BNP Paribas Showdown Returns to The Garden This February

The BNP Paribas Showdown will have a 2012 version at new and refurbished Madison Square Garden on February 27, 2012.

Maria Sharapova and world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki will make their first appearances in the event in the 7:00 pm opener. That match will be followed by Roger Federer vs. Andy Roddick.

Last year Roddick was scheduled to play Andre Agassi,but Pete Sampras ended up playing Agassi after John McEnroe was forced to default to Ivan Lendl due to injury in the first match despite leading 6-3.

Federer has played in the past and won against Sampras.

There will be an opportunity to bid on the event at the International Tennis Hall Of Fame Ball this coming Friday evening at Cipriani in Manhattan.

Tickets will go on sale at The Garden in the Fall.

The Last Great Rivalry – Mac and Lendl

Close your eyes quickly and you would have sworn you would’ve seen Ivan Lendl’s sharp strokes on the Louis Armstrong cement.

And keep your eyes closed and yes that was John McEnroe dominating Wimbledon, like only he could.

But alas, that was a more simpler time – a time when tennis had a clear good and evil and a time where the matches were marked by nationality, just as much as skill.

On one side you have McEnroe, the bad boy from Queens, who didn’t give a care on who is ticked off and how he went about it. Was it improper to challenge calls? He didn’t care. He was a New Yorker through and through and if it wasn’t for tennis, he would be arguing balls and strikes with an umpire at Shea Stadium.

And then you had Lendl, the stoic Czech, who was a symbol of Eastern Bloc athletic dominance.  Stoic on the court, his smooth robotic actions reminded one of Soviet system – athletes are robots, with only winning on the mind. If not for tennis, he might have been dominating some Olympic sport or even facing Rocky in a boxing match.

It is that rivalry that is missing from tennis today and when the two now 50+ year-olds took to the Madison Square Garden court for the undercard of the BNP Parabas Showdown, it reminded everyone, not only what was right with tennis, but also what’s wrong.

The friendly match showed the good sportsmanship between the two competitors. McEnroe retired, because he thought it wasn’t fair to Lendl to keep playing hurt, ruining plans on donning is 1982 hair and short –shorts. And Lendl just laughed it off, looking to complete a senior comeback, but said was not concerned about the final score.

“It’s not like we see each other a whole lot,” McEnroe said, after he had to retire with a sprained ankle from the match after leading Lendl, 6-3. “As you get older there’s a lot less at stake, so maybe one out of every 10 jokes is funny.”

That wasn’t the case 25 years ago when Lendl and McEnroe were No. 1 and No. 2 in the world. The final day of the Grand Slam was their domains and both men fought each other tooth and nail.

Sure the same thing can be said about the Federer-Nadal rivalry or main event of the night Sampras-Agassi. Yet, this was different, as the Cold War came into play. Americans staunchly backed McEnroe. Yes, he rubbed some the wrong way, but he was red, white and blue throughout, while Lendl was the poster boy for the Soviet state. A national pride was there. When McEnroe won, America won and it was just another nail in the Eastern Bloc coffin. And when Lendl won, it was just another way of hating the Soviets, if there wasn’t enough back in the day.

“I ended up having a losing record against Ivan,” McEnroe said, who holds a 14-20 record against Lendl. “A lot of guys lost to him a lot. There are not a lot of guys who beat him a lot.”

Yet it is this type of rivalry that’s missing from tennis. With so much globalization, there is no hatred and no lines drawn. It’s hard to hate Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal and there are no lines in a Switzerland-Spain rivalry. Heck Switzerland is a historic neutral country.

And with no lines in the sand drawn, the edge is gone from the sport. Back then, the casual fan would watch for American pride, much like the way he or she watches the Olympics every four years.

Yet, those days are over. Sure America won and Lendl is even an American citizen. But without the pure rivalry, the sport has lost and maybe will never recover its glory days.

Except for nights like there when you close your eyes and can see the Cold War again.

No Need To Roof Arthur Ashe

“A monstrosity,” one New York veteran columnist called Arthur Ashe Stadium in the press room during the one hour and 47 minute rain delay yesterday.

