Michael Chang, Kei Nishikori serve it up for charity
Tennis lovers got a treat Saturday night at Newport Beach Tennis Club.
Michael Chang, the former world No. 2 player, hosted the eighth annual Michael Chang Tennis Classic.
After sponsors competed in a tennis clinic during the afternoon, Chang and former world No. 4 Kei Nishikori took center stage on center court at night.
They played in an exhibition doubles match, but not on the same team. Chang and Scott Lipsky, an Irvine resident who recently retired from the ATP Tour, went up against Nishikori and former USC standout Cecil Mamiit, who reached as high as No. 72 on the tour in singles.
Chang and Lipsky prevailed, 6-4, 6-4, though most will remember the antics and not the final score.
In an undercard match, former University High and UCLA standout Gage Brymer, from Irvine, bested Tanner Smith of USC by a 6-4 score. All of the action was for a good cause, primarily benefiting HomeAid Orange County, which works to fight homelessness in the county through housing and community outreach.
Nishikori, a 28-year-old who is currently No. 20 in the world, has dealt with injuries in recent years. He was not a random participant in the exhibition. Chang coaches Nishikori, who recently made the quarterfinals at Wimbledon before losing to eventual champion Novak Djokovic.
“The biggest key after coming back was getting confidence,” Nishikori said in a pre-match press conference.
The Wimbledon result was encouraging for both coach and athlete. Nishikori looks forward to the hard court season leading up to the U.S. Open, where he made the finals in 2014.
“He has zero points to defend the rest of the year,” Chang said. “Whatever he does gets added to the ranking, and he can only go up from here on out. Over the summer will be a good swing for him. He’s normally done very well and he likes playing on the hard courts during the summer swing, especially the U.S. Open, where he’s had the most success Grand Slam-wise.
“The [Wimbledon] draw that he had was not easy. For him to beat guys that play very well on grass – [Bernard] Tomic, [Nick] Kyrgios in straight sets – those are guys that are very dangerous … I think he held his composure very well and was very positive. For me, as a coach, it was very evident.”
As important to Chang is trying to make a difference. Saturday’s action was actually just the start of a full slate at the Michael Chang Tennis Classic. Both adult and high school United States Tennis Assn. tournaments will take place from July 27-29, with Newport Beach Tennis Club and Costa Mesa Tennis Center as the host sites, respectively.
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