Adding to the excitement of the Oracle Challenger Series Newport Beach, the Newport Beach Tennis Club hosted the Oracle Champions Cup, a special one night Invesco QQQ series event. As a part of the Oracle Champions Cup, the event featured tennis legends Andy Roddick, James Blake, Mardy Fish and Tommy Haas.
No one understands the importance of supporting tennis at ATP Challenger Tour level better than those who have come up the ranks. “Players now are so talented, these challengers are so deep,” said Miami Open tournament director James Blake, who won 9 Challenger titles on his journey to ATP Tour level events. “Any of these guys have the opportunity to actually do well at a tour event.” Recognizing what makes the Oracle Challenger Series so unique, with the added incentive of a wild card to the BNP Paribas Open. “Playing these Challengers is a huge opportunity by themselves, but when it’s got the promise of a wild card into such a big event like Indian Wells it’s a huge incentive. The two guys who are in the finals right now [Schnur and Fritz] , either one of them could win matches at the Indian Wells ATP Tour event.”
Fellow Invesco participant and BNP Paribas Open tournament director Tommy Haas has seen first hand how the introduction of the Oracle Challenger Series a year ago has grown in popularity. “I think the wild card race is a great idea,” notes Haas. “It gives extra incentive to the players to try and do well in these Oracle Challenger Series events, to try and get the big prize in the end – a main draw wild card into the biggest tournament outside the grand slams.” With the 2019 BNP Paribas Open player field announced earlier this week, Haas is in a unique position to see the opportunity that the Oracle Challenger Series presents to players who might not have made the cut based on their ranking. “All of the players want to come and play this event, and also the one in Indian Wells the week before the main event. Players who might not get a wild card on their own are already reaching out saying they would like to have a chance to get in the Indian Wells Challenger.”
Seasoned players turned tournament directors, like Blake and Haas, recognize what a unique opportunity the Oracle Challenger Series presents, not only to the players but to the sport overall.
“Being a tennis player, a tennis fan, I see what Mark Hurd’s done, what Oracle’s done, and it just warms my heart,” said Blake. “It’s great for the game. This sport wouldn’t succeed without the fans, without the sponsors and without this kind of donation and backing.”
One thing that makes Oracle’s commitment to the sport so unique is that Hurd is able to look at the sport from a unique perspective. He is a tennis fan, to be sure, but it’s his years of business experience that makes Hurd and the ideation behind the Oracle Challenger Series so groundbreaking. “Mark Hurd is a real tennis fan, tennis player,” Blake explains. “Having someone who is that passionate about tennis makes me feel good. Given the opportunity I’d love to be able to help out tennis as much as I can, too, and for Mark Hurd and Oracle and Larry Ellison to see this as a stepping stone and a way to grow the game, it’s really innovative and I love what he’s doing.”
The Oracle Champions Cup players took the court before packed stands at the Newport Beach Tennis Club on Saturday evening. Following the Invesco QQQ format, Haas and Fish were the first to take the court with Haas advancing with the score of 6-2. Up next was Blake and Roddick, with Roddick advancing with a score of 6-3 to meet Haas in the Oracle Champions Cup finals. Haas was victorious in the end and the legends gave the crowd what they wanted in a thrilling 7-5 finish.