And of course there was chirping from the British media, because if their beloved Wimbledon can put a roof on their Centre Court, why not one in Flushing Meadows?

The fact is, even with the last three Open Finals pushed back a day, putting a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium is just not practical from any aspect. In fact, to cave into the roof demands will take valuable resources away from other USTA endeavors.

“It’s technically complex and financially challenging,” USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier told Reuters the other day.  “At a cost of more than $150 million, do you spend that on a roof or continue to fund grassroots tennis programs in this country?”

Widmaier is probably being nice as some estimates put it over $250 million. From a fiscal standpoint, why would the USTA shell out for a roof just in case there is a storm coming through the second weekend of September? It just doesn’t make sense. And once a covering is installed, you know it won’t rain on the Open for 10 years.

Yet, other majors are going in that direction, so why not the Open? Well in Melbourne, having covered courts is part of the infrastructure of the city. Rod Laver Arena – the Australian Open’s main stage – acts as the city’s main arena for the rest of the year. It’s used for about 180 days outside of the two weeks in January. And Hisense Arena also doubles as a basketball arena for the rest of the season.

Any ancillary events in New York for a crowd the size of Arthur Ashe will go to Madison Square Garden, Nassau Coliseum, The Meadowlands, The Izod Centre, and soon the Barclay’s Centre so there will be no extra economic impact. Over the first 14 years of its existence, Arthur Ashe only was used once for a non tennis event in 2008, when the WNBA played a game there.

Some may argue Wimbledon built one with no extra use. But the fact is the weather in London during the beginning of July usually calls for rain. Heck they even put it into the plotline of the movie “Wimbledon” where a shower came through, which allowed the two protagonists to make up. If they made that movie today Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst would never have found love. Wouldn’t that have been a tragedy?

In Queens, however, the two weeks of the Open tend to be the driest of the year. Before 2008, the only other time the Open was pushed back until Monday in Flushing Meadows was in 1987. Before then you had to go back to 1974. Just because there was a lot of rain over the past few years doesn’t mean the USTA needs to shell out a quarter of a million dollars.

Let’s say they did. Arthur Ashe is built on landfill, as Flushing Meadows – Corona Park was once an ash dump (It was in the book the Great Gatzby as the Valley of the Ashes) and it foundation was once the foundation of the United States Pavilion of the 1964 World’s Fair, a building that’s half the size of the current structure. To put a roof on Ashe, they would have to redo the whole foundation and then put the covering on it. Or they would just have to blow up Ashe and start anew.

Unfortunately neither plan would be finished in a year, disrupting an Open or two in the future.

Another argument is to cover Armstrong Stadium, but then the USTA would have to expand that venue in order to accommodate, every ticket holder.

No, the USTA is stuck with Ashe, like it or not and putting a roof on the so-called “monstrosity” just doesn’t make sense. The Open would be better served using that money to expand the outer courts to accommodate more people. Frankly, those matches tend to get very cramped, very quickly.

But a roof? No need. The Open is better without one.

Pete Sampras Named Tennis Night in America Spokesman for 2011

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Pete Sampras, a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, will serve as the first spokesman for “Tennis Night In America,” a joint promotional effort between the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and StarGames, Inc.

“Tennis Night in America,” the annual celebration of tennis that includes youth registration events at facilities around the country and concludes with the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden, will take place February 28, 2011.

“I am honored to be the first spokesperson for ‘Tennis Night in America’,” Sampras said. “Tennis was a great sport for me when I was young and having tennis facilities around the country come together to promote the game and the BNP Paribas Showdown makes for a great celebration for tennis.

“Last year Tennis Night had over 700 tennis facilities involved.  I would like to see that reach 1,000 in 2011.”

“Tennis Night in America” showcases tennis at local facilities around the country. In 2010, more than 700 tennis clubs and recreation centers hosted open houses, clinics and parties. Along with the festivities was the USTA’s Youth Registration Night, the organization’s largest youth tennis recruitment effort.

