2014/04/16

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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Hall of Fame rings presented to Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, and Ivan Lendl at World Tennis Day Showdon in London

 

NEWPORT, R.I., March 3, 2014- Tennis fans around the globe celebrated World Tennis Day at a huge array of special events on March 3, and a highlight of it all was the World Tennis Day Showdown in London, featuring Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl, and Pat Cash. Between matches, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum hosted a special ceremony to present official Hall of Fame rings to Agassi, Sampras, and Lendl. All three former world No. 1′s have been enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in recognition of their tremendous tennis achievements and the Hall of Fame rings are a symbol of this success.

 

 

The rings were presented by Hall of Fame Chairman Christopher Clouser, ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti, and Ingrid Lofdahl Bentzer, who serves as Vice Chairman of the Hall of Fame’s Enshrinee Nominating Committee.

 

“Andre, Pete, and Ivan have accomplished all that one can dream of in tennis – they are former world No. 1′s, Grand Slam champions, Davis Cup champions, and Hall of Famers,” commented Clouser. “These one-of-a-kind rings are a symbol of all that they have accomplished and their legacy in the sport.”

 

In addition to the rings, the ceremony paid tribute to the Hall of Fame Class of 2014, which was announced earlier in the day. John Barrett, British tennis journalist and historian, and Chantal Vandierendonck, a wheelchair tennis champion and 5-time Paralympic medalist, both of whom were named to the Class of 2014, participated in the ceremony.

 

The personalized rings were introduced in 2011 and are being presented to Hall of Famers at tennis events around the world over the next few years as a special symbol of their Hall of Fame enshrinement. The rings bear a green stone set in gold, to complement the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s brand colors. In addition, the rings are etched with each honoree’s name and the Hall of Fame logo crest. Ivan Lendl, an 8-time Grand Slam tournament champion, was honored with Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2001. Great American tennis rivals Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were enshrined in 2007 and 2011, respectively.

Francesco Ricci Bitti, John Barrett, Andre Agassi, Chris Clouser, Ivan Lendl, Chantal Vandierendonck, Pete Sampras, Ingrid Lofdahl Bentzer

 

Photos by Dave Shopland

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Agassi, Sampras, Lendl and Cash Participate in World Tennis Day with London Showdown

 

World Tennis Day – London

By Chris Power

Twitter @scoobschris

(March 3, 2014) LONDON – Monday March 3rd brought us the Second Annual World Tennis Day, with marquee events in Hong Kong, London and New York.  Designed to showcase and promote the sport of tennis from the grassroots to the very top of the professional game, this year, off the back of a successful inaugural event, The World Tennis Day got bigger still.

 

Whether by accident or design, this year’s the star-filled showdowns evoked the theme different eras.  The Hong Kong gathering suggested the future, based as it is in a region where tennis is growing rapidly in popularity.  Li Na from China headlined, a current Grand Slam champion who is leading the explosion in interest, but it seems inevitable that she will merely be the first in a line of legends from the region of Asia.  She was joined by other stars of the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s Sam Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt, as well as Tomas Berdych.

 

Meanwhile, the showdown in New York City showcased tennis in the present, with Novak Djokovic and Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray squaring off in Madison Square Garden, as well as the current doubles world number one team, the Bryan brothers, who faced off against the McEnroe brothers in a sibling setpiece.

 

London therefore reminded us of tennis’s past, with rivalries of the 80s and 90s brought back to life in the present day by four unique and iconic players – Pat Cash, Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.   Cash and Lendl competed on numerous occasions throughout the 1980s, but perhaps most memorable was the 1987 Wimbledon final, won by Cash in 3 straight sets.  However their overall H2H in their playing days was 5-3 in favour of Lendl, indicating the Czech usually found a way to neutralize the attacking style of Cash, at least away from the grass.

 

Perhaps more compelling still was the matchup between two Americans with diametrically opposing game styles and personalities, in the shape of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.  These hall of famers *were* 90s tennis, though their mutual respect never risked developing into friendship, and their post-retirement relationship has been famously prickly, culminating in uncomfortable scenes at a charity tennis exhibition at Indian Wells a few years back.  They competed in 34 pro matches against each other, with Sampras edging it 20-14, but dominating 4-1 in their Grand Slam finals.  They tended to divide the fan base – the charismatic, extroverted yet more erratic Agassi tended to win over the crowds, but the disciplined, quiet winning machine that was Pete Sampras won over the purists with his classic serve-volley style, poker-faced demeanor and insatiable appetite for success.

