By Dan Garvey
The ATP Champions tennis tournament returns to Chengdu from October 21 to 24. Last year, Chengdu tennis fans saw two living legends of the game in Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.
(Scroll down to the bottom of this post for schedules and ticket information.)
This time around, the tournament is headlined by the incomparable Pete Sampras, who, by his 2002 retirement, had amassed a record total of 14 Grand Slam titles (7 Wimbledon, 5 U.S. Open, 2 Australia Open) and had spent 286 weeks ranked as the world's No. 1 tennis player. Joining the 39-year-old Sampras at the Sichuan International Tennis Center will be seven other champions of the past:
Pat Cash, 45, of Australia. Former world No. 4, Wimbledon Champion (1987), two-time Australian Open finalist and a member of winning Davis Cup teams in 1983 and 1986. Cash was a crowd favourite in Chengdu last year with his mix of fearless serve volley tennis and light-hearted theatrics.
Thomas Enqvist, 36, of Sweden. Formerly ranked world No. 4, and Australian Open finalist, Enqvist has been the form player on the Champions Tour over the last two seasons and is the defending champion and player to beat in Chengdu.
Guy Forget, 45, of France. Former world No. 2, and a member of 2 French Davis Cup champion teams. The stylish left-hander is one of very few players to have a winning head-to-head record with Sampras.
Yevgeny Kafelnikov, 36, of Russia. Former world No. 1(singles and doubles) and Australian and French Open champion. Kafelnikov was a semi-finalist in Chengdu in 2009 and holds the distinction of being the last (probably last ever) player to win both the singles and doubles titles at a grand slam tournament.
Patrick Rafter, 38, of Australia. Former world No. 1, two-time U.S. Open champion (1997/8), two-time Wimbledon finalist. Rafter was, along with Sampras, one of the last top players to employ the serve-volley style. Renowned by his peers for his sportsmanship, Rafter has been a generous contributor to charitable causes since his retirement from competitive tennis.
Paradorn Srichaphan, 31, of Thailand. Former world No. 9. Srichaphan will be forever remembered for blasting Andre Agassi off Wimbledon's center court in 2002, but he unfortunately had to retire from the ATP tour prematurely due to a serious motorcycle accident.
Michael Stich, 41, of Germany. Former world No. 2, Wimbledon champion (1991) and finalist in the French and U.S. Opens. A prodigious talent in the early 1990s, Stich was/is widely regarded as having the most beautiful serve in tennis.
The Sichuan International Tennis Centre is regarded by players and spectators alike as being one of the best tennis stadiums in Asia. Don't miss the chance to see these guys up close.
Thursday, October 21 (Click link for more information)
Group B: 4 p.m. Enqvist vs Kafelnikov
Group A: 5:30 p.m. Forget vs Srichaphan
Group B: 7 p.m. Rafter vs Stich
Group A: 8:30 p.m. Sampras vs Cash.
Friday, October 22
Group B: 4 p.m. Enqvist vs Stich
Group A: 5:30 p.m. Cash vs Srichaphan
Group B: 7 p.m. Rafter vs Kafelnikov
Group A: 8:30 p.m. Sampras vs Forget
Saturday, October 23
Group A: 4 p.m. Sampras vs Srichaphan
Group B: 5:30 p.m. Stich vs Kafelnikov
Group B: 7 p.m. Rafter vs Enqvist
Group A: 8:30 p.m. Forget vs Cash
Sunday, October 24
Place 3: 12:30 p.m. Group A 2nd vs Group B 2nd
Final: 2 p.m. Group A 1st vs Group B 1st
Tickets (Click link for more information)
One game: RMB1,280 (Premium), RMB600 (A-Class), RMB300 (B-Class), RMB200 (C-Class), RMB50 (Student)
Season Ticket (Thu-Sat) RMB 2,880(Premium), RMB1,200 (A-Class), RMB680 (B-Class), RMB500 (C-Class)
Final: RMB1,580 (Premium), RMB800 (A-Class), RMB600 (B-Class), RMB400 (C-Class), RMB50 (Student)
Images by Chengdu Champions