw) with an up close view of the selected matches set up to raise money for the various charities attached to the L.A. Tennis Challenge.    As he walked the red carpet before entering into Pauley Pavilion, it was surprised to see Djokovic being mobbed for autographed tennis balls, posing for pictures with young children and inhaling his fans’ relentless adoration.

One need not to be a full-fledge tennis buff to appreciate the greatest that took to the floor for several hours, giving fans a wondrous treat. Besides the obvious attraction of Djokovic and Sampras, The L.A. Tennis Challenge featured some of the marquee names in the game. Super duo Mike and Bob Bryan, the dynamic doubles partners, showcased their vaunted tennis skills, which have helped them to winning a dozen grand slam titles and pushed them to the No. 1 ranking in the world eight times since 2003.

Age has not kept Tommy Haas from being considered one of the best in world. Haas, who played the evening’s first set against hotshot James Blake, is still a force to be reckoned with, sitting at the 18th ranked position in the world at the ripe age of 34. It was Haas who initially got the crowd going crazy as he returned a shot from Blake into the net that caused it to break and force a delay in the action for at least 30 minutes.

Tommy Haas vs.James Blake at the LA Tennis Challenge at Pauley Pavilion in (Westwood) Los Angeles CA. Photo Credit: Kevin Reece/News4usonline.com
James Blake returns a shot by Tommy Haas at the LA Tennis Challenge at Pauley Pavilion in (Westwood) Los Angeles CA. Photo Credit: Kevin Reece/News4usonline.com

Haas, who have climbed the rankings to as far as being listed as the No. 2 player in the world at one time, eventually defeated Blake in a tiebreaker set that was set up because of the unintentional delay. But the Hass-Blake matchup was perhaps the most entertaining matches of the night.  Every time Haas would like he walk off the court with an easy victory, Blake, who have been ranked as high as No. 4 in the world, would strike back to get back into the contest like a coiled snake ready to pounce.

It was fun to watch Haas and Blake play this cat-and-mouse game with their rackets, showing off their world-class skills while keeping the completion at a fun level. Bu eventually, competitors do what they do best: compete. That is precisely what the feeling was in watching Haas and Blake trying to one up each other with each backstroke and forehand swing.

Bake dazzled with some shivering baseline shots, while Haas remained steady and consistent in returning his rival’s rocket-like smashes.  Whenever Haas would win a match, Blake would respond by capturing the next one. It played out like that until Haas finally clinched victory after being forced into a tiebreaker, unlocking the 5-5 deadlock knot he was in with Blake.  After their match had concluded, Haas had some kind words for Blake.

“He’s one of the great competitors in the game,” Haas said. “It was fun coming out here.”

Djokovic squared off against Mardy Fish, who was ranked as the seventh-best player in the world in 2011. As expected, Djokovic put on a show worth keeping in the memory bank before eventually defeating Fish, the silver medalist at the 2004 Olympics.

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