Posted on: October 29th, 2011
All-Star Chengdu Open Headlined by Sampras- petepage
Asia's Only Champions Tour Event Hosts Amazing Field of Competitive Contemporaries
Another year, another historic lineup at the Chengdu Open, Asia’s only ATP Champions Tour Event. In its third year, the Chengdu Open has emerged not just as a fan favorite, but also as a player pleaser—and thus has attracted one of the Tour’s best lineup of stars out of nine international events in 2011. Today, the City of Chengdu in China’s Sichuan Province, and CCTV-IMG Sports Management Company, announced the star-studded eight-player field for the October 27-30 tournament at the Sichuan International Tennis Center. Headlined by Pete Sampras (USA), 14-time Grand Slam singles Champion, and the top three ranked players on the ATP Champions Tour in 2011, Mark Philippoussis (AUS), Carlos Moya (ESP) and Thomas Enqvist (SWE), the Chengdu Open will also feature Marat Safin’s (RUS) historic debut on the ATP Champions Tour, as well as fan-favorites Paradorn Srichaphan (THA), Younes El Aynaoui (MAR) and Wayne Ferreira (RSA). Together, the storied players own 154 ATP Tour singles titles and over $100 million in career prize earnings.
To be eligible to compete on the ATP Champions Tour, players must have been a World No. 1, a Grand Slam singles finalist or winner, or a singles player on a Davis Cup-winning team during their tenure on the Tour. Each event may also invite two wild card players.
The Chengdu Open will be played over four days with the eight players divided into two round robin groups of four players. The first group features Safin, Ferreria, Sampras and El Aynaoui; the second group consists of Enqvist, Moya, Philippoussis and Srichaphan, thus ensuring fans will see the top-three ATP Champions Tour players clash head-to-head during round-robin play. The winner in each group will advance to the final on Sunday, while the second-place finishers in each group will play-off for third place. Matches are best–of-three sets, with the deciding set played as a Champions tiebreak, with the winner being the first to reach 10 points with at least a two-point margin.
Chengdu Sports Bureau Director General Qin Wenlin said, “We are pleased to welcome back the returning tennis legends and warmly greet the new friends who have heard so much about our city’s hospitality and giant pandas. We look forward to making this a memorable experience, both for them and for all the fans. The Chengdu Open is always a highlight of the city’s sporting year, with each edition somehow proving even better than the last. We are humbled that so many tennis superstars have signed up for what may be one of the strongest fields ever in the history of the Champions Tour.”
Indeed, the Chengdu Open’s reputation among the players has served as a siren call to attract new stars, not just to China, but to the ATP Champions Tour as a whole. Safin, the dangerous Russian who defeated Sampras in straight sets in the finals of the 2000 US Open, has chosen Chengdu to make his debut on the ATP Champions Tour, just as Sampras used the event to make his professional tennis debut in China. “The Chengdu Open is my first ATP Champions Tour event and I am really looking forward to returning to China and to playing in a new Chinese city, famous for spicy food, friendly people and your giant pandas,” Safin said. “China has always been a very welcoming destination for me. I have memories of many great matches in Beijing and Shanghai.”
An Australian Open and US Open Grand Slam singles Champion who attracts legions of fans wherever he plays, Safin bid the ATP World Tour an emotional farewell at the 2009 China Open in Beijing, choosing to make his retirement announcement at an on-court ceremony immediately following his loss to Rafael Nadal. Safin will no doubt look to create new memories before a similarly packed stadium in Chengdu, this time hoping to leave a victor.
In 2011, the tournament will feature a new twist, designed to captivate local fans and enhance local participation. During the first three days of round-robin play, after the first two singles matches, two of the legendary players will return to the court with local amateur Chinese partners to contest a 45-minute timed doubles, or mixed doubles match, with a sudden-death point being used if the score is tied when the 45 minute buzzer sounds. Day One will pit Enqvist and his partner against Safin and his teammate; On Day Two, Moya and his partner will take on Philippoussis and his teammate; Day Three will feature Srichaphan and his local counterpart against Ferreira and his partner. The selection process for the local players will be announced later.
Sichuan Sports Bureau Director General Zhu Ling said, “The Sichuan Sports Bureau is particularly excited about the new doubles format, which will allow local players to play alongside and against some of the best tennis players in the history of the game. The local Sichuan flavor will undoubtedly thrill the fans and help to grow Sichuan’s already substantial tennis fan base. This could be a historic first for China also.”
Tournament Director and IMG Senior Vice President and Head of Tennis, Asia, Nick Freyer said, “It is a tremendous honor for us to work with the Chinese Tennis Association, the Shuangliu Municipal Government, the Chengdu Sports Bureau, the Sichuan Sports Bureau, the Chengdu Culture & Tourism Development Group L.L.C, the Chengdu Sports Industry Co., Ltd and our valued joint venture partners at CCTV to bring this incredibly talented lineup of players to Asia’s only ATP Champions Tour Event. Thanks to the hard work of all involved, this tournament has emerged as a player favorite. Last year, Pete [Sampras] made the Chengdu Open his first ever visit to China. On the last day of the event, he came to me and said, ‘I am so impressed with China and how this tournament has been run and if you ever want me to return for an event in China, I will be there.’ To have Pete deliver on his promise says volumes about Pete and Chengdu.”
