2015/02/28

Cori “Coco” Gauff and Gabriella Price will Square-Off in Juniors match at BNP Paribas Showdown

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New York, NY (February 26, 2015) – Two talented junior players will once again be featured as part of the annual BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden. The match, presented by HEAD Penn Racquet Sports, will feature Cori “Coco” Gauff and Gabriella Price as part of World Tennis Day on March 10.

 

The match will take to the court prior to tennis legends Monica Seles and Gabriela Sabatini facing each other in a 25th anniversary rematch of their famed 1990 five-set WTA Championship final and Roger Federer taking on Grigor Dimitrov in the main event of the eighth annual BNP Paribas Showdown.

“One of the most rewarding parts of World Tennis Day is seeing the juniors participate in clinics and matches,” said Jerry Solomon, President, StarGames Inc.  “Sloane Stephens and Dennis Kudla, among others have played at the BNP Paribas Showdown before launching their professional careers and we hope others will follow in their footsteps. Maybe one day one of our juniors will be back to play in the main event!”

 

At 10 years old, Cori “Coco” Gauff is a young tennis champion on the rise. Coco started playing tennis just short of her seventh birthday. Her love and dedication to the sport has resulted in a number of championship titles including the 2014 USTA girls 12 Clay Court Super National Singles where she was the youngest winner in USTA history at the young age of 10. There are many more wins for Coco on the horizon, so continue to be on the lookout for this up and comer!

 

Gabriella started playing tennis when she only four years old. Since then, Gabby has grown leaps and bounds in her tennis skills, along with her love of the game. Currently, Gabby is 11 years old and ranked #3 in the nation in Girl’s 12 and under and top 90 in Girl’s USTA 14 and under. Her heart, will and spirit to compete have helped her endure tough challenges along the way and has increased her chances for success at a young age. Gabby wants to be the best she can be and dreams about winning many Grand Slams when she is older.

 

This will be the fifth time juniors have been included in the BNP Paribas Showdown. The previous junior matches featured:

2008: Denis Kudla (15 years old) vs Junior Ore (15)

2009: Sloane Stephens (15) vs Gail Brodsky (17)

2010: Nicole Gibbs (16) vs Sachia Vickery (14)

2015: Francis Taifoe (16) vs Reilly Opelka (16)

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“On The Call” with Monica Seles on Upcoming match versus Gabriela Sabatini at Madison Square Garden at the BNP Paribas Showdown

Monica Seles at 2012 hall of Fame induction

(January 15, 2015) NEW YORK, NY – A pair of Tennis Hall of famers, Monica Seles and Gabriela Sabatini will face off at Madison Square Garden in a 25th anniversary rematch of their 1990 five-set year end WTA Championship final, in the 2015 BNP Paribas Showdown on March 10. The best of three-set match will take place before Roger Federer faces Grigor Dimitrov.

Seles participated in the WTA Championships at Madison Square Garden in 1988-1992, 1995-1998 and 2000. She’ll be making her eleventh appearance in the world’s most famous arena.

The former world No. 1 and nine-time major winner spoke to the media in a conference call on Thursday about her participation and reflected on the first ever five-set for women.

“I always loved playing three out of five, it’s more of an equalizer if you’re a slow starter, more of a true barometer,” Seles said.

“I think the ladies are definitely fit enough to play best-of-five matches, and I think at Grand Slams it would be a lot of fun in the semis and final.”

Seles regrets that the WTA Championships ever left The Garden.

“For me, one of the saddest days was when the season-ending championships were moved to Germany,” Seles said. “The Garden was the perfect setting. You play at MSG, the stands are really close and you feel the energy. As a player, you just thrive on that.”

Seles has fond memories of competing against Sabatini, the first time coming when she was a 14-year-old at the Miami event in 1988.

“She was already a star and it was my first night match,” Seles said. “I was absolutely star-struck with her. But she was such a lady on and off the court, if you won against her or lost against her.”

Despite Seles having an 11-3 record against the Argentine, what Seles remembers best about Sabatini was her support after Seles was stabbed in 1993 in a tournament in Hamburg. After Seles returned to the tour, Sabatini was the only top 10 player to support Seles’ ranking being frozen at No. 1.

“She thought about a human being before a dollar amount,” Seles said. “That speaks about a tremendous amount of character.”

Seles was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame back in 2009 while Sabatini was enshrined in 2006.

