tampabay.com

Mecedes-Benz Classic

By KEITH NIEBUHR
Published March 20, 2005


WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Monday; St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa.

PLAYERS: Andre Agassi, James Blake, Jim Courier and Mardy Fish.

FORMAT: Courier vs. Blake in an eight-game pro set, followed by Agassi vs. Fish. The event ends with a full doubles match: Courier-Agassi vs. Blake-Fish.

TICKETS: From $16.75 to $76.75. Proceeds benefit the Raymond James Courier's Kids Foundation.

INFO: Call 813 301-2500 or visit www.stpetetimesforum.com

THE PLAYERS

ANDRE AGASSI

AGE: 34.

TITLES: 59.

BIGGEST WIN: Where to begin? He owns eight major championships, but we'll go with his victory at Wimbledon in 1992 since that was his first Grand Slam title. He was 0-3 in major finals before that win and is 8-3 since.

BREAKDOWN: He is, without question, one of the sport's all-time greats. He is tied for sixth on the career list for major championships and is one of only a handful of players to have captured all four Grand Slam titles.

LITTLE KNOWN FACT: His father, Mike, is a former boxer who participated in the 1952 Olympics.

JIM COURIER

AGE: 34.

TITLES: 23.

BIGGEST WIN: The Dade City native won more than 500 matches, but the one that stands out is his win over Agassi for the 1991 French Open title. It was the first all-American French final since 1954. That was his first of four major championships.

BREAKDOWN: He will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., on July 9. He turned pro in 1988, and during a 13-year career went 118-37 in Grand Slam singles matches. He totaled 58 weeks at No. 1.

LITTLE KNOWN FACT: He plays tennis right-handed but is a left-hander on the golf course.

JAMES BLAKE

AGE: 25.

TITLES: One.

BIGGEST WIN: The Tampa resident beat the top-seeded Agassi 6-3, 6-4 to reach the final of the Legg Mason Classic in 2002, his only victory over his idol in four tries. He won his first ATP Tour title the next day. He became the fourth African-American to win a tournament since the Open era began in 1968, joining Arthur Ashe, MaliVai Washington and Bryan Shelton.

BREAKDOWN: He is one of the tour's most athletic players. His forehand is among the best in the world.

LITTLE KNOWN FACT: He had severe scoliosis when he was 13, forcing him to wear a back brace 18 hours a day through high school.

MARDY FISH

AGE: 23.

TITLES: One.

BIGGEST WIN: In the semifinals of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece, the Tampa resident beat Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the gold-medal match. He lost to another Chilean, Nicolas Massu in the final.

BREAKDOWN: Fish, who trains at Saddlebrook with Blake, is a dangerous player who possesses a powerful serve. His backhand and net play also are very strong.

LITTLE KNOWN FACT: He played on the same high school basketball and tennis teams with Andy Roddick in Boca Raton. The two are good friends.