Indeed, Sampras’ enthusiasm for the event was evident as he greeted the local fans via a video message: “Everybody in Chengdu, this is Pistol Pete Sampras here. Looking forward to coming back to Chengdu! Last year I had a great time: great facilities, the organization was fantastic—had such a great time.” Sampras did continue on to mention one area upon which last year’s experience could be improved: “Last year, I left some unfinished business—I lost in the final. This year I want to win the event! It is a very tough field, once again—Thomas Enqvist, Mark Philippoussis, Carlos Moya these guys are still playing very well. So I’m looking forward to coming back—hopefully to win the event!”
Philippoussis, a Wimbledon and US Open finalist, certainly enters the tournament as the man to beat, having dominated the Tour since his debut this year, winning the first three 2011 events at Delray Beach, Zurich and Bogota—the latter directly at the three-set expense of Moya, 7-5, 6-7(3), 10-4. Nicknamed “the Scud” for his missile-like serve, Philippoussis will no doubt look to serve his way through the tough Chengdu field, including his frequent foe, Moya, the former world No.1 and Roland Garros champion responsible for mentoring a certain fellow Mallorcan, Rafael Nadal.
Returning to the Chengdu Open for a third time, this will mark the first time Enqvist touches foot on Chinese soil ranked anything other than No. 1 in the South African Airways rankings, displaced by the formidable ATP Champions Tour newcomers, Philippoussis and Moya. Enqvist will seek to recapture his 2009 Chengdu Open crown: “I am really looking forward to coming back to Chengdu and trying to win the title again. I had fantastic time in Chengdu for the past two years and I am looking forward to playing with legends like Pete Sampras, Carlos Moya and the others. I hope to have a chance to go back to look at the pandas again. You have an extremely strong field this year so be ready for some tough tennis.”
Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan, Asia’s No. 1 ranked player for many years whose stellar play almost single-handedly ignited a tennis boom across South East Asia, made his ATP Champions Tour debut in Chengdu last year as a wild card. “Last year I was impressed by the high standard of play in Chengdu,” he said. “This year, the field is even stronger with the addition of Marat Safin, Carlos Moya and Mark Philippoussis. It is also great to see Pete Sampras returning. As Asia’s only official Champions Tour tournament, it is a pleasure for me to be a part of the tournament once again.”
For Safin, Ferreira and El Aynaoui, this October will mark their first trip to Chengdu.
El Aynaoui, an iconic figure in Morocco whose fame transcends the sports arena, was named by readers in a 2003 poll by leading Moroccan newspaper L'Economiste as their favorite role model for society, ahead of the prime minister. In tennis circles, he is renowned for his role in the classic 2003 Australian Open quarterfinal against Andy Roddick. El Aynaoui set up the clash with Roddick (who would reach the World No. 1 ranking later that year) by defeating then World No. 1, Lleyton Hewitt, in the fourth round, and then battled Roddick in a five-set, five-hour match thriller. The 4–6, 7–6, 4–6, 6–4, 21–19 epic, which broke the record for longest fifth set in Grand Slam tennis history (only just broken in 2010 by the Isner-Mahut Wimbledon marathon), is remembered as one of the best matches of the decade, as both players sustained the stunning quality of play throughout.
Ferreira, who became the first South African to win an Olympic medal in 32 years when he captured the bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Games, was quick to commit to play the Chengdu Open in 2011. “I heard that the last two years you had a great field of players who played tough tennis but also enjoyed the warm hospitality which included a visit to the pandas,” he said. “I will be training hard and look forward to playing some good tennis on my first visit to China after very many years.”
In addition to watching 14 classic match-ups, fans can also enjoy the on-site entertainment programs and contests, including the entertainingly playful event signature Panda Mascot and the "Catch the Ball Challenges." After each match, the winning player will hit six autographed balls into the stands. Fans who catch the balls not only keep the autographed ball but can also claim a host of exciting event-related prizes. Fans will also be able to meet the players at the daily autograph sessions held throughout the tournament—and for the first time in Chengdu Open history, six fans will get to play 45-minutes of tennis on Centre Court with legendary ATP Champions – a first for Chinese tennis.
With each edition of the Chengdu Open building on the success of the last, players and fans alike anticipate October with abated breath.
The event will be broadcast on CCTV 5 and is part of the historic CCTV-IMG Sports Management Company venture which is a 20-year exclusive joint venture formed by IMG Worldwide, Inc., the global sports and entertainment company, and China Central Television (CCTV), the world's largest television broadcaster.
The selection process for the local doubles players, the match schedule and ticketing information will be released at a later date. For more information on the Chengdu Open, visit www.chengduchampions.com.
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