 

In their pre-event news conference, the players were relaxed and joking, offering thoughts on playing pro tennis then vs now.

 

Sampras, on playing Agassi: “If I wasn’t on my game, if I wasn’t serving well, I felt like it was going to be a long day for me.”

 

Agassi: “He was the only guy I ever played where I felt like if I actually played my best tennis I actually still could lose.”

 

Pat Cash lamented the general slowing down of playing conditions in this era, feeling that hitting good groundstrokes and particularly good volleys, is just not rewarded anymore.  Lendl felt that the strings as much as court speed were responsible for this change – the amount of spin a player is able to impart on a pass or return makes volleying such a dangerous proposition.  Asked if he had any interest in joining the band of ‘celebrity coaches’, Agassi expounded on his current life being a barrier to the level of commitment required, but didn’t rule it out in the future – though his target would be a player not reaching full potential rather than a top player who already has all the tools he needs.

 

Ivan Lendl struggled to answer the question which player he most enjoyed beating, but eventually settled on Brad Gilbert, to the amusement of the other players on the panel.

 

With a few photo opportunities to round off the press conference, things wrapped up, setting the stage for a fascinating and entertaining evening.

 

Pat Cash and Ivan Lendl got proceedings underway with a super set match – first to 8 games.  Both players showed off the sort of tennis that took them to the top of the game in their heyday.  Cash fired down the big serves and followed up with some deft touches at the net, while Ivan Lendl demonstrated his back-court skills – finding sliced passing shots, delicate lobs, and some chipped backhands to make Cash’s life at the net very difficult.

 

The match was played in good humour, with plenty of banter between the two players and the near capacity crowd to keep it light.  It was a nip-tuck affair until 6 games all, when Lendl threw in a poor service game, with a double fault and some unforced errors to hand Cash the crucial break.  The Australian duly served it out, and remarked after the match how nice it was to play Lendl again.  The Czech reciprocated, and revealed that his charge Andy Murray revealed after Acapulco that he’s feeling the best he has so far since the back surgery, eliciting a cheer from the audience.

 

After a demonstration of wheelchair tennis in the interlude between matches, with World #3 Gordon Reid showing off his impressive skills that look likely to see him to the top of the wheelchair game, it was time for the main event.

 

Agassi and Sampras were introduced to the crowd to a rapturous ovation, and quickly got down to business.  Andre started much the brighter of the two, racing out to a 3-0 lead as Pete struggled with all aspects of his game.  Soon enough, though, the booming Sampras serve, looking none the worse for wear for 12 years off the tour, was firing missiles, and Agassi was struggling to make much of an impression on the return.  However, while Pete’s serve and forehand slowed many flashes of their former excellence, the backhand continually misfired throughout the match, and Andre, never slow to spot a weakness to exploit, began to target that wing with regularity, reaping dividends.

 

Agassi duly served out the first set 6-3, and was beginning to rasp winners off both wings with his trademark style, taking the ball early and thumping it flat over the net out of reach of his opponent.  Pete would need to respond if he had any expectation of winning.   He did raise his game in the second set – the serve held Agassi at bay throughout, but his return game continued to let him down, as Agassi dragged him into baseline exchanges that would end with a flashing winner from the Las Vegan, or a Sampras error.

 

The pattern of the second set resembled so many of their matches of old, as both held serve, and the crowd waited for one or the other to betray a moment of weakness.   It took a tiebreak to separate the two, but once there, Agassi ran away with it, racing out to a 5-0 lead, hitting searing winners off both wings but particularly the stunning backhand, and taking the match 63 76(2) on a Sampras double fault.

 

Although the loser of the match, Sampras pronounced himself well satisfied with his efforts, and his enjoyment at being back on court in London was clear.   For his part, Agassi seemed somewhat surprised at how well grooved his ground game proved to be, and thanked the fans for their support of the players, and the World Tennis Day initiative.