Seeing the trend of former Grand Slam champions coaching on the tours, Seles said that she personally does not have an interested in coaching.

“Coaching doesn’t appeal to me,” she said. “I just don’t want to travel” I did it for so many years, I just really don’t want that lifestyle.”

“Madison Keys having Lindsay (Davenport) as her coach is a tremendous asset. Not just for the game but from the mental aspect too.

She thinks that Martina Navratilova coaching Agnieszka Radwanska will bring emotion to the Pole’s game.

“(Amelie) Mauresmo (is) breaking the mold in coaching Andy Murray.” Seles credits Ivan Lendl with all of “star” coaching that’s happening now when he coached Andy Murray. She thinks that the “star” coaching brings so much experience to current players. Seles said that in hindsight that she wishes she could have done that. “ I could have hired Navratilova who could have helped me more with my net game and help with my lefty serves and things like that.”

What does she miss the most since she has retired from tennis? The 41-year-old says she misses “the excitement and adrenaline of a big match. There’s nothing like it.”

She’s busy preparing for her match with Sabatini. “I’ve been preparing by playing tennis. It’s been a shock to the body playing singles, I’ve only played doubles so far. I have some good days and I have some bad days.

“It’s very hard for the ego to understand that I can not do the same things that I did ten years ago,” Seles said. She’s working with a couple of people in Florida on her fitness. “At times it’s been frustrating, but at the same time it’s been a wonderful challenge.”

“Bottom line is I love to play tennis and I love to compete, Seles continued. “This is really like a highlight for me and a great honor to be a part of it and to have someone like Roger Federer follow our match. What a wonderful way to celebrate (World) Tennis Day.

BNP Paribas Showdown 2015

The BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden will again headline a full day of international activities as part of “World Tennis Day,” a global tennis participation effort on March 10.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

 

Related stories:

Roger Federer vs. Grigor Dimitrov in BNP Paribas Showdown

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Roger Federer vs. Grigor Dimitrov in BNP Paribas Showdown at MSG on March 10, 2015

Federer vs Dimitrov

(October 22, 2014) New York, NYRoger Federer will return to Madison Square Garden to face Grigor Dimitrov and headline the annual BNP Paribas Showdown on Tuesday, March 10, it was announced today.

 

Federer, current World No. 2, will make his third appearance in the BNP Paribas Showdown after facing Pete Sampras in 2008 and Andy Roddick in 2012.  Arguably the greatest tennis player of all-time, he holds several men’s world records including holding the world No. 1 ranking for an unprecedented 302 weeks, including 237-consecutive-weeks from 2004 to 2008; winning 17 Grand Slam singles titles; reaching each Grand Slam Final at least five times (an all-time record); and reaching the Wimbledon final nine times. He is one of seven men to capture the career Grand Slam. Federer also shares the Open Era record for most titles at the Australian Open with Andre Agassi and Novak Djokovic (4), at Wimbledon with Pete Sampras (7) and at the US Open with Jimmy Connors and Sampras (5).

 

The young rising star, Dimitrov, who is often compared to Federer, is currently ranked No. 11 and will be making his Madison Square Garden debut.  He recently cracked the top ten when he climbed to No. 8 after reaching the Wimbledon semifinals in 2014.  Dimitrov is the only Bulgarian tennis player to ever be ranked in the top 10.  He’s also the first Bulgarian to win an ATP singles title (Stockholm – 2013) and reach a final in doubles (in 2011) as well as the only one to reach the third round or better at a Grand Slam tournament.

 

The two top players faced each other once before in Basel, Switzerland with Federer beating Dimitrov 6-3, 7-6 (2) in a quarterfinal match.

 

The BNP Paribas Showdown is produced by MSG Sports and StarGames. Tickets start at $50.00 and will go on-sale Monday, October 27. They can be purchased at the Madison Square Garden box office, online at www.thegarden.com and at all Ticketmaster outlets.

 

“It’s huge and I’m unbelievably excited.  I did have the honor twice already to do it, once against Pete Sampras and once against Andy Roddick and both nights were very special,” said Roger Federer.  “I’ve played in many arenas and many cool places around the world but, there is nothing like MSG.  That is why when I heard there is another opportunity for me to come back and people wanted to see me, it got me going and I can’t wait for March 10.”