“Tennis Night in America is a great platform to raise awareness of our sport, and now with the help of one of tennis’ greatest stars, we can raise the level even higher,” said Kurt Kamperman, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA.  “We believe Tennis Night can be a platform to kick off the tennis season in hundreds of markets throughout the United States.”

Sampras, who began his professional career at the age of 16 in 1988, holds 14 Grand Slam singles titles, the most Wimbledon titles (7), two Australian Open titles, five US Open singles titles, and the record for the most number of weeks as World No. 1 with a total of 286 weeks.

Sampras debuted in 1988 and played his last professional tournament in 2002 when he captured the US Open, defeating longtime rival Agassi in the final. Sampras walked away with a total of 64 singles titles and a World No. 1 ranking, which he held for a record six consecutive years from 1993 – 1998. Sampras was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 2007.

In addition to serving as the Tennis Night in America spokesman, Sampras will also play in the BNP Paribas Showdown. In 2011 the event will renew classic rivalries of the 80’s and 90’s, as John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl will compete in a one set pro match (first player to win eight games) followed by a best of three set match between Sampras and Andre Agassi. The four all-time greats have won a combined 37 Grand Slam Singles titles and 295 ATP Tour events.

“Tennis Night in America” began in 2009 and is a partnership between the USTA and StarGames, the co-promoter of the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden.

“We started ‘Tennis Night in America’ as a promotional idea, and with the partnership of the USTA, it has grown into an exciting grassroots program to involve the broad tennis community,” said Jerry Solomon, President and CEO of StarGames. “With Pete’s support and involvement this year, the whole concept is taken to an even greater level. Pete has been an inspiration to so many tennis players, and we look forward to him spreading the message of the game on this special day.”

The BNP Paribas Showdown is produced by StarGames and MSG Sports. Tickets will officially go on sale September 27 @ 10:00 a.m. and can be purchased at the Madison Square Garden box office and all Ticketmaster outlets. BNP Paribas Showdown information, including an opportunity to sign up for pre-sale alerts prior to tickets going on sale, can be found at www.tennisshowdown.com.

For more information on “Tennis Night in America,” fans around the country can visit www.tennisnight.com.

The Billie Jean King Cup Shows Why Tennis Is Great In New York

NEW YORK – There’s always one problem with the US Open every single year.

After it’s over, you have to wait 50 more weeks to see some live tennis in New York City.

Of course, a true fan of the sport can travel across the country – or even the world – to see the best play, but nothing compares to, as it’s called, the rock-and-roll atmosphere of the big city.

That’s why it’s refreshing to see an event line the 2010 BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup which took place on last Monday at Madison Square Garden. With Kim Clijster, Ana Ivanovic, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Venus Williams playing an exhibition, a glimpse of the last summer came to New York during the cold winter.

And it really didn’t matter the first matches only went one set each and the played with the no-Ad rule, what was seen was very exciting tennis at the Mecca.

“There was definitely a real connection [at the Garden],” said Williams, the eventual winner over Clijsters, 6-4 3-6 7-5. “They were just rooting me on and it felt great. That’s the most fun I had in front of a crowd anywhere. It’s nice to see how much it means to them having tennis at the Garden.”

Back about 20 years ago, the New York area was the capital of Tennis. Besides the Open, the WTA championships were held at the Garden and even the Davis Cup came to New York. There was an event in Northern New Jersey over the summer, and even old Forest Hills hosted bigger events.

But then everything changed when world class facilities popped up around the globe offering top dollar prizes. Most of the tournaments moved out of the Metropolitan Area, leaving the last major of the year as the only tennis in the city.

And that’s why putting an event at the Garden is so important for the sport. With less and less coverage in the in the papers, having a any event in the largest media market means tennis will get the exposure it desperately needs.

That’s not to say all these other cities that want to host events shouldn’t get them, but the ATP and WTA needs to keep the sport in the focus of the largest media markets in order to keep it in conscience of the TV, radio and print.

So, maybe the powers that be should consider expanding this new late winter event into a weekend event. Instead of making it one night, it could be a full weekend with no gimmicky rules and an expanded card. And since it would be in February or March, the event won’t get the distracted of other sports. Football will be over, baseball is in Florida, and the Knicks and Rangers obviously are road teams for that weekend.