 

Posing with commemorative bottles of champagne, the two players took a lap of honour of the court, and handed the baton over to New York City for the last of the World Tennis Day showdowns.

 

For London’s part, the past came back to visit, and it was a welcome visit indeed.  May there be many more.

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Showdown in Hong Kong for World Tennis Day Sees Aussies Win

 

 

By Natalie Ho

(March 3, 2014) HONG KONG – The second annual BNP Paribas Showdown in Hong Kong, part of ITF’s World Tennis Day initiative, was concluded in lighthearted fashion with the participation of four star players – Li Na, Sam Stosur, Tomas Berdych and Lleyton Hewitt. The evening turned out to be a good one for the Aussies as Former US Open winner Sam Stosur beat reigning Australian Open champion Li Na 6-4, 6-3 in the opening match, while former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt defeated No. 6 Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-5 in the second match of the evening.

This year the event was moved to the newly opened Hong Kong Velodrome where a tennis court and bleacher seats were built especially for this showdown. Those lucky fans with tickets to the temporary bleachers were literally court-side. They were treated to an intimate setting with the only disadvantage being the chance to get hit by serves. However, spectators in the upper section were separated from the action by a cycling track which was quite a distraction and might explain the lack of atmosphere especially at the beginning.

Missing Li last year due to injury, the crowd was happy to see her finally but Stosur also had very vocal support. The ladies traded service breaks multiple times but in the end it was Stosur, the more solid player in the match, who prevailed. The men’s match was, in contrast, more exhibition-like. Berdych was quite a crowd pleaser while Hewitt’s competitive drive was visible even in an exhibition. The crowd really got into the match towards the end and was shouting “third set, third set”. However, it was not to be as after some tussling Hewitt was able to close out the match.

Earlier in the day the players participated in a news conference to kick off the event.

Lleyton Hewitt, asked about the International Premier Tennis League, said Asia is a massive growth area for tennis so being an Aussie he’s excited to take part.

Tomas Berdych was asked about hiring a star coach. He feels this is not a must and that a star coach may not work well within a team.

Sam Stosur is happy to be working on different things with her new coach Miles Maclagan and plans to play more doubles this year.

Li Na naturally received the most questions. Between more GS & #1 she wants both. #1 is a goal as she’s now on her career high ranking. She also revealed a funny team dynamic: her husband would tell Carlos his ideas so Carlos would say them. Otherwise she wouldn’t listen.

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USTA to Attempt to Set Record for ‘‘Largest Tennis Lesson” in Conjunction with World Tennis Day

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., February 25, 2014 – The United States Tennis Association (USTA)  announced that in conjunction with World Tennis Day on March 3rd, it will launch thousands of Tennis Play Events nationwide throughout the month of March. These events are designed to encourage families and children of all ages and skill levels to try tennis. To help garner excitement for the initiative and to inspire youth, the USTA will attempt to set the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® title for the ‘‘Largest Tennis Lesson.” The event, which will be held on March 2nd, will feature more than 250 children from local youth organizations in the New York area participating in the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS attempt at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

 

The event coincides with the World Tennis Day celebration at New York’s Madison Square Garden, which will feature US Open and Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray facing former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, and a sibling doubles matchup between the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, and the McEnroe brothers, John and Patrick in the BNP Paribas Showdown. The USTA will hold a special presentation recognizing  the World’s Largest Tennis Lesson preceding the evening’s tennis matches at the Garden.

 

Joining the efforts to get kids excited about the sport is Judy Murray, mother of Andy Murray, who will participate in the special presentation and on-court youth tennis demonstration with local New York City kids.

 

“I am excited to be part of the USTA’s efforts to enrich the lives of young people,” said Judy Murray. “Tennis is a fun way for parents to play with their children and encourage them to lead an active and healthy lifestyle.”

 

Since 2009, the USTA has led the charge in using World Tennis Day to provide a platform for facilities to register children for spring and summer programming. To date, more than 6,500 youth tennis events have been held as part of that initiative. Youth Tennis is focused on ensuring a positive first experience for kids by offering play for all ages and levels. An early, positive experience in sports is vital and creates a lifelong commitment to an active lifestyle.

