McEnroe heads list of stars for HK Classic

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 September, 2010, 12:00am

Former bad boy John McEnroe will return to Hong Kong in January when he headlines a top-class field for the Hong Kong Classic at Victoria Park.

The one-time 'superbrat', winner of seven grand-slam singles titles and a former world number one, will make his first appearance in Hong Kong in almost 10 years and his first at Victoria Park in 18 years as he spearheads Team America in the team competition from January 5-8.

Joining McEnroe will be Team America captain Venus Williams, a regular Hong Kong competitor and past singles winner in Hong Kong.

And there's plenty more playing talent lined up to compete for the World Team Challenge in the tournament, which acts as a warm-up for the first grand slam of the year, the Australian Open.

Russian powerhouse Maria Sharapova, for example, also will be making her return to Hong Kong, leading Team Russia.

Stefan Edberg, the six-time grand-slam champion from Sweden, also returns to Hong Kong as part of Team Europe, which will be captained by Caroline Wozniacki, the Danish world number two, who was top seed at this month's US Open.

Crowd favourite Li Na of China, who will captain Team Asia Pacific, rounds out the six names confirmed so far for the showpiece.

McEnroe's return to Hong Kong is bound to cause excitement. He last played in the city when he won the Cathay Pacific Champions tournament in November 2000. The 51-year-old American defeated Swedish great Mats Wilander 6-1, 6-3 in that final, played at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. The legendary left-hander has not competed at Victoria Park since playing doubles at the now-defunct Marlboro Championships in 1993. 'McEnroe is still an excellent and very talented player even after he retired from professional tennis,' Tennis Patrons' Association vice-president Dick Lee Ming-kwai said. 'He remains very popular with fans not only in Hong Kong but in Asia as well.'

Sharapova will lead Team Russia's defence of the title at the four-day tournament as she bids to become a world force again. She was beaten by Wozniacki this month at Flushing Meadows but has won tournaments in Memphis and Strasbourg this year, indicating a return to form.

Wozniacki, whose flying blonde hair is a hallmark of her game, has come a long way since first appearing at the Classic as a 16-year-old ranked 231st in the world in 2007. She has won 10 WTA Tour titles, four of them this year, and reached the US Open semi-finals last week.

Two-time Wimbledon champion (1988 and 1990) Edberg proved to be one of the most popular players at the 2010 Hong Kong event and will make a welcome return.

'This is the best field we've ever had. I can't remember a time when we've had so many stars in every team,' Lee said. 'I'm excited to see Li Na, and excited too by John McEnroe, but I'm especially delighted to see Caroline's progress. We have nurtured her since she first came to Hong Kong as a teenager.'

Organisers will announce two more top male players and four more female stars to complete the 12-player line-up next month.

Each team consists of three players - two females and a male. The four teams will be drawn into semi-final pairs and a match will comprise three singles and one mixed doubles rubber. The teams winning three rubbers advance to the Gold Group final, the losers going to the Silver group final. If teams win two rubbers each a Golden Match Tie Break (first to 10 points) will be played.