STEELE CREEK -- Since the Outback Champions Series started bringing great tennis to the lake three years, there's been annual showstoppers, like seeing the return of legendary players Jim Courier, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras to the courts. Now, for the first time in the series history, female players will join the lineup at Championships at the Palisades.
Anna Kournikova and Chanda Rubin will compete in mixed doubles exhibition matches at The Palisades, the fifth of eight events on the tennis circuit to be played Sept. 24-28 in Steele Creek, InsideOut Sports & Entertainment announced Friday.
"One of the most frequent comments we hear from our fans is the desire to see their favorite female players play at our events," said Jon Venison, co-founding partner of InsideOut Sports & Entertainment and the Outback Champions Series. "We are delighted to be able to provide this for our fans with the addition of these mixed-doubles matches in Charlotte featuring Anna, Chanda and some of our Outback Champions Series players."
Kournikova and Rubin, both former top 10 players on the WTA Tour, will compete in mixed doubles exhibitions during both the day and night sessions on Sept. 27 with two players chosen from the field of eight men's players competing in the tournament field.
"Anna's popularity goes beyond tennis, while Chandra has been ranked No. 6 female player in the world," Venison told the Pilot on Friday. "We would love to put together a champion series with women that mirrors the men. But not many females are willing to commit to it, so we decided to go the exhibition route to add to what we have in place.
"It'll be more fun than competitive, where as the guys are playing for prize money," he said.
As with the male players, there will be meet and greets before the matches, Venison said.
Confirmed players for the event include former world No. 1 and 2006 tournament champion Jim Courier, two-time Charlotte finalist Todd Martin, 1992 Olympic silver medalist Wayne Ferreira, and most recently announced, 2003 Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis.
"Mark is not only a great player and two-time grand slam finalist, he's also just been the star of a reality TV series "Age of Love," Venison said. "He just became eligible from an age standpoint. We like to mix it up with old and new guys."
To be eligible to compete in The Outback Champions Series, founded in 2005, players must be older than 30, have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. The final four players in the field, as well as the schedule of play in the round-robin event, will be announced soon.
Venis said the series is growing every year, and is an international professional tennis circuit with a "domestic slant."
"It's been very well relieved from public, as well as corporate," he said.
Each event features $150,000 in prize money with an undefeated winner taking home $54,000, as well as Champions Series points that will determine the year-end Stanford Champions Rankings No. 1. Beginning this year, the year-end champion will receive a $100,000 bonus courtesy of Stanford Financial Group, the official rankings sponsor of the Outback Champions Series.
"These guys are all training hard and playing hard. They take their competition very seriously and are playing a high level of tennis still," Venison said. 'They get the point that these events are more interactive."
Every year, more dates are added to the schedule.
"There will be a cap at some stage with regards to number of events," he said.
And next year, he said, Charlotte could see Michael Chang.
"Chang has played and is missing Charlotte because he's getting married," Venison said. "He will likely be coming to Charlotte next year."
WANT TO GO?Tickets for the Championships at the Palisades start at $12. Call (877) 332-TIXX or visit championsseriestennis.com. The local event charity is Charlotte Athletes United for Youth. Past event winners: Jim Courier 2006 and Pete Sampras 2007.