During the first week of October Mark played at the AFAS Tennis Classic in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Unfortunately he lost all three of his matches: Pioline (6-3, 1-6, 8-10); Krajicek (6-7, 6-7); Enqvist (6-7, 5-7). The second match was broadcast live and Mark apparently looks very slim and fit. In a short interview he spoke of hoping to return to the main ATP circuit and that he’s currently working on a side project to develop orthopedic sport shoes. (thanks to Katinka for the info)
Next Mark played at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships in Suprise, Arizona. Sadly he fared no better here losing his first match to Ferreira 3-6, 2-6. But losing players stick around and play exhibition doubles matches and here Mark fared better winning both: with Arias defeated Courier and Pernfors 7-6, 6-4 and with Pernfors defeated Courier and Arias 7-5, 6-3.
As nice as it is to hear that Mark is in shape and looking fit, losing routinely on the senior circuit doesn’t show much hope that he would make it on the main ATP circuit. Next up is the AEGON Masters tournament at London’s Royal Albert Hall in December.
Mark has added another event to his schedule and this time he returns to play at home in Australia. He will take part in the first World Tennis Challenge to be held in Adelaide from January 14-17th. It’s another over-30 tournament and will be round robin team play with two man teams from Australia, France, Sweden and the United States. What’s intriguing is that Mark’s teammate is former coach Pat Cash. Given their less-than-nice parting it’s an interesting match up.
Mark is staying active during his recovery and will be taking part in the Celebrity Racing Challenge at the 2008 Formula 1 ING Australian Grand Prix on March 16th at Albert Park in Melbourne. He will be driving a racing version of the Fiat 500 which at 193cm Mark just fits into.
Now you can test your skills on the court against Philippoussis at the Aussie Open. Nintendo has a stand at the tournament where fans can try their skills at Wii Tennis. Those who hold court long enough are daily champions and the player with the highest ranking will get to take on Mark on January 27th to win two tickets to the Men’s Final. Mark will also be at the Nintendo booth on January 15th at 11am signing autographs. It is also likely that Mark will be doing some announcing again for Aussie tv during the tournament. Rumors are also afloat that Mark may be a contestant on season three of Australia’s Dancing with the Stars. It’s still speculation but a reporter apparently asked him if he would be interested and he said yes. The show has featured tennis players before including Todd Woodbridge. Lastly, though no surgery date has been announced, it is reported that Sydney surgeon Merv Cross and his Miami colleague Harlan Selsenick were to be involved in Philippoussis’s latest surgery.
Mark has made his first official commitment to his tennis comeback, agreeing to take part in the Tennis Australia playoffs for the wildcard into the Australian Open. The even runs Dec 15th-21st and will put Mark against players 10 years younger. Mark says he’s been training, though critics wonder if he’s done enough to survive the long matches in brutal heat that the Aussie Open is known to produce. But Mark cannot look too far ahead at this point, he must first produce some very convincing results in the play-offs. Hopefully Mark will be helped by the new Plexicushion courts installed in Melbourne. The courts replace the old Rebound Ace surface and the thinnger layer of rubber is supposed to retain less heat which will reduce courtside temperatures. The Open begins on January 14th.
It’s been a quiet month for Mark with not much news until recently. Mark has returned to Melbourne and is currently practicing at the Tennis Australia facilities with Darin Cahill (though it is undetermined whether this is a new full-time coaching arrangement or just temporary). Mark did apply for and receive an injury protecting ranking of 112. That ranking is available for nine months from the return to play or the first eight tournaments. Unfortunately while much better than his current ranking of 1115, it’s still outside the main draw (104) for the Australian Open so he will have to hope for a lot of withdrawls or a wildcard. The wildcard option is still very much a battle of wills. Tennis Australia is insisting that Mark come to the play-off like any other player and Mark is insisting that he will not come and deserves a wildcard due to past performance. It will be interesting to see who wins. Mark would like to start his season at the Adelaide International on December 31st but will have to wait on a wilcard decision from tournament co-director Mark Woodforde. Woodforde says Mark is being considered based on the crowd he would draw for his return to play. On a somewhat sour note both Rafter and John McEnroe were quoted in the press as questioning Mark’s will to return. McEnroe took the more severe line calling Philippoussis one of the laziest players he’s every worked with.