Sport to make debut at Arena in May

DULUTH - They have been the face of American tennis, both former No. 1 players and Davis Cup teammates.

But when Jim Courier and John McEnroe compete against each other, the tennis is intense, even when it's just an exhibition like they one they'll play next month at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth.

Courier, in town Friday to promote the event, said he recently played McEnroe, barely winning a best-of-three-set match.

"At 47, he's working even harder," Courier said. "What he's doing is amazing."

Courier and McEnroe take center court at the Arena on May 6, along with Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna and tennis star - and model - Anna Kournikova in the Mercedes-Benz Classic.

The exhibition will also feature a mixed doubles match in which players will be miked, Courier said, "so you can hear us trash-talking each other."

It's the first time tennis has been played in the Arena, but the event made sense because it has potential to draw a good crowd in a metro area, where the sport enjoys a loyal following.

About 80,000 compete in Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association leagues and another 20,000 are United States Tennis Association members - a key reason the Arena wanted to land the Mercedes-Benz Classic.

Friday's press conference was held at Glancy Outpatient Center in Duluth, operated by Gwinnett Hospital System - a major sponsor of the tennis tournament. The Mercedes-Benz Classic will work with VolleyFest, a charity that supports cancer research.