 

“Growing up, Roger was one of my heroes. To play him on such a stage is definitely an honor for me. I am really happy and excited to be part of the event since it is one of the biggest sporting venues,” added Grigor Dimitrov.  “This will absolutely be different. I’m getting goose bumps thinking about it. I’m just going to really enjoy it and embrace the moment. You are in New York and in one of the biggest arenas against arguably the best player of all-time. It means a lot to me to have an opportunity like that. I’m just going to try and make every moment count.”

 

“The BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden has continually showcased the very best players in the world and has provided countless thrills and terrific moments for New York tennis fans,” said Joel Fisher, executive vice president, MSG Sports.  “At any given moment you can see Ben Stiller come from the crowd to play doubles or watch the No. 1 golfer in the world, Rory McIllroy take to the Garden court. Having the best player in the world in Roger Federer back for a third time to face Grigor Dimitrov will certainly entertain the thousands in attendance and make new memories for years to come.”

 

“The BNP Paribas Showdown continues to be the crown jewel of World Tennis Day and this year will be no different with the New York fans being able to see great tennis between Roger and Grigor who I expect will put on a dazzling display,” said Jerry Solomon, president StarGames Inc.  “And, to add to the excitement, we will soon be announcing an opening match which will feature two of the greatest players in women’s tennis history to fill out a night that no one will want to miss.”

 

The 8th annual BNP Paribas Showdown, which consistently attracts the biggest names in tennis, will follow the likes of Pete Sampras, Rafael Nadal, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Ivan Lendl, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Mike and Bob Bryan, John and Patrick McEnroe, Serena and Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters, Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic who all took part in previous Showdowns providing unforgettable memories for New York tennis fans.

 

As in years past, the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden will once again headline a full day of nationwide activities as part of “World Tennis Day,” a global tennis participation effort. All events promote tailoring the game to players 10-and-under with smaller racquets, lighter balls and modified scoring.

 

Additional information on the BNP Paribas Showdown and World Tennis Day will be announced at a later date.

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Business Men

By Vito Ellison

(March 4, 2014) NEW YORK – The Bryan Brothers drew an error on the opening point of their match against John and Patrick McEnroe last night. After that came a volley winner from Bob, a smash off Mike’s racquet and ultimately a hold at love. The terse opening game was punctuated by a surly one-way Bryan chest bump and a glare across the net from the younger duo that would’ve made Victoria Azarenka drop her headphones. The teams were at Madison Square Garden to participate in the seventh annual New York exhibition commemorating World Tennis Day (nee Tennis Night in America). It was abundantly clear that despite the Bryans’ relentlessly positive demeanor; they hadn’t just come to town for the usual hit-and-giggle or even the appearance fee. They came to win a showdown.

“This one we’ve really been looking forward to,” said Mike Bryan of playing at the World’s Most Famous Arena. “We’ve been really kinda antsy to be out there. It felt good to walk on that court. It’s unlike any other arena, just the history, just to be a part of an event at Madison Square Garden.” While the Bryans were certainly inspired by the opportunity to play on the famed Garden floor, they without a doubt were also boosted by bulletin board material provided by the elder McEnroe brother.

In a December 2013 interview ahead of the Statoil (Senior) Masters event in London, John McEnroe made very pointed remarks about doubles and the players who currently specialize in the discipline, “Most doubles players, I hate to say, are the slow guys who were not quick enough to play singles,” McEnroe opined at the time, specifically calling out the Bryans asking “What do you think they are playing doubles for?” In the same conversation, McEnroe also called on the sport’s tournaments to ditch doubles and use the funds to help lower-ranked singles players afford the high cost of a pro career. “Why we are even playing doubles at this point is a mystery to me.” After three games, the World No.1s had earned 12 of the 13 points played.

Why a mercy rule wasn’t in effect might have been the bigger mystery to the audience at MSG, as the West Coast twins ran roughshod over the native New Yorkers. “At 7-0, we were looking at each other, feeling a little weird,” the Bryans noted. They appeared to tamp down the intensity before exiting with an 8-3 win.

The Bryans may have felt some twinges of empathy for their friend and longtime US Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe. “He’s a prisoner of war, he got caught in the middle,” laughed the Bryans in the post-match presser, while noting they weren’t alone in drawing McEnroe’s ire. “[Patrick] missed a couple of shots and Johnny Mac rolled his eyes, right from the beginning, you could see it in his face.”