 

“World Tennis Day is a celebration of our sport and a great platform to bring attention to the importance of getting kids active and ensuring a positive first experience in the sport,” said Dave Haggerty, Chairman, CEO and President of the USTA. “These efforts are part of USTA’s long-standing commitment to increase access to the sport. If we reach children when they are young enough, they can learn to love physical activity and tennis for life.”

 

The GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS attempt will take place March 2nd from 9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. EST at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Participating youth organizations include the New York Junior Tennis and Learning and the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education programs, among others.

 

The GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS presentation is scheduled to take place at 6:15 p.m. EST on March 3rd. The doubles match will be featured on ESPN3 at 7 p.m. followed by the singles match on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. The BNP Paribas Showdown is a production of StarGames and MSG Sports. Tickets are on sale now at the Madison Square Garden box office, online at www.thegarden.com and all Ticketmaster outlets.

 

To find a Tennis Play Event and information how families can get involved, visit youthtennis.com.

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Tennis Stars and National Associations Prepare for World Tennis Day

wtd

(February 24, 2014) The ITF’s member National Associations will join some of the world’s leading tennis stars in celebrating the second World Tennis Day on Monday 3 March. World Tennis Day aims to promote tennis and increase participation among players around the globe, with over 60 nations already confirmed to take part.

 

This year’s World Tennis Day will be centred around three special events, organised by the promoter StarGames, in three different time zones in Hong Kong, London and New York. The events will feature current and former professionals together with junior and wheelchair demonstrations, including the ITF’s Tennis Play and Stay campaign.

 

Tomas Berdych, Lleyton Hewitt, Li Na and Samantha Stosur will be in action in the BNP Paribas Showdown at the Hong Kong Velodrome; Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Pat Cash and Ivan Lendl will contest the World Tennis Day Showdown at London’s Earls Court; and Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Bob and Mike Bryan, and John and Patrick McEnroe will take part at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

 

Alongside these events, the ITF has encouraged its National Associations to support World Tennis Day with their own grassroots and club activities to attract new participants to the sport. These include the United States Tennis Association (USTA), which has already established the successful Tennis Night in America in conjunction with the BNP Paribas Showdown in which clubs are asked to open their doors as part of a month-long drive to get children playing the sport. To date, more than 6,500 youth tennis events have been held as part of that initiative.

 

Click here to view the latest list of nations hosting World Tennis Day activities.

 

Many nations will be promoting the Tennis Play and Stay campaign, the ITF’s global initiative launched in 2007 aimed at increasing tennis participation worldwide. The campaign centres around the slogan of ‘Serve, Rally and Score’ and seeks to promote tennis as an easy, fun and healthy sport through the use of slower and lower bouncing balls, shorter and lighter rackets, and smaller courts. Under the Tennis Play and Stay banner, the Tennis10s programme makes it easier for children to take up the game, while TennisXpress is an easy, active and fun coaching programme for adults.

 

“The inaugural World Tennis Day proved to be a very successful initiative, using high profile special events to bring attention to the developmental activities of our member nations on every continent,” said ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti. “The enthusiasm and commitment of our National Associations to World Tennis Day in its first year was inspiring and we expect an even greater take-up in 2014 and beyond. March 3rd will be an important day in the international tennis calendar with huge focus on our sport on World Tennis Day.”

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BNP Paribas Showdown Hong Kong Announced

 

HONG KONG – Tennis will come to Hong Kong for the second annual BNP Paribas Showdown which will be held as part of World Tennis Day on 3 March at the new Hong Kong Velodrome.

Li Na, Asia’s first Grand Slam champion, will take on former US Open champion Sam Stosur of Australia in one match at the BNP Paribas Showdown. The other match will feature former No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion Lleyton Hewitt taking on current Top 10 player Tomas Berdych.

Tickets for the 2014 BNP Paribas Showdown in Hong Kong will go on sale Tuesday, 14 January at 10:00 a.m. at HK Ticketing Outlets located at all Tom Lee Stores, HKCEC, HKAPA and Fringe Club. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.hkticketing.com or by calling the HK Ticketing Ticket Purchase Hotline at 31 288 288 from 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. daily.

BNP Paribas, a leader in banking and financial services and the world No. 1 tennis partner, will support this event again this year as title sponsor.

