James Blake's Singles Title Wraps Up Nielsen Tennis Championship
Another sell-out crowd saw the singles and doubles championship matches on Saturday night.
The Nielsen Pro Tennis Championship wasn’t the tennis tournament James Blake originally envisioned winning this weekend, but on Saturday night the American tennis star was more than happy to hoist the championship trophy.
Blake showed the sold-out crowd at the Nielsen Tennis Center in Winnetka why he was once ranked No. 4 in the world. He cruised to a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Bobby Reynolds in the finals, never losing a service game.
“I wanted to get back on the hard courts and try and get some confidence and this is the perfect thing for that,” said Blake, who contacted the tournament about a possible wildcard after losing in the first round of Wimbledon. “A couple three-setters, some good matches played and I played my best tennis in the finals. That’s what I wanted exactly.”
Buoyed by a cooperative Mother Nature and some big names in the main draw, the Nielsen Tennis Championship had great turnouts every night. Linda Goodman, the tournament’s director, said they had to turn away people wanting to buy tickets on Wednesday night because of the high demand. For Saturday night’s singles and doubles championships, extra seats were installed, and quickly filled.
Saturday’s finals concluded the week-long Challenger event held annually in Winnetka. It was the culmination of hard work put in by staff members, volunteers and ball kids.
“It could not have been better,” Goodman said. “We’ve been running this 20 years and this was probably the smoothest we’ve ever had it run.”
The tournament ran well on the court as well. Other than Thursday night’s severe weather, which pushed one quarterfinal singles match into Friday morning, there were no schedule delays through the week.
Big names like Blake, Robby Ginepri and Donald Young were part of one of the strongest fields on the Pro Challenger tour. Goodman says Nielsen’s ranking cutoff of 249 is the lowest of any Challenger event.
“One of the reasons we get strong players is we take very good care of our players and they want to come back,” Goodman said.
While some athletes choose to stay in hotels, sponsors and local families volunteer to house a lot of players coming in from out of town.
The doubles team of Jordan Kerr and Travis Parrott – who lost to Reynolds and Treat Conrad Huey in the doubles championship – thanked their host family in Saturday’s post-game speech.
Blake won the doubles championship with his brother, Thomas, back in 1999, and said he enjoyed coming back again.
“There’s a little bit of me left somewhere in that service box and hopefully that will be there for all of you guys to remember me and me to remember this place,” said Blake, referencing a bloody wound he suffered during a point in the finals. “It’s a fond memory, might hurt a little in the next few days, but it’s well worth it.”