Rios Clinches Year-end No. 1 Rank, Changes Senior Tour
by Richard Vach | October 11th, 2006, 5:51 pm

Without a loss after five events in this his debut season on the senior tour, Marcelo Rios has already sewn up the No. 1 senior ranking for 2006, making good on a promise earlier in the year to add the top senior mark to the No. 1 ranking he also reached while on the ATP tour.

“There is no obvious weakness in Rios’s game. You just have to play so well against him all the time. He’s the best player so far this year. He has the confidence to win any tournament.”

That quote, from Gustavo Kuerten in 1998, the year the Chilean reached No. 1 on the strength of titles at the now-defunct Grand Slam Cup, Masters Series events at Indian Wells, Miami, and Rome, and minor titles at Auckland, Singapore and St. Poelten, could be attributed to any of his fellow senior players who have met defeat this year at the hands of Rios.

With 2,000 points accumulated this year over five titles, Rios has put himself out of reach of No. 2 John McEnroe who has earned a distant-second 1,215 points. McEnroe has competed in both the Merrill Lynch Tour of Champions in Europe and the Outback Champions Series in the U.S., while Rios has played exclusively in Europe.

The senior tour has lowered its age limit to 30 in an attempt to bring in a jolt of new talent, as the fan-favorite McEnroe has shouldered most of the burden of infusing the tour with life over the last few years.

“I give myself two years more at the outside — maybe just one,” said McEnroe of competing on the senior tour — back in 2001.

But the seemingly-unstoppable competitor McEnroe soldiers on, much to the delight of fans. Rios at the spry age of 30 is a handful for any player, much less the 47-year-old McEnroe, who has not won a title this year, losing to Rios in the Algarve final and to Todd Martin in the U.S. final at Boston.

The “Rios Effect” on the senior tour in 2006 is apparent. McEnroe frequently travels with his own fitness coach now to keep up with the youngsters. Former Wimbledon champ Richard Krajicek, ahead of his homecountry event this week in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, has reunited with his old tour coach Rohan Goetzke in an attempt to reach the Chilean’s level.

“I got my ass kicked by Marcelo in Paris last month and I wasn’t happy about that,” said Krajicek, who hopes to turn the tables as the tour moves away from Rios’ favored clay to the slick indoor carpet. “I looked at my schedule, cleared a few things, and decided to contact my old coach Rohan Goetzke — the man who helped me to win Wimbledon in 1996. He’s now the Dutch Federation coach and I decided to get him to train me again because Marcelo’s unbeaten and I want to be the first one to break his streak. I think that on an indoor court in Eindhoven, on a fast surface, with me having trained properly — I’m going to beat him.”

Play begins Thursday in Eindhoven, and Krajicek vs. Rios will be featured in Saturday round robin play as both are in the “UNICEF Group” with former No. 2 Michael Stich and former Wimbledon champ Pat Cash, who is happy to be back on a fast surface after taking some beatings this year on clay.

The “Elandsdoorn Group” is comprised of Goran Ivanisevic, Henri Leconte, Paul Haarhuis, and Wayne Ferreira. The winner of each group after the completion of round robin play on Saturday will square off in the Sunday final.

The event kicks off Thursday with Haarhuis vs. Ferreira, and Rios vs. Cash, the Chilean’s first test on the fast courts against the net-rushing Cash.

Whether of not Rios’ streak ends this year, his skill level combined with the tantrum-throwing fan-favorite McEnroe and former No. 1s such as Jim Courier and Thomas Muster, the sound-bite-friendly Ivanisevic, and the potential 2007 debuts of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Stefan Edberg make the senior tour a potentially valuable commodity.

Only “potentially” because, since this is pro tennis, they feel they have to throw up their own roadblocks to success. Would it still be tennis if, rather than propelling the sport forward, some party didn’t go for the cash grab to hold it back?

The ATP’s European leg of the senior tour, and the Jim Courier-spawned U.S. version, pretend like the other doesn’t exist, even though players jump back and forth across the ocean to play both tours. Why the animosity?