“Once more, BNP Paribas is proud to bring the best of tennis to Asia by supporting this outstanding sporting event in 2014, as it does with the same acclaimed tennis event in New York. We are excited to share our passion and enthusiasm for tennis with the fans in Hong Kong” said Paul Yang, Chief Executive Officer for BNP Paribas Hong Kong. “The BNP Paribas Showdown gives the bank a perfect opportunity to accelerate the growing awareness of our brand in Asia and it reaffirms our commitment and loyalty to this region and to this sport”.

The BNP Paribas Showdown is part of the second annual World Tennis Day, a global celebration of tennis that includes BNP Paribas Showdown events in Hong Kong and New York City as well as the World Tennis Day Showdown in London. In addition, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and its member nations will host participation events such as clinics and open houses at clubs around the world. In 2013, 58 nations held World Tennis Day participation events.

“The popularity of tennis in Asia is the reason we brought the BNP Paribas Showdown to Hong Kong when starting World Tennis Day in 2013,” said Jerry Solomon, president of StarGames, the Showdown’s producer. “We had a successful event last year, and with today’s stars, Li, Sam, Tomas and Lleyton, we look forward to another great night of tennis.”

Li is the No. 3 ranked player on the WTA Tour. The 31-year-old from China owns eight career titles, highlighted by her historic victory at the 2011 French Open. In 2013, she reached the Australian Open final for the second time in her career and closed the season by finishing as runner-up at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul. She started 2014 at a career high ranking of No. 3 and won the title at the opening week WTA event in Shenzhen.

“It is incredible how much tennis has grown in Asia,” said Li. “I always look forward to playing in Asia and getting the support from the crowd. I hope playing on World Tennis Day means more people will go out and try playing tennis.”

Stosur won the 2011 US Open, beating Serena Williams in the final. She owns five career titles, including two that she claimed in 2013. In singles, Stosur has been ranked as high as No. 4 in the world, and she spent 61 weeks ranked No. 1 in doubles. Stosur owns two Grand Slam doubles titles as well as two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.

On the WTA Tour, Stosur has defeated Li in all six of their career meetings.

Berdych is the No. 7 ranked player on the ATP World Tour, and 2013 marked his fourth straight Top 10 season. He has won eight career titles and reached the finals 11 other times, including at Wimbledon in 2010. He has helped the Czech Republic to win back-to-back Davis Cup titles.
Hewitt spent 80 weeks ranked No. 1 on the ATP World Tour after becoming the youngest to reach the top spot as a 20-year-old in 2001. He has won 29 career titles, including one in Brisbane to open the 2014 season where he defeated Roger Federer in the final. He has won two Grand Slam titles – 2001 US Open and 2002 Wimbledon. He has been a Grand Slam finalist on two other occasions and has twice been a member of a winning Australian Davis Cup team.
“Tomas is playing well right now so playing him will be a good test for me,” said Hewitt. “I have enjoyed playing in Asia and look forward to being in Hong Kong on World Tennis Day.”
Berdych has won both career ATP meetings against Hewitt.
The BNP Paribas Showdown in Hong Kong is one of three Showdown events held on World Tennis Day. At Madison Square Garden in New York, the BNP Paribas Showdown will feature Andy Murray against Novak Djokovic and the Bryan Brothers, Bob and Mike playing against the McEnroes, John and Patrick. In the World Tennis Day Showdown at Earls Court in London, Pat Cash will play Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi will take on Pete Sampras.
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Tennis News Net Notes

 

(December 1, 2013) A quick look at the recent news in the world of tennis.

Nadal 89m1

After skipping last year’s Sony Open, the tournament announced that Rafael Nadal would be returning in 2014.

“I was very disappointed that I was not able to attend last year’s tournament and am looking forward to returning in 2014,” said Nadal. “I love to play in Miami because of its beautiful location and tremendous fans support. Miami is an international city, and the diverse crowds that attend the tournament create an unbelievable atmosphere. I am excited to see all my fans in Miami this year.”

The world No. 1 has never won this Masters 1000 event. The Sony Open, which is a combined event, runs from March 17-30 at the Crandon Tennis Center in Miami.

 

 

News out of Berlin - Peter Graf, the father of 22-time major champion and former No. 1 Steffi Graf died on Sunday in Mannheim, Germany from cancer. The former coach and manager of his daughter was 75.

