Mark has withdrawn from the the Champion Series event in Athens starting tomorrow, citing an unspecified injury. The Australian press says that industry speculation is that Mark’s commitment to Age of Love is behind the withdrawl. Either Mark is injured, (again) or he’s blowing off actual tournament play for tv – either way it’s not a great move for Mark’s actual tennis career or his hopes for another Wimbledon wildcard.
Some more details about the Athens event is being reported in The Advertiser. In addition to Sampras players will include Cash, Krajicek, Courier and Wilander. The Aussie press I’m sure will have a field day should Philippoussis play Cash. The paper also reports that rumors are running wild that Mark’s rehab training has been “sporadic at best.” Mark’s new agent, Rob Aivatoglou (formerly with Hewitt) says the Greek event will be a good fitness test for Mark. With the event being so close to the French Open, it’s unlikely that Mark will seek a wildcard entry and we most likely won’t see him return to the main circuit until the start of the grass court season in June.
Mark will return to court next month in Athen’s Greece in the 30-and-over Champions Series event. It will mark the Series first tournament outside of North America as well as the first time an active ATP player will compete. The tournament will be held in the Athens Olympic Tennis Center. In preparation for his return Mark has been training with Darren Cahill. He is looking into entering a few Challenger events prior to the Athens event. Also it appears that Alan Jones is not in fact his full-time manager. The Daily Telegraph ran an quoting a Jones spokesman saying he was not Mark’s manager and a quote from Mark’s former manager at IMG saying that he was told it was Alan. So who Mark’s full manager actually is seems to be a mystery.
Mark is in Hawaii this week playing at the Wailea Men’s Challenger in an attempt to boost his rankings to get directly into the Australian Open. When entries close next week it is likely that the last direct entry will be 105. Currently ranked at 117 Mark will likely need to make it to the final in order to get the rankings boost. In Hawaii Mark played a rather uneven match 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 2-2 and was helped by his opponents withdrawl in the third. His second round opponent will be Brendan Evans.
Unfortunately for Mark, the Wailea Challenger didn’t go as planned for a big rankings boost as he lost to Evans 4-6, 6-3, 3-6 in the second round. Monday’s rankings should have Mark ranked aroung 113. As to what Mark intends to do to play in the Australian Open is anyone’s guess, but his three options are: 1. Attend the Tennis Australia training camp from the 10th to 19th and hope to be awarded TA’s wildcard slot; 2. He can appeal directly to the Australian Open as they have four wildcard slots still open; 3. He can skip the wildcard process entirely and play in the qualifying rounds. Either way Mark’s going to need a little bit of luck to make it to round one.
November 12, 2003: Mark continues to warm the bench in Houston, but at least he’s getting paid for his time and has been practicing. He plans to return to Australia next Wednesday to being practicing on the grass for the Davis Cup final against Spain. In prep for Davis Cup, he’s pulled out of the Superset tennis match in Oregon next week. Article added with a nice phone interview with Mark.
November 9, 2003: Mark is still on hold in Houston and tomorrow will determine if Nalbandian’s wrist will hold for the tournament or whether Mark will be called in to play. While we don’t want to wish injury on another player, we do have our fingers crossed for Mark to be able to play.
November 7, 2003: Today’s the day – Mark turns 27, and he’s spending it in Houston waiting to find out if he’ll get called as a replacement for someone at the Masters Cup. Update to my video tape trading list has been with two new items, including the Davis Cup match against Federer.
November 3, 2003: Mark is the official traveling reserve for the Masters Cup in Houston next week, and with Nalbandian having wrist problems, there’s a serious chance he could end up playing. But even if he doesn’t play, he’ll take home a nice $50,000 paycheck just for being the alternate on-site. In the rankings, Mark is holding at 9th in both the Champions Race and the 52 week entry list.