Ultimately the McEnroes’ late rally did little to excite the crowd, who were perhaps stunned at the drubbing the Bryans inflicted in the early-going. While the Bryans seemed to be serving clear notice to the elder team regarding John’s comments, they insisted it was merely a matter of the teams’ respective levels. “There’s no bad blood,” the Bryans said. “I don’t know how Johnny’s gonna take it, but it is what it is. We’re in midseason form and we’re the No. 1 team in the world right now”

In the second match of the evening, World No. 2 Novak Djokovic defeated reigning Wimbledon champion Andy Murray 6-3, 7-6 (2) in a relatively straightforward encounter that saw the retired, reigning ladies champ Marion Bartoli briefly rally with Murray.

Vito Ellison was in Madison Square Garden covering the BNP Paribas Showdown for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his personal twitter @vblacklabel. and visit his site Blacklabeltennis.com.

 

 

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BNP Paribas Showdown Live from MSG on March 3

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From ESPN: ESPN3 and ESPN2 will combine to present live the BNP Paribas Showdown 2014 from Madison Square Garden in New York on Monday, March 3, with two matches:

  • A cross-generational, all-U.S.A. battle of brothers in doubles at 7 p.m. on ESPN3 as ESPN commentators John and Patrick McEnroe square off in a pro set against the Bryan Twins – Bob and Mike – of California, who have teamed for 15 Major titles;
  • A 2013 Wimbledon finals rematch at 9 p.m. on ESPN2 and WatchESPN between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, who became the first British subject to win the event in London in 77 years, since Fred Perry in 1936.  The duo has won six of the last 11 majors.

 

Chris Fowler will call the matches, working with Brad Gilbert for the doubles, and on the singles with Patrick McEnroe – fresh off the court – with Gilbert courtside.  The Djokovic-Murray match will also be available on broadband in the U.S. in Spanish on ESPN Deportes +.

 

Djokovic, currently ranked No. 2 in the world, has won six Major titles in his career.  Murray, No. 7, has captured two and triumphed over Djokovic in the finals of each – last summer’s Wimbledon and the 2012 US Open.  Nevertheless, the Serbian leads their head-to-head series 11-8.  In addition, he has won 28 of his last 29 matches (including the final 24 of 2013).  Among active players, they are third (Djokovic – 41), and fifth (Murray – 28) for career titles.

 

The Bryan brothers have won all four Majors among their 15 Grand Slam titles, nine different Masters 1000 championships, the World Tour Finals, Olympic Gold, and the Davis Cup.  The own a record 93 titles together and have finished as the year-end No. 1 team nine times.  John McEnroe, one of the great doubles players in the history of the sport, has nine Major men’s doubles titles on his resume, plus a Mixed Doubles victory at the 1977 French Open.  He has teamed with his brother Patrick to win a three doubles championships – in 1984 in Richmond, Va., the Paris Indoor event in November 1992 and the 2012 French Open Over 45 Legends Invitational.  Patrick also won the 1984 French Junior Doubles crown and 16 pro doubles titles, including the French Open in 1989 with Jim Grabb.

 

The BNP Paribas Showdown from MSG will air live internationally on ESPN’s networks in 48 countries throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, Canada, UK, Middle East, Africa and the Pacific Rim.  In addition, ESPN’s broadband players in Latin America & the Caribbean (ESPN Play) and Australia & New Zealand (ESPN3) will also stream live simulcast coverage of this event.

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US Juniors Francis Taifoe and Reilly Opelka to Lead Off BNP Paribas Showdown at MSG

Francis Tiafoe

Francis Tiafoe

(February 20, 2014) New York, NY – Two promising American junior players will once again be featured as part of the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden. The match will feature a pair of 16-year-olds when Francis Taifoe takes on Reilly Opelka as part of World Tennis Day on March 3.

 

These juniors will play prior to Andy Murray taking on Novak Djokovic and the Bryan brothers facing the McEnroe brothers in the seventh annual BNP Paribas Showdown.

 

“We are very happy to have Francis and Reilly playing at the BNP Paribas Showdown this year,” said Jerry Solomon, President of StarGames, Inc. “So much of our mission with World Tennis Day is to encourage young players to pick up a racquet, so it’s important to have the opportunity to showcase junior players who are on their way to a future in the pro game. And it provides these young players an invaluable experience to compete in an arena like Madison Square Garden.”