And every newspaper looking to fill their pages will be there and tennis, once again, may get the spotlight it so desperately seeks.

Don’t Miss Your Chance to Serve for $1 Million On National TV

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Peter Francesconi
PO Box 7845
Hilton Head Island,
843-686-3036 x 203
peter@TennisIndustry.org

09/16/09 – Hilton Head Island, S.C.—What better way to celebrate the memorable 2009 US Open than participating in the industry-wide promotion, “Racket Up, America!” In just two short weeks, the promotion will come to an end, and this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve for $1 million will be over. Now is your chance to sign up and become part of the action!

If you’re the lucky GRAND PRIZE winner, you’ll receive a trip to New York City to attend the “BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup” in Madison Square Garden on March 1st, which will feature the top women tennis players in the world. In the middle of it all, you’ll step up to the line and hit a serve to a target that could make you a millionaire.

In this unique promotion, anyone who buys a new tennis racket—of any brand, and at any tennis retailer or pro shop—through September 30, 2009, could win the chance to serve for $1 million (USD). Consumers simply register their racket purchase at PlayTennis.com/million. Other prizes include a trip for two to the 2010 US Open Men’s Singles and Women’s Doubles finals and twenty $500 tennis merchandise prize packs. (No purchase necessary to enter or win, see playtennis.com/million for official rules and details.)

The winner will be announced on December 1st at Madison Square Garden during the New York Knicks vs. Phoenix Suns game.

The BNP Paribas Showdown on March 1, which is part of “Tennis Night in America,” will bring together the 2009 Women’s Grand Slam winners or world No. 1 players, vying for $1.2 million in prize money and the Billie Jean King Cup.

With her exciting win at this year’s US Open, Kim Clijsters has qualified for an invitation to the 2010 BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup. Pending her acceptance, Clijsters will join Serena Williams (Australian Open/Wimbledon) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (French Open), who have already qualified. The fourth player will be named in the next several weeks and will come from a distinguished list of former Grand Slam winners or world No. 1 players. (For more on the BNP Paribas Showdown, visit www.stargamesinc.com/bnpparibasshowdown.html.)

The Showdown’s format will be two one-set semifinals followed by a best-of-three-set final. The “Racket Up, America!” sweepstakes winner will hit the potential million-dollar serve between the second semifinal and the final, in front of the MSG crowd and a television audience. The winner also will meet tennis legends Billie Jean King and Ivan Lendl, along with other tennis champions.

“‘Racket Up, America!” is a collaborative effort by the tennis industry designed to generate excitement and interest in the sport while helping to stimulate retail sales. “Tennis is a fun, social, healthy, lifelong sport,” says Jon Muir, president of the Tennis Industry Association, which is spearheading the promotion. “We’ve been thrilled that over the last eight years, tennis participation has grown 43 percent, far outpacing all other traditional sports, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.”

“We are happy to be able to have the ‘Racket Up, America!’ sweepstakes winner go for a million dollars at the BNP Paribas Showdown,” says Jerry Solomon, president of StarGames, which is partnering with Madison Square Garden to produce the event. “We’re happy to help bring attention to such a worthwhile industry-wide promotion.”

You can follow “Racket Up, America!” on Twitter and Facebook. More information, including official rules and details, is at playtennis.com/million.

# # #

The Tennis Industry Association, the not-for-profit trade association for tennis, is THE unifying force in the tennis industry whose mission is to promote the growth and economic vitality of tennis by working closely with the U.S. Tennis Association and industry partners to develop and implement initiatives to increase tennis participation. Core TIA activities include TIA/USTA Tennis Health Index, Consumer and Trade Research, GrowingTennis System™ including Tennis Welcome Centers, Cardio Tennis, 50-50 Co-op Program, QuickStart Tennis and TennisConnect.org. For more information, visit TennisIndustry.org or GrowingTennis.com or call the TIA at 866-686-3036 or email info@tennisindustry.org.

Links:
www.playtennis.com/million www.tennisindustry.org