By Erik Gudris / Friday, October 25, 2013
Tennis icons Andre Agassi, James Blake and Jim Courier discussed the upcoming PowerShares Series and the ongoing "Federer or Nadal as the Greatest" debate.
Photo Credit: Getty
The PowerShares Series returns next year featuring some of the biggest stars in the history of tennis. Scheduled to kick off Feb. 5, 2014, at Kansas City, Mo., the 12-city tour will provide fans the opportunity to watch these champions in action as they compete against each other in one-night tournaments.
Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Jimmy Connors, Michael Chang, Mats Wilander, Ivan Lendl, Todd Martin and Mark Philippoussis will return for competition. Recently retired James Blake and Andy Roddick will make their debuts for the upcoming season.
Agassi, Blake and Courier took part in a media call on Thursday to promote the season.
Blake expressed his excitement at joining the series after his recent retirement from the pro tour at this year's US Open.
"My whole life on tour seemed to go by so fast. I was the young guy on tour. Before I knew it, I was the grizzled veteran. Now I'm off tour and I get to be the young guy again on this PowerShares Series. That's exciting for me to be the young guy in any situation. It should be a lot of fun," Blake said.
Courier, who finished in first place during the 2012 season, is looking forward to the challenge of playing the "younger" guys like Blake and Roddick.
"It's going to be fun to go back to Kansas City and be out on tour with James and Andy Roddick, who are two newcomers this year," Courier said. "It's great to have these guys out with us, but it's going to make it that much tougher to win. But I love the challenge. Obviously it's great to have those guys out joining me and Andre and some of the other great champions that are a part of the circuit."
Whenever three of the sport's greats are available to chat with, their opinions on the current game are always welcomed.
On the subject of if Rafael Nadal could be considered the greatest of all time should he win more Grand Slam titles than Roger Federer, Agassi was diplomatic.
"As far as titles go, I don't think that's inevitable. I do think he's capable of it," Agassi said. "I would make the argument he doesn't need to pass Roger in quantity to have him be arguably one of the best of all times. I also think getting to 14 Slams and tying Pete (Sampras) doesn't suggest that Pete is in his category. I think Pete dominated his generation and won 14 slams but was never a factor during the clay court season. You have to put in a bit of variety as part of that analysis, see what Rafa has done on every surface that he's won at least a couple times, and in some cases eight times, then see what Federer has done winning multiple times, not winning the French many times because of Rafa. I think these two guys are in a class of their own."
Agassi did make a point to not forget a certain Novak Djokovic, who is also capable of winning many more majors during his career.
"It's an amazing time in men's tennis to be looking at two guys in the same generation that have a legitimate claim to that title. That's also forgetting about the fact that Djokovic is one win away from entering not necessarily this all‑time conversation, but certainly accomplishing a win at every Slam. So now you got three guys potentially in one generation who have done something that only five guys have done over five decades. I think it's a golden age in our sport for sure. I think we're better off for it. I hope everybody appreciates what it is we're watching."
On the subject of who among the "young guns" of tennis excite them the most, Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov topped the list.
"I think he has a huge upside," Blake said on Dimitrov. "If he stays healthy, he has a live arm, huge serve, even though he's not one of the huge guys, 6-foot-6, 6-foot-7. He moves well. Looks like he's comfortable hitting any shot. Just a matter for him of putting it all together."
Added Agassi: "It's funny you say that because when I watched Federer play Pete for the first time at Wimbledon, I said, 'There's no way he's going to beat Pete. You can't play like Pete and beat Pete.' He was too similar to Pete to beat him. Obviously as I was wrong with Pete. He's gone down as one of the greats ever. I look at Dimitrov, and I think, 'You can't play like Federer and be better than him.' I've seen it before. He excites me, as well."
On who might qualify for the final three spots for the upcoming ATP World Tour Finals in London, Courier feels anything could happen next week at the Paris Indoors.
"The top three guys right now that look like they're going to qualify are Federer, (Stanislas) Wawrinka and (Richard) Gasquet. They're the next three guys in. But I think (Jo-Wilfried) Tsonga playing at home also in Paris next week, I think he has a really good chance to qualify. It's going to take a lot for (Milos) Raonic to get in. But one good week is worth 1000 points. A lot can change. Certainly indoors looks pretty good for somebody like that. Even Tommy Haas, if he were to sprint out in Paris, he could make it. It will be an interesting week next week for sure."
Information on the upcoming PowerShares Series can be found here.