It’s been an interesting holiday week for Mark fans and time for a new present – Mark set to return to tennis. Mark held a press conference on December 22nd, early speculation thought he was to announce his retirement, but instead, he announced that he’d be playing in Melbourne next month. Sadly it won’t be in the Australian Open itself, but rather the Legends tournament held afterwards. He’ll be teaming up with French tennis great Henri Leconte for doubles. After that he hopes to play on the challenger circuit and eventually be ready for the main tour and Davis Cup. In a rare moment of honesty, he admitted to wanting an Australian Open wildcard but didn’t apply for it because he knew it would be a waste of the slot a she’d likely be out in the first round. Mark has not played on the main ATP circuit for two years and is currently battling back from his fifth knee surgery. While reporters didn’t see him play, he says he’s still working his way back, physically Mark appears to be much lighter than in the past (a boon to his knees I’m sure). What’s unclear is Mark’s participation in the World Tennis Challenge the week prior to the Australian Open. He’s scheduled to compete with Pat Cash at the exhibition tournament. However some articles indicate he’s pulled out due to the knee not being ready while others indicate he’s still playing.
The anticipation is high and the questions are many as Mark prepares for yet another comeback performance. The Outback Series event in Charlotte starts on the 24th and it will be Mark’s first tournament since getting injured at the Australian Open wildcard playoff 9 months ago. It’s now been 3 surgeries and 10 years since he made his first Grand Slam final appearance (1998’s US Open against Pat Rafter). What kind of player this version of Mark will be is anyone’s guess. No reporters have ventured to find his practice grounds so there’s not even a hint of what we’ll see. Here’s hoping it’s all good!
Mark has committed to another Champion Series, this one is Suprise, Arizona from November 5-8th. Tickets are on-sale now – see the Outback website for complete details. Surprise has also announced commitments from Jimmy Arias, Jim Courier, Wayne Ferreira, Todd Martin, and was in negotiations with John Mc.Enroe.
A date has been set for a tennis comeback, if not one on the main circuit. Mark has signed to participate in the Champion Series event in Charlotte from Sept 24-28th. The Champion Series is for players over 30 and will be an eight man round-robin format. The event is to be a test-run for the knee to see how it will hold up to match play for a hopeful return to the ATP circuit.
The news is out and it’s all bad. Mark’s withdrawl from the Open play-offs with knee pain turned out to be what we all feared – an MRI revealed a cartilage tear in his right knee. Yes, the same knee that broke down last January. What’s sobering this time around is there’s no talk of “I’ll be back soon,” but instead Mark had this to say “I’m just going to be thinking about spending time with my family, spending time at home and then assessing things — you know, where life will lead me and what direction I want to take in life and whether I’ll be going again.”
Mark’s official date with tennis destiny is October 18th at 2pm when he returns to the court to face Mats Wilander in the Outback Champions Series in Dallas. Earlier this month Tennis Australia rather unsubtly publically reminded Philippoussis that there will be no guaranteed wildcard for the Australian Open. TA now follows a policy that looks at ranking, current play, future development and includes a tennis camp in December. If Mark wants that wildcard he’s going to have to make the effort to go to camp and prove to his federation that he can beat the younger Aussies coming up and deserves the slot based on current play, not past glories.