The elder Graf was sentenced to three years in jail for tax evasion. He served only one.

 

Serena

Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka will play an exhibition later this month in Thailand.

The event which was announced by the Lawn Tennis Association of Thailand, will be part of the regular invitational event in Hua Hin.

 

Richard Gasquet

According to sports daily L’Equipe, France’s No. 1 Richard Gasquet has a new coach – former double French Open winner Sergi Bruguera of Spain.

Gasquet and his former coach Riccardo Piatti split during the ATP World Tour finals. Gasquet, told the paper that Bruguera, would begin his coaching duties in February.

Gasquet reached the ATP World Tour finals this year for the first time since 2007.

 

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic

ATP top ten Milos Raonic has been named Sportsnet’s 2013 Canadian Athlete of the Year. Sportsnet’s 11th annual Athlete of the Year award was voted on by a panel of contributors from Sportsnet’s TV, radio, web and magazine platforms. Past winners include soccer star Christine Sinclair (2012), figure skater Patrick Chan (2011), and three-time winner UFC champ Georges St-Pierre. In honor of the award, Sportsnet is donating $10,000 to Raonic’s charity of choice.

“It’s a great feeling. There’s an aura around Canadian athletes,” said Raonic. “Whether it’s in the NBA, college sports, figure skating or hockey, there’s a bit more of a spotlight, and I think it’s special to be part of that and to receive this award for 2013 is an honor.”

Raonic is the first Canadian male to crack the top 10 of the world rankings and helping his country’s Davis Cup team to its first tournament semifinal in the Open Era.

 

Murray BNP paribas

The Financial Times was announced as the first global sponsor of World Tennis Day on March 3, 2014. The arrangement calls for the Financial Times to be presenting sponsor of the World Tennis Day Showdown at Earls Court in London that will feature Andre Agassi vs Pete Sampras and Pat Cash vs Ivan Lendl. The Financial Times will also be the official business publication of the other three World Tennis Day events, including the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden as well as events in Bangkok and Hong Kong.

 

 

Martina Hingis

Martina Hingis

Former world No.1 and three-time Australian Open champion Martina Hingis will play a special exhibition at Hobart International 2014.

The 33-year-old will play fellow Swiss and current world No.1 junior Belinda Bencic on January 5, 2014.

The Hobart International will take place at the Domain Tennis Centre from January 5-11 2014.

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Second Annual World Tennis Day to be Held March 3, 2014

 

(October 28, 2013) The International Tennis Federation (ITF) and StarGames announced that the second annual World Tennis Day will take place on Monday, March 3, 2014.

World Tennis Day will center around a series of high profile special events, produced by StarGames, featuring current and former professional players, enhanced by activities generated by the ITF’s National Associations around the globe to grow tennis participation. In 2014, the number of cities hosting the special events will double from the inaugural year, with Bangkok and London joining Hong Kong and New York.

World Tennis Day was staged for the first time in 2013 with 55 nations hosting participation events. In addition, BNP Paribas Showdown events were held in New York and Hong Kong.

“World Tennis Day proved to be a very successful initiative, using high profile special events to bring attention to the developmental activities of our member nations on every continent,” said ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti. “The enthusiasm and commitment of our National Associations to World Tennis Day in its first year was inspiring and we expect an even greater take-up in 2014 and beyond. March 3rd will be an important day in the international tennis calendar with huge focus on our sport on World Tennis Day.”

“The first year of World Tennis Day really exceeded all our expectations. With two great events, over 50 nations participating in the programme, television coverage in over 130 countries, and trending on Twitter, we truly had a worldwide celebration of tennis,” said Jerry Solomon, President and CEO of StarGames, Inc. “Looking to 2014, with events in Hong Kong, Bangkok, London and New York, we will be in four of the world’s biggest financial and tourism centres, and anticipate even more nations to participate in grassroots programmes, giving us a platform for truly bringing the world together to play tennis.”

In New York, the 2014 BNP Paribas Showdown will once again take place at Madison Square Garden and be part of the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) Tennis Night in America initiative. The MSG event will feature Novak Djokovic playing Andy Murray, as well as Bob and Mike Bryan taking on John and Patrick McEnroe.

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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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