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Vaidisova
Nov 30th, 2005, 07:45 PM
Kournikova to play for charity
Raymond, Ginepri return to Memphis

By Phil Stukenborg
Contact
November 30, 2005

Two-time champion Lisa Raymond, rising 16-year-old Nicole Vaidisova, Russian model/tennis player Anna Kournikova and Americans James Blake and Robby Ginepri will appear at February's Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and the Cellular South Cup at The Racquet Club.

Kournikova will not participate in the tournament's main draw Feb. 19-26, but will play in the Cellular South Celebrity Challenge, a mixed doubles event Feb. 20 at 5:30 p.m. Mike and Bob Bryan, the world's top-ranked doubles team, also are scheduled to play in the charity challenge.

Tournament owner Mac Winker made the announcenment Tuesday in a press conference at The Racquet Club. He also announced Cellular South, the women's tournament sponsor, has signed an agreement to remain title sponsor through 2009 with an option to renew for an additional three years.

Kournikova will be making her first appearance in Memphis as a player after two trips -- in 2002 and 2003 -- as a guest of the tournament. The celebrity challenge will benefit the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund, LeBonheur Children's Hospital or St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, depending on the preference of the ticket buyer.

"It was her idea of doing a charity (event)," Winker said of Kournikova, who, while no longer a tour player, frequently participates in charity tennis events.

Winker said he had hoped to name the fourth member of the charity event Tuesday, but was unable to secure a commitment. He has expressed interest in bringing in Martina Hingis, the former world No. 1 who announced Tuesday she would return to the tour in 2006.

While Hingis' status is uncertain, Vaidisova's participation is set. She will be making her second appearance in Memphis and is ranked 15th in the world. She is the only player on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour to win three straight titles in 2005.

"She is the hottest young star on tour, no question," Winker said. "She played well here last year."

Vaidisova reached the semifinals in 2005, where she lost to No. 3 seed Meghann Shaughnessy.

Ginepri, ranked 16th in the world, and Blake, ranked 25th, join a field that includes No. 3 Andy Roddick, whose commitment was announced during the summer. Ginepri has reached a career-high ranking by winning a tournament and making three semifinals, including the U.S. Open. Blake has made a remarkable comeback from a severe neck injury last year to return to the top 25. He won an event in Stockholm and reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

"Ginepri and Blake are probably two of the biggest (American) drawing cards in tennis (behind Roddick and Andre Agassi)," said tournament director Phil Chamberlain. "I think some of the European tournaments would love to have the field we have."

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