 

Tiafoe is currently the No. 8 ranked junior player in the world. In 2013, he claimed his biggest title when he won the prestigious Orange Bowl, a tournament with a roster of former champions that includes Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Andy Roddick and Roger Federer. He also helped the United States win a gold medal in World Junior Tennis, a 14-and-under team competition. Tiafoe trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., which is a USTA Certified Regional Training Center. Tiafoe began training at the center when coming to work with his father, an immigrant from Sierra Leone, who is a custodian there.

 

Opelka hails from Palm Coast, Fla., but now trains at the USTA Regional Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla. He finished 2013 with third round showings at the Orange Bowl and Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships as well as the US Open junior tournament. Opelka stands 6-foot-8.

 

This will be the fourth time juniors have been included in the BNP Paribas Showdown. The previous junior matches have been:

2008: Denis Kudla (15 years old) vs Junior Ore (15)

2009: Sloane Stephens (15) vs Gail Brodsky (17)

2010: Nicole Gibbs (16) vs Sachia Vickery (14)

 

Several of those players have gone on to continued success. Stephens is currently ranked No. 18 in the world and broke onto the pro scene in 2013 with a run to the Australian Open semifinals. Kudla has reached a pair of ATP quarterfinals in his career, and broke into the Top 100 for the first time late 2013. Gibbs has won back-to-back NCAA individual championships while playing at Stanford.

 

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Andy Murray Announces Participation in 2014 BNP Paribas Showdown

Andy Murray

(August 19, 2013) NEW YORK, NY – Andy Murray announced his participation in the seventh edition of the BNP Paribas Showdown set for the evening of March 3, 2014 in Madison Square Garden on World Tennis Day. The announcement took place in a rooftop bar called the Local Cafe with a view of Madison Square Garden as a backdrop. Murray will play Novak Djokovic while it will be a tennis brother’s doubles battle in the other match up when John and Patrick McEnroe face off against Bob and Mike Bryan.

Murray and Djokovic will play a best-of-three sets match, while the McEnroes and Bryans will open the evening with an 8-game-pro set.

In making the announcement, the reigning Wimbledon champion Murray was joined by New York Rangers’ hockey goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

In bringing his rivalry with Djokovic to the “World’s most famous arena,” Murray said the he’s looking forward to playing in Madison Square Garden as he’s heard about the history attached to the venue.

Murray, coming into the US Open as the defending champion, the Scotsman says there is no clear cut favorite to win the title.

Tickets for this event go on sale November 4 at www.thegarden.com

The BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden will headline a full day of nationwide activities as part of “Tennis Night in America” and “World Tennis Day,” a global tennis participation effort. Both events to promote tailoring the game to players 10-and-under with smaller racquets, lighter balls and modified scoring.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

 

 

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Kourtin’ Karen’s Tennis News Week in Review

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(March 11, 2013) NEW YORK, NY –  Kourtin’ Karen takes brief look at the week that was week in the offbeat world of tennis.

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BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden in New York City

March 4 was World Tennis Day. BNP Paribas sponsored two showdowns –  in Hong Kong and the other in New York City.

Highlight of the Madison Square Garden event – Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro were in the middle of the second set of the showdown whe Nadal pulled out Ben Stiller to play with him. Del Potro brought out 9-yeear-old left Rebecca Suarez who proved to be the best player on the court for the “doubles” match

 

BNP Paribas Showdown Debuts in Hong Kong with Wozniacki, Radwanska, McEnroe and Lendl

 

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Jelena Jankovic’s Fila Heritage Carwash tennis dress at Indian Wells

Jelena JankovicJ Jankovic skirt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BNP Paribas Open Players’ Party

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On the Green Carpet – Photos from the 2013 BNP Paribas Open Players’ Party

Many of those in the tennis media are not really fans of these type of events and exhibitions, but it draws people who are not normally fans of the game. I’m for whatever draws people to watch tennis.

All of the majors should have a “red carpet” event like this. It’s all in good fun and fans and journalists alike can play “Fashion Police.”

 

 

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No American Men in the Top 20?

With John Isner’s loss to Lleyton Hewitt in his first match at the BNP Paribas Open, depending on how Sam Querrey and Mardy Fish do, there would be no US men in the top 20 of the rankings – this has never happened since the rankings began in 1973.

 

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TMZ Alert

TMZ as well as other media outlets were reporting that there was an arrest warrant out for Jennifer Capriati in conjunction with an alleged assault on her ex-boyfriend Ivan Brannan. Capriati’s publicist denied reports that a warrant had been issued for her arrest.

