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Tennis fans have something to look forward to this spring

Minnesotans don't have many opportunities to see professional tennis players without leaving the state, but that's about to change -- at least for one night in April.

Minnesotans don't have many opportunities to see professional tennis players without leaving the state, but that's about to change - at least for one night in April.

The PowerShares Series Tennis Champions is coming to Minneapolis on April 29 at the Target Center. Scheduled to appear are Andy Roddick, James Blake, John McEnroe and Michael Chang. McEnroe won the PowerShares Series last year behind Blake.

"It was a lot of fun. I think it says McEnroe is still playing great," Blake said during a news conference on the series this week. It's going to be fun competing again with him this year. ...

"I know the credentials it takes to get on this tour. I'm proud just to be a part of it. I had a good time and I'm looking forward to it again."

This is the tour's 10th year. It's an opportunity to see legends of sport, American champions and fan favorites up close in a competitive event. The PowerShare Series tennis circuit brings household names of tennis to markets that may not have options to see professional players outside of their living rooms and television sets. For tennis fans, it comes with an added bonus of being a competitive event with four champions playing in one-set semi finals. Winners of those matches go on to play a one-set championship. The series, with its one-night tournaments, will travel to 12 cities this spring. Players on the series include Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Roddick, McEnroe, Jim Courier, Change, Blake and Mark Philippoussis.

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"It's been rewarding to see the trajectory of the tour, to see how it's moved from a multi‐day tournament setup to now these one‐night high‐energy fan‐centric tournaments that we play now over the 12 cities that we'll reach," Courier said."I love the fact we're able to get to so many new markets each year with this tour. We'll be playing in six cities we haven't taken the

PowerShares Series tennis to in 2015. That's going to be fun for me to play in places like

Lincoln, Neb., where I've never been to, let alone played tennis in."

Courier said in addition to the new cities, he was excited to see younger talent on the tour like the recently retired Roddick and Blake, as it challenges him to play at their level.

"But the beauty of this tour is we have great players from a few different generations," Courier said. "Fans get a chance to see some names they know in a competitive environment. I like to compete. This gives me an outlet to go out there and compete and try and stay good at something that I've been doing my whole life. I'll be ready come March."

Roddick said he didn't play much his first year away from tennis but last year he tried it playing three nights.

"I enjoyed it so much that I'm playing 10 nights this year," Roddick said. "I had a blast. I think the format is great for fans. A couple of one‐set matches. Always high energy. Everything matters. Everything counts. There's no boring spots the entire night. It's just a really good way to go about playing a one‐night shootout. I had a blast playing it."

Roddick said he wanted specifically to play in Nebraska. He was born in Omaha.

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"I'm looking forward to it. I've been to Lincoln many, many times," Roddick said. "Never played tennis there, but been there for football games a bunch. I'm just excited. I was thrilled when I saw that was a possibility for me to play there."

From my view

A decade ago, Roddick was in Minnesota the week before Christmas for the Minnesota Tennis Challenge exhibition with Edina-born Mardy Fish, along with Bob and Mike Bryan. With a short tennis offseason, it's a challenge for players to have time to travel to events around the nation to promote the sport. But being able to see professional players live was a memorable experience and well-worth the drive from Brainerd to the Twin Cities. There are rare opportunities to see such high-level tennis without buying a plane ticket. The speed of the game - even at that exhibition - was amazing from the front row. The competitive nature of the PowerShares Series, along with the focus on the fan experience, should make the April 29 event even more outstanding. So if someone on the Christmas list needs an experience for a gift, this is a must event. Even if they are only casual tennis watchers, it will be worth the trip.

"This is such a fun way to play," Roddick said. "We understand our best years are probably behind us. But we all still want to win. There's an edge. It's good tennis, good personalities."

The PowerShares Series begins March 24 in Salt Lake City, March 25 in Los Angeles, April 1 in Lincoln, Neb., April 2 in Chicago, April 16 in Austin, Texas, April 17 in Little Rock, Ark., April 18 in Dallas, April 25 in Boston, April 23 in Richmond, Va., April 29 in Minneapolis, April 30 in Cincinnati and May 2 in Vancouver, Canada.

Tickets are on sale now at rates of $37, $67, $92, $127 and $252. For more information, go to www.targetcenter.com .

Related Topics: TENNIS
Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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