Tommy Haas defeated James Blake 6-1 Friday to win the $60,000 SoCal Honda Dealers Helpful Cup at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, the opening event on the 2021 Champion Series Tennis circuit, the North American tennis tour for champion tennis players over the age of 30. Haas collected the first-prize paycheck of $25,000 with the tournament title, his 12th in his fourth year of playing Champions Series Tennis.
Haas, 42, lost only two games on the day, also beating 2005 U.S. Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri 6-1 in the semifinals of the event earlier in the day. In his post-match interview after winning the title, Haas was asked to rate his day from one to 10. Haas responded, “close to a nine.”
“It’s always different when you play for something and you want to do well and you come out here and you’re not sure how the ball is going to fly, and how the tension is going to feel because you don’t really do that much,” said Haas, the former world No. 2. “It’s not like we come here and practice four or five days like we used to for other events. But I think everyone tries to come as prepared as they can be… And for me personally, I’m quite happy.”
For his runner-up showing, Blake earned $15,000.
“I got the first game and that was all she wrote,” said the 41-year-old Blake, the former world No. 4. “He was smothering me. It’s a little bit like what I felt like I used to do to some opponents back on the main tour. But he made it pretty uncomfortable for me today and that’s why he’s a champion.”
Haas said that he started to feel comfortable once he secured the service break to go up 2-1 on Blake.
“I think that sort of helped me get rid of some of the little nerves and just stick to my game plan,” said Haas. “There was some really, really good rallies. James showed that he can still hit an unbelievable forehand. He hit a couple of unbelievable forehand returns, so I had to be ready And every game, again, in the set was fought for.”
Blake defeated good friend and U.S. Davis Cup Captain Mardy Fish 6-4 in the first match of the day. Fish and Ginepri, as losing semifinalists, earned $10,000 in prize money.
Champions Series Tennis continues Saturday with the second edition of the SoCal Honda Dealers Helpful Cup at the Sherwood Country Club. The tournament will feature the Champions Series debut of Bob Bryan, half of the greatest doubles team of all time alongside twin brother Mike Bryan, who retired from the ATP Tour last year with 16 career major men’s doubles titles as a team. Bryan, the 1998 NCAA singles champion and NCAA “Triple Crown” winner for Stanford, will face off against his former U.S. Davis Cup teammate and captain Mardy Fish in the first one-set semifinal match. Blake will play Haas in the second semifinal in a rematch of Friday’s final.
Blake said he would need “completely different execution” against Haas in their rematch on Saturday. “I’ve got to actually make a lot of those forehands I was taking cuts at and they weren’t going in but it’s tough when he plays defense as well as he does,” said Blake. “So, I’ll just try to rest and recover. Maybe get a little ice bath because the bones and muscles don’t recover quite like they used to, so hopefully, I’ll be back here and fresh. At least it wasn’t a long match. So he beat me quickly. So maybe I’ll have plenty of legs.”
The event is not open to the public and is limited to sponsors and Sherwood Country Club members, with all attending practicing social distancing and wearing masks. The matches will be televised on Fox Sports Net affiliates and Tennis Channel on tape delay in future weeks. All Champions Series events feature two one-set semifinal matches followed by a one-set championship match.
In 2020, Haas, the former world No. 2, won the season-long points title for a second straight season, winning four titles – two at the Sherwood Country Club and two titles in Orlando – and finished with a 10-2 series match record.
In 2019, Haas finished with a perfect 10-0 record to win the year-long points championship for the first time. He won titles in Newport Beach, Calif., Maui, Hawaii, New Haven, Connecticut, Los Angeles and Houston to become the first player in the 15-year history of the Champions Series to be an undefeated year-end points champion.
In 2018, Blake won his first Champions Series year-long points championship by winning titles in Winston-Salem, New Haven and Houston, while also finishing as runner-up in Los Angeles and Orlando.
In 2017, the year-long points championship was decided in the final match of the season when Andy Roddick defeated James Blake in the Los Angeles final at the Sherwood Country Club. Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion and world No. 1, won four Champions Series titles in all in 2017, winning in Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Lincoln, Neb., and Los Angeles. Blake, the former world No. 4 and former U.S. Davis Cup star, won series titles in Charleston, S.C., Winston-Salem, N.C. and in Lynchburg, Va.
In 2016, Mark Philippoussis won the Series points title with 1,600 points and tournament titles in Memphis, Tulsa, Newport, Winston-Salem and New Haven. Roddick finished in second place, also earning 1600 points but losing the head-to-head tiebreaker with Philippoussis 5-2, while winning titles in Charleston, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Orlando.
Champions Series Tennis began in 2005 and over the last 16 years has featured some of the greatest names in men’s tennis, including Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier, Michael Chang among others. Courier won the first Champions Series Tennis event held in 2005 in Houston at the Westside Tennis Club.
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