“What happened has been over-exaggerated. When the full story comes out Jennifer will be vindicated of these charges,” said the spokesperson in a written statement.

 

Deuce

Redfoo sightings

Victoria Azarenka and Redfoo

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Let’s face it,  pop singer Redfoo is here to stay.  Not only is he a big tennis fan, he supports a USTA Pro Circuit event – the Party Rock Open and is now the significant other of No. 2 Victoria Azarenka.

 

Advantage exhibitions

Pete Sampras adn Novak Djokovic

Tennis was back in Los Angeles with the LA Tennis Challenge featuring, Novak Djokovic, Pete Sampras, Mardy Fish, James Blake, Bob and Mike Bryan.

Djokovic, Sampras, Fish and the Bryan Brothers Among Those to Particpate in LA Tennis Challenge

 

 

Deuce look-a-likes

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Separated at birth, the hair anyway – Redfoo and Thing 1 and Thing 2 of Dr. Seuss fame.

 

Advantage Karaoke

 1-DSC_0957-001V. Azarenka

In the post-match news conference at the BNP Paribas Showdown, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka announced that they revealed that they will be shooting a karaoke video to Rihanna’s “Stay.”

Deuce

The Rumor Mill

"Austin Powers" and Caroline Wozniacki

“Austin Powers” and Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki put to bed rumors that she and her boyfriend golfer Rory McIlroy had split.

A British tabloid speculated that the reason the golfer had pulled out of the Honda Classic was due to relationship problems with Wozniacki. Meanwhile, why did Wozniacki attend the BNP Paribas Open Players party with Austin Powers. (See above photo)

 

Advantage news

Tennis will introduce biological passports this year and increase the number of blood tests.

Nadal Returns to Hardcourt with Indian Wells Win; Still Unhappy with 25-Second Rule

 

Mardy Fish

Game, Set and Match – Welcome back Mardy Fish

Mardy Fish has returned to the tour from a heart ailment, his first event since the US Open.

 

Photo galleries from the past week

Photos by Curt Janka, Jennifer Knapp, Maria Noble and Karen Pestaina.

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Del Potro and Serena Williams Victorious at BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden

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(March 4, 2013) NEW YORK, NY – World Tennis Day was celebrated from Hong Kong to New York on Monday.In New York’s Madison Square Garden, Juan Martin Del Potro and Serena Williams were celebrating wins over Rafael Nadal and Victoria Azarenka respectively, in the BNP Paribas Showdown.

The ladies led off the event. Both women appeared a little out of practice to start but began to demonstrate their shot-making skills later in the first set which Williams won 6-4.

Redfoo

Redfoo

At 3-3 in the second set Azarenka called on her boyfriend pop music star Redfoo to play a point for her.  He missed both serves to which Azarenka commented, “He needs to practice before his exhibition.”

Azarenka and Williams honored Nadal by playing a few points left-handed. Williams took the match 6-4, 6-3.

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Serena Williams photo from http://wsenetwork.com

In their post-match news conference they revealed that they will be shooting a karaoke video to Rihanna’s “Stay.” Williams made not that Azarenka is one of only a few players that she’s close to off of the court.

V. Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka photo from http://wsenetwork.com

 

Williams said Azarenka is one of the few players she’s close to off the court.

“We really respect each other,” Williams proclaimed “I love Victoria as a person. I love how she’s so competitive on the court.”

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With all of the talk about being concerned about playing on hard court, Rafael Nadal looked comfortable playing Del Potro on a hard court  in the “world’s most famous Arena.”

For both men it was their “garden” debut.

Despite Nadal losing 7-6 (4), 6-4 to Del Potro, the Spaniard appeared to move pain-free and was smiling throughout the match. He was, however, cautious about jumping for overheads.

They also dabbled in some trick-shot plays. Both players attempted between-the-legs shots and headers like soccer players.

Nadal brought actor Ben Stiller for a few point to play doubles against Del Potro and a little girl from the crowd. The young girl proved to be a better player than the actor- comedian. After winning both point Del Potro carried the little girl for a few moments to the cheers of the crowd.

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Juan Marin Del Potro

In the post-match news conference, Del Potro could relate to Nadal’s seven-month absence from the tour as Del Potro was sidelined for eight months with a wrist injury in 2010.

