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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday January 3, 2017

 
John McEnroe

John McEnroe will face Jim Courier in one semifinal, Andy Roddick takes on James Blake in the other semifinal at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Photo credit: Rob Loud/PowerShares

As a teenager, John McEnroe’s daily treks to Trinity School aboard the New York City subway instilled a jittery energy and outlier defiance in the Queens commuter.

“People didn’t come out of the woodwork to watch my high-school matches,” McEnroe recalls of his days as a student at the Manhattan prep school. “The fact that I lived in Queens, while virtually everyone else in the school was from Manhattan, also made me kind of an outsider.”

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The Upper West Side resident likely won’t be riding the rails to Brooklyn Saturday night. But McEnroe retains the rebellious edge ahead of his homecoming weekend.

The 57-year-old McEnroe, a long-time New York Knicks’ season-ticket holder, heads to Brooklyn Nets territory on Saturday night. McEnroe headlines the Power Shares QQQ Cup along with former world No. 1 players Andy Roddick and Jim Courier and former No. 4 James Blake at the Barclays Center.

Courier faces former Davis Cup teammate McEnroe in one semifinal and Roddick takes on Blake, his friend and teammate on the 2007 U.S. Davis Cup championship squad, with the winners meeting in the final. Tickets for the PowerShares QQQ Cup are available through Ticketmaster by visiting www.barclayscenter.com or www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000.

It’s a bit of a homecoming for all four Americans.

The 37-year-old Blake was born in Yonkers, NY., learned to play tennis at the Harlem Junior Tennis Center and competed in New York-area junior tournaments while growing up in Fairfield, CT.

Hall of Famer Courier splits time between homes in Manhattan and Florida and Roddick spent some time living in Brooklyn with model wife Brooklyn Decker before returning home to Texas.



“We had a great time. We were early residents of DUMBO and I’ve heard it’s changed so much, that now all of Brooklyn has kind of blown up and will be a different look than the last time I visited,” Roddick said. “But there’s just a certain cache about Brooklyn. I’m so excited to be part of the first tennis event at Barclays Center, and the first time a tennis event has been in Brooklyn in a long time. I’m glad I got the ask to participate.”

A devoted New York Mets fan, who ran the New York City marathon, Blake is looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends and the city’s energy.

“For me, I’m especially excited because I’m bringing my kids, so it’ll be one of the first times they get to see me play. It should be a lot of fun,” Blake told the media in a conference call this week. “You’ve got myself as a New Yorker, John McEnroe a New Yorker and Jim Courier now a New Yorker, and Andy Roddick, a U.S. Open champion – so we’ve got hopefully four pretty good fan favorites.

"I’m excited to play there and I feel good about how excited the fan base used to get at the U.S. Open and still gets at the U.S. Open. For us, we’re no longer a part of that as players, so it’ll be fun to play in New York and feel that energy from the crowd again.”

The PowerShares circuit puts the power of line-calling in players’ hands. The volatile McEnroe engaged in some of the most memorable tirades and meltdowns in tennis history.

So how would he handle playing with today’s Hawk-Eye line-calling technology that has reduced errant calls and emotional outbursts? Could McEnroe thrive in the more technologically-sanitized conditions of today’s tennis or would he find cause to tangle with Hawk-Eye, SpyderCam and retractable roofs?

“I’d think of something,” McEnroe told Tennis Now when asked how he'd operate. “Believe me, I’d think of something.”



Courier, who serves as an Australian Open analyst for Channel Seven, envisions a Grand Slam future free of linespeople. The former world No. 1 advocates a future where line calling is completely entrusted to technology.

“At this stage, I think what I would probably move to is getting a little bit more technically sophisticated,” Courier told the media in a conference call. “I think at the upper echelons of the sport, I would probably remove the lines-people and go all electronic line-calling and make sure that all of the line calls are correct—that we don’t have any situations where matches change based on someone other than the players’ actions.”

Skeptics argue some of the most colorful characters in the game’s history—Pancho Gonzalez, Illie Nastase, Jimmy Connors and McEnroe—understood the power of conflict to incite crowds and unnerve opponents and say eliminating the human element from the game would diminish the drama, personality and spectacle from the sport.

In contrast, Courier points to the personality of today’s top players as a sign technology can’t kill character.

“I think all of the televised matches these days are on Hawk Eye courts with few exceptions,” Courier said. “And I think we pretty much have the answer to that—you still have the No. 1 player in men’s tennis mumbling and chatting to himself and everyone else in his players’ box at a semi-constant rate.

"So I think personality can manifest itself in many ways. The stress of those moments will always bring out some negative emotions, but I just feel that given that it’s starting to be a bit more economical for electronic lines, I think that would be one rule that I would move to do, but obviously we don’t want to cost tournaments money if it’s too expensive for them.”

 

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