Tennis legends roll back the years

A roll call of tennis legends, including former U.S. Open champ Andy Roddick, served up a treat for hundreds of spectators at Camana Bay over the weekend.

Roddick, 33, showed he had lost little of the power and athleticism that made him one of the best known players in the game for more than a decade.

Serving at full throttle, he out-gunned former Aussie great Mark Philippoussis in the showpiece singles match on Saturday night.

Both renowned big hitters, Philippoussis and Roddick peppered the crowd in the front row with a series of stinging power serves. Ultimately it was the younger Roddick who had the extra ace up his sleeve to claim victory in an entertaining encounter, “I’ll never stop loving playing tennis, and I feel so lucky to come out here and play a little bit and enjoy Grand Cayman. It’s been a real pleasure,” Roddick said after the game.

Earlier, Russian superstar Anna Kournikova paired up with four-time Grand Slam winner Jim Courier to take on mercurial Iranian trick-shot specialist Mansour Bahrami and American Ashley Harkleroad in a friendly mixed doubles encounter.

Trading blistering cross-court forehands and sharp volleys, the quartet drew gasps from the crowd with some slick rallies.

Bahrami. 59, perhaps the least well known of the legends at the start of the tournament, quickly emerged as a favorite, charming the crowd with his mischievous grin as well as his preposterous trick shots and extroverted showmanship.

On several occasions he chased down seemingly irretrievable lob shots, flicking the ball back between his legs and over the net. At one point he made three consecutive 360-degree spins at the net, volleying the ball behind his back.

Bahrami’s career exploits include just a couple of tour doubles titles, but his story is perhaps the most intriguing of any of the legends on show at the weekend. He claims to have taught himself to play using a metal frying pan before receiving his first racket at age 13. In 1978, during the Iranian revolution, he was forced to stop playing tennis and he was 30-years-old before he got the chance to compete professionally.

Bahrami later teamed up with Philippoussis to take on Roddick and Courier in another doubles exhibition.

The players, who were also involved in clinics with sponsors and young tennis players over the weekend, seemed to enjoy the event as much as the crowd.

“It’s been a wonderful time. I’ve had a blast,” said Kournikova.