The last time tennis legend John McEnroe took to the court in an officially sanctioned ATP circuit tennis match in the Bay Area, Andy Roddick was 8 years old. Lleyton Hewitt was only nine and James Blake was just 11.
Despite the difference in age, all four world-class players will descend on HP Pavilion at San Jose Feb. 13-19 in search of the same thing - another SAP Open championship.
Roddick, the world’s No. 3 rated player, returns to the 2006 SAP Open as the tournament’s two-time defending champion. In last year’s final, Roddick used a dominating forehand and an overpowering serve to defeat Frenchman Cyril Saulnier 6-0, 6-4 and become the tournament’s first back-to-back champion since Mark Philippoussis in 1999-00.
Roddick finished 2005 as the top-ranked American player on the worldwide ATP circuit. The 2006 SAP Open will be Roddick’s fifth appearance in San Jose over the last six years.
The No. 4 ranked Hewitt has already captured 24 singles titles including two Grand Slam championships (2001 U.S. Open and 2002 Wimbledon) in his career. Hewitt last played the SAP Open in 2002 capturing the title over Andre Agassi with a thrilling, three-hour 4-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4) victory in what many considered to be the year’s best final on the ATP circuit.
Hewitt also played the 2001 SAP Open where he lost to eventual champion Greg Rusedski 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals. Hewitt, who finished as the No. 1 player in 2001-02, has won more than $15 million in his seven-year career.
Fan favorite Blake returns to the SAP Open singles player field for the fifth consecutive year. The No. 25 ranked Blake enters the tournament playing perhaps his best tennis ever. An All-American at Harvard University before turning professional in 1999, Blake captured the attention of tennis fans around the world when - playing as a wildcard entry - made an impressive run at the 2005 U.S. Open. Blake cruised through to his first career Grand Slam quarterfinal - convincingly beating world’s No. 2 Rafael Nadal in the third round - before he lost a grueling five-set quarterfinal match to Agassi.
A member of the 2004 SAP Open Championship doubles team (with Mardy Fish), Blake is an attacking baseline player who possesses a huge forehand and an excellent return of serve.
His singles playing days are over, but McEnroe will be playing in SAP Open doubles field of players for 2006. McEnroe, who owns an ATP record 77 singles and 77 doubles titles in his career, will be looking to capture his 14th title in the Bay Area (he already owns five singles and eight doubles titles).
The former Stanford star will be teamed with top doubles player Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden, who owns six singles and 42 doubles titles (including eight Grand Slam doubles titles) in his 14-year professional career. Bjorkman, who has also entered the 2006 SAP Open singles field, has been ranked as high as No. 4 in the world in singles and held the No. 1 doubles ranking for most of 2005. This will mark the first time that McEnroe and Bjorkman have been partners.
McEnroe returns to the SAP Open as the winningest doubles player in tournament history. Considered by many to be the best doubles player ever, McEnroe last captured the SAP Open doubles title in 1988 when he teamed with Mark Woodforde to defeat Scott Davis and Tim Wilkison 6-4, 7-6.
McEnroe also captured SAP Open doubles titles in 1986, 1984, 1983, 1981, 1980, 1979 and 1978. The 2006 SAP Open will mark the first time McEnroe will play the tournament since 1991 when he entered both the singles and doubles field of players. That year, McEnroe teamed up with Agassi in the doubles field. Ironically, McEnroe and Agassi are tied with the most SAP Open singles titles in the Open Era (since 1968) with five each.
McEnroe, known for his competitive fire and volatile temper, is a fan favorite when he plays. Since turning pro in 1977, McEnroe’s singles match record is an impressive 849-184 (.822). He has won seven Grand Slam singles titles and also captured the season-ending Masters championships three times: 1978, 1983 and 1984. In 1980, McEnroe became the top-ranked singles player on the ATP circuit and held the top spot for four consecutive years from 1981-84.
Some other familiar faces will be entering the 2006 SAP Open. Two-time SAP Open winner Mark Philippoussis will participate, along with Europeans Joachim Johansson (Sweden), Tommy Robredo (Spain) and teenager Andy Murray (Great Britain).
The schedule calls for Roddick and Blake to play their first round singles matches on Feb. 14. Roddick will play the evening’s first match at 7 p.m., followed by Blake’s match. On Feb. 15, Hewitt will start the evening’s card at 7 p.m., followed by McEnroe/Bjorkman in doubles. The opponent draws will be determined at the 2006 SAP Open official Draw Event, to be held at Noon, Feb. 10 in the San Jose Fairmont Hotel.
Ticket packages to the 2006 SAP Open are on sale now by calling 408-ACE-2121. Individual session tickets will go on sale Jan. 9 and can be purchased at any Ticketmaster ticket center located in Wherehouse Music stores, Tower Records and Ritmo Latino throughout the Bay Area, online at ticketmaster.com, charge by phone at 408-998-TIXS, 415-421-TIXS or 510-625-TIXS.