It’s been an up and down two days for Mark in his quest for a wilcard. On the 15th he began by facing off against Brydan Klein after a seven hour rain dely. Brydan’s the reigning Australian Open junior champion and at 17 is a face of the future of Australian Tennis. Mark managed to show that age still has staying power by defeating him 6-3, 7-5, a good solid start. Unfortunately today the down happened as Mark lost 4-6, 3-6 to Samuel Groth, 20, who’s ranked 341. Not something to show the officials he’s back to take on the main tour players. But thanks to Lady Luck, Mark is still alive for the wildcard slot as it’s a round robin format and his next opponent Alun Jones had to withdraw to injury. Mark will play his replacement and still has a chance to make the quarter-finals where it’s back to elimination format. Reports from the event however are not encouraging as Mark is playing with a knee bandage and is showing only limited movement. We can only hope he’s just warming it all up slowly. If Mark doesn’t win the wildcard he still has a hope to show Tennis Australia that he’s playing well enough to get one of the remaining discretionary wildcards (which can go to players from all over the world, not just the Australian one he’s playing for now). Also Mark appears to have new management – Ice Edge Marketing and Rob Aivatoglou (familar to Aussie fans as Hewitt’s former management). Aivatoglou says that the plan for the upcoming weeks is to get a wildcard for the Adelaide International, skip Sydney and then off to the Australian Open where Mark will play qualies if he doesn’t get a wildcard.
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.
Better late than never, the rest of the results from the Outback Champions Series in Dallas. Following his match against Korda, Mark played Todd Martin and won the match 1-6, 6-4, 10-7 (Champions Tie-Break). I believe Mark then played a match against Ferreira but I could find no articles mentioning it. In the final match for third place on the 22nd Mark, the youngest player, took on John McEnroe, the oldest, and lost 4-6, 4-6. It was McEnroe’s crafty skills that vanquished Mark’s power. Philippoussis said he was not sure what his next event would be, but he is planning to play the Australian summer circuit in January and will ask for a wildcard into the Australian Open. Mark also posted a short blog entry on the tournament site where he spoke about his plan to move from Vegas back to San Diego (what that will mean for his training with Gil and Andre is anyone’s guess). Mark’s going to need help whatever he does as he dropped to an all-time low of 1109th in the rankings. He has an injury protected ranking of 112 but has yet to file any paperwork to take advantage of this.
Mark’s return to tennis on Thursday was a positive one with a 6-4, 4-6, 10-2 win over Peter Korda. The tournament uses an unique super-tiebreaker format if it’s tied after two sets. While news sources are reporting the win, no one’s really said much about the quality of Mark’s play. Next Mark will face South African Wayne Ferreira for a place in the finals.
Mark is not currently defending his title in Newport. Even his new agent, Rob Aivatoglou, said he hasn’t been informed by Mark as to why he’s not playing. Currently there is no word as to when Mark might return to the courts – it’s now been six months since his surgery. (Thanks to Ruth for the tip)
Age of Love: Mark’s reality show is still ongoing in the US and is about to start running in Australia. As for the lack of updates on this site, I admit it, I am a tv snob – these dating reality shows are just unbearable to me and even Mark couldn’t get me to watch them. So instead, to keep up on all the Age of Love news, recaps and reviews Search for all Age of Love Articles with Google – there’s tons.