According to the Courier camp, Courier had been contacted by IMG and the ATP to discuss a merger of the two tours, but the two competing entities could not agree to terms.

As the senior tour drama plays out, the increasingly-new cast of characters could see it succeed, despite itself.
(Top 10 through Oct. 8, 2006)

1. Marcelo Rios (2000 pts.)
2. John McEnroe (1215)
3. Jim Courier (1080)
4. Sergi Bruguera (990)
5. Thomas Muster (875)
6T. Todd Martin (850)
6T. Cedric Pioline (850)
8. Pat Cash (810)
9. Goran Ivanisevic (575)
10. Magnus Larsson (525)

The World Senior Rankings is a cumulative ranking for senior tour players combining results from the Merrill Lynch Tour of Champions in Europe, and the Outback Champions Series in the U.S.

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8 Comments for Rios Clinches Year-end No. 1 Rank, Changes Senior Tour

Nancy J Says:

Lets see, number 1 “senior” player Rios is 30, and Johnny Mc (the number 2 ranked player) is how old???????? 47!

17 years separate them, not to mention a couple of different tennis “eras” in terms of how the game has changed since Johnny Mc was a contender.

With these facts in mind, Rios SHOULD be number one on the oldies tour since he’s young enough to still be playing the ATP events! There’s nothing to brag about for Rios here! In fact, I think its rather pathetic that he’s on a “seniors” tour at 30!

The senior tour needs to be revamped so that its competitors are players of similar ages and abilities, and are well separated from their ATP championship touring days.

Seniors events can be fun, but not when the tour allows guys as young as Rios to play against guys as old as Johnny Mc! I thought it ridiculous when Tracy Austin was on the women’s senior tour in the mid 90’s! Austin should have been kicking the butts of women more than a decade her senior!

Victor Says:

I always admired Rios talent but could never stand his arogant and gutless attitude. An absolute under achiver. He played a few months of incredible tennis, became No1 for a few weeks and then slowly faded away. Never won a major event

I recently read a chilean newspaper, Rios and the press over there make his performance at the Seniors tour seem he just topped Roger Federer.

Wow, he beat McEnroe almost 20 years his senior. I agree with Nancy 101%. He should be ashamed at playing the Seniors circuit at such a young age.

Minimum age for Seniors tour should be 35.

JCF Says:

He changed senior tour? Your article didn’t address the headline.

jcs Says:

The senior tour is a great idea, but why TWO senior tours? The US and European officials should get together and stop being so greedy – clearly they don’t care much about the fans. Besides – they would ultimately make more $ because fans would have a real “tour” to follow, encouraging them to get behind their favorite players – attend more events and watch on TV.

I also think 30 is too young to be on a “senior” tour. Maybe 35.

Dan Says:

Anyone else here think that a 36 yeard old Agassi would spank Rios? (maybe not on clay)

sr Says:

I don’t think that there are two tours because people are too greedy. Jim Courier has worked his xxx off to get the thing started in the US. Why should he and his company do the work and let the ATP take over then?
But personally I regret it very much that some of the guys (especially Jim) aren’t playing in Europe anymore. Eindhoven is just an hour away from where I live.

Jena Says:

I’m really enjoying Marcelo on the seniors tour – he’s certainly livened it up. Those who claim he’s too young clearly don’t know the history of his serious back injury, which began towards the end of 98 – which contributed to his brief reign at number 1. Goran joined the tour at 31 – don’t recall protests over that – but maybe it’s because he wasn’t winning as often as Rios?

Oh, and I’d take Rios to win over Agassi any day, any surface.

Jorge Robledo Says:

Hey guys, just to freshen up the story
Last week Andre Agassi came down to Chile to play an exibition match against Marcelo Rios, and guess who won?… Marcelo, again..
Yes, the guy is 31 years old, he is an arrogant for many people, but yet, he’s brilliant at tennis, and that’s all that matters.

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