And thanks to Kia Motors and the ATP Champions Tour, these tennis legends came to Seoul, much to the delight of their Korean fans!
(Marat Safin and John McEnroe
talking to sports reporters)
(The four Champions in Seoul)
On November 12 and 13 in 2016, when the autumn temperatures in Seoul were best for the outdoors, the legends amazed their Korean fans with their booming serves, shot-making, and enthralling points that made their names the most exciting to watch during their professional days.
John McEnroe, a former World No. 1 with 7 Grand Slam singles titles to his name, is the only left-handed player in the field. McEnroe is known for his serve-and-volley game as well as his leftie out-wide serve, which, according to Pat Cash, "is very difficult on this court; it's very fast".
(Young tennis players pose with
Pete and Pat)
(Fernando Gonzalez was last year's tournament champion)
Pete Sampras, with his 14 Grand Slam singles titles, sharing the 2nd spot with Rafa Nadal in the current all-time record list, is also known for his serve-and-volley game, but it's his booming serves that usually do the damage.
When I asked Pete Sampras about his reaching the World No. 1 ranking in 1993 and the 286 weeks he spent on that spot, he said that "it was one thing to get there; it's twice as hard to stay there".
(Pat Cash with fans)
(Marat Safin with a young Korean fan)
Marat Safin, also a former World No. 1, has won 2 Grand Slam singles titles, while Pat Cash has been a Wimbledon champion.
(Excited tennis fans)
(John McEnroe with his fans)
With the tournament having events such as the autograph signing, the 'one-point lesson' hit with Pat and Pete, and the 'fastest serve' contest, the local and international tennis fans in the SK Handball Arena were treated to a weekend of fun and special tennis matches.
(Marat in action)
During the matches, fans would get into the game by cheering words of encouragement for their favorite players.
But the most popular player among the fans was Pat Cash, who not only entertained everyone with his antics on court, but also gave away his prized trademark headbands to lucky fans who were seated courtside. He even walked over to a fan on the other side of the court just to give her his headband in appreciation of the fan's all-out cheering for him.
(McEnroe questioning a line call)
(Pat Cash unleashing a backhand)
And just like his old self, John McEnroe flared up during matches (jokingly though) whenever a questionable line call didn't go his way. But that's what fans came to see: their favorite tennis players being just themselves on the court.
And being a tennis fan and a player myself, I felt the excitement of the fans, both young and old, whenever a long rally happened and ended with a winner, or when they rushed courtside after matches to ask for a photo with their favorite player or for an autograph.
(The great Pete Sampras)
I even heard one Korean female fan loudly giggled after she had a photo with Marat Safin. It was understandable; he is handsome and at 6'4", his presence on the court is still intimidating.
On the first day of the tournament, Marat Safin won over Pete Sampras (7-6 (4),6-4), while John McEnroe won over Pat Cash (6-2,6-4).
On the second day, Marat Safin lifted the champion's trophy after winning over John McEnroe (7-5,7-5), while Pete Sampras won over Pat Cash (7-5,6-3).
(Marat Safin giving a champion's speech as the runner-up, John McEnroe, looks on)
While the two-day tournament was probably too short for Korean fans to enjoy watching these champions, Kia and the ATP Champions Tour would probably be bringing more legendary champions to Seoul next year! :-)