“It’s amazing how great he’s recovered,” the Argentine said.

“He’s going to be fighting for No. 1 very, very soon”

I his first three tournaments back, Nadal’s  is 12 – 1 with two titles – all on clay courts. Nadal has expressed his concern with playing on hards with Indian Wells and Miami coming up.

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Rafael Nadal

“That will be a big test for me,” Nadal said as he will play in Indian Wells later this week. “Today I know I can play on clay; that’s a very important thing to know for me.

“Today, my only goal is to recover the knee 100%. I feel better and better every week. If things go well, I’ll try to keep playing.”

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Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama

 

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BNP Paribas Showdown Debuts in Hong Kong with Wozniacki, Radwanska, McEnroe and Lendl

Wozniacki Radwanska at BNP Paribas Showdown Hong Kong

By Natalie Ho

(March 4, 2013) HONG KONG – The BNP Paribas Showdown exhibition matches held at Madison Square Garden has a new sister event this year, held 13 time zones away in Hong Kong. While Hong Kong has the same amount of sky scrapers to match the Big Apple, Hong Kong’s tennis development is a long way behind, especially after losing the city’s men’s tour event some years ago. It is therefore to local tennis lovers’ great delight that a star-studded lineup had been confirmed to play the BNP Paribas Showdown Hong Kong that is part of a marathon of tennis events held across the world today to celebrate World Tennis Day.

 

World Tennis Day is an ambitious ITF grassroots campaign aimed at popularizing tennis. The main event here in Hong Kong was the exhibition between John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl, followed by Agniezka Radwanska taking on Caroline Wozniacki. Still sidelined Li Na was originally slated to play, but World No. 4  Radwanska is an equaly matched replacement in rankings. The two close friends Waozniacki and Radwanska said in the pre-match news conference that they hadn’t had a chance to see the city. Shame that the media couldn’t get in their favorite shopping question!

 

As for the matches, they were fun, lighthearted, and an opportunity for the players to try some flashy shot making.  Old rivals Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe met on court again after 17 years, with Lendl leading their head-t0-head record 21-15. This time it was McEnroe who won the pro set match 8-5. As usual he’s good money for any exhibitions, throwing his famous tantrums, questioning line calls, complaining about bad ball bounces that got the crowd into the match. Lendl responded in kind and the two together showed off some volleys, passes, dropshots and huge forehands that earned oohs and ahhhs from the audience.

Radwanska versus Wozniacki had more intense rallies but the mood was equally flamboyant. The good friends were uninhibited when it came to trying out fancy shots. A long groundstrokes and volley exchange in practice mode drew huge applause, and the ladies offered great entertainment with their exchange, dancing and inviting an former Hong Kong  player to play. In the final game Wozniacki requested coaching from her dad. It turned out to be futile as Radwanska closed it out 6-4, 6-4.

 

Again it was all smiles at the post-match news conference. McEnroe joked that this was the most memorable match in his rivalry with Lendl, who said he hoped his pupil  Andy Murray didn’t watch this match as it was 3:30am in California. The ladies were happy to be in Hong Kong despite their short stay. So that wrapped up the Hong Kong leg of World Tennis Day’s BNP Paribas Showdown, only to be continued immediately with the activities in New York City!

This is an exhibition but it’s still interesting to hear what the ladies had to say about playing friends on court as this pretty much happens week in, week out. To this Wozniacki said, “once you’re on court it’s a fight, and you fight for your life basically, and then when you’re off the court you’re friends agains and probably an hour or two after the match you just want to cool down, but then it’s a toss.”

 

Radwanska agreed, “We’re good friends because I think we can separate our private life and tennis and when we go on court, we both focus and we both want to win and then we shake hands and we’re friends again. We’ve been friends for 15 years!”

 

Naturally there were a lot of questions for Lendl about coaching strategies for Andy Murray. In typical Lendl manner he kept it tight-lipped. “My job is to coach Andy not to assess him in public. If I have something we need to work on, or I think Andy needs to work on, we do that. I never discuss it with anyone other than Andy.”

 

World Tennis Day is about helping tennis reach a bigger audience so as to ultimately benefit the sport. On trying to find the next big thing in America, McEnroe said, “Everyone in America, as well as many other countries, are looking for that next great player and the more that the game becomes accessible to youngsters and hopefully sexy in the way for kids to want to play in America. I can’t speak for every country, but it’s not that affordable.”

 

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