adding a hall of fame layer to world tennis day

Tennis Hall of Fame logo

Packing It In: Since all eyes (in theory) will be on tennis on March 4 — that’s World Tennis Day — it couldn’t hurt to highlight just one more facet of our sport. At the BNP Paribas Showdown in New York City, the 2013 inductees to the International Tennis Hall of Fame will be honored in a Center Celebration on the night of the exhibition. This year’s nominees: Martina Hingis, Michael Stich, Helena Sukova, Thelma Coyne Long, Cliff Drysdale, Charlie Pasarell, and Ion Tiriac.

WTD at MSG? BNP. And apart from the parade of vets will be a two-match line-up that will pit Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka (they’ve now played two three-setters in a row!) and Juan Martin del Potro against Rafael Nadal. This will be Nadal’s first American appearance since returning from his 8-month absence dating back from last year’s Wimbledon. Info: Tickets and other info on the BNP Paribas Showdown available at their website.

HOF: The Hall of Fame Class of 2013 will be inducted on July 13, 2013.

rafael nadal’s first u.s. appearance will be in nyc

All eyes on NYC: The 2013 edition of the annual tennis exhibition at Madison Square Garden — the BNP Paribas Showdown — will feature Australian Open champ Victoria Azarenka squaring off against Serena Williams and Juan Martin del Potro playing Rafael Nadal. This event on March 4 will headline a full day of nationwide activities as part of Tennis Night in America as well as the inaugural World Tennis Day.

Nadal will be making his first appearance in the U.S. after a long injury layoff when he takes on del Potro in the upcoming BNP Paribas Showdown. Rafa is scheduled to participate in three events in the month of February including his return to the tour next week at the VTR Open in Vina del Mar, Chile followed by the Brasil Open in Sao Paulo, and the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco.

In 2012 the former World No. 1 won a record seventh French Open title, but a knee injury prevented him from playing after Wimbledon. The start of the Spaniard’s 2013 season was delayed by a stomach virus. The 11-time Grand Slam champion joins Andre Agassi as the only players to have completed a career Golden Slam. In 2009, Argentina’s del Potro broke through to win the US Open title. After wrist surgery in 2010, he returned to his top form in 2012, winning four titles and reaching the quarterfinals in three of the four Grand Slams.

World Tennis Day: World Tennis Day will be held with the support of the International Tennis Federation to promote Tennis10s, which tailors the game to its youngest players with smaller racquets, lighter balls and modified scoring. The cornerstones of World Tennis Day are grassroots opportunities for young players to participate in the sport at the local level. The day is highlighted by BNP Paribas Showdown events in Hong Kong as well as the annual event at Madison Square Garden in New York. The World Tennis Day effort complements the ongoing Tennis Night in America initiative to promote 10-and-under tennis by the United States Tennis Association that has been held in conjunction with the BNP Paribas Showdown for five years.

BNP Paribas Showdown: The BNP Paribas Showdown exclusively features players who have either won Grand Slams or ranked No. 1 in the World, if not both. Entering the 2013 season, the 17 all-time participants of the event at Madison Square Garden boast a combined 101 Grand Slam singles titles, 696 titles overall and a total of 1,565 weeks ranked No. 1.

Info: The BNP Paribas Showdown is produced by MSG Sports and StarGames. Tickets start at $50.00 and are on sale now at the Madison Square Garden box office, online at www.thegarden.com and all Ticketmaster outlets. More information about World Tennis Day events and the BNP Paribas Showdown matches in New York and Hong Kong can be found online at www.WorldTennisDay.com. The Hong Kong event will feature John McEnroe against Ivan Lendl and Caroline Wozniacki against Li Na.

the next tennis event at msg is set for 3/5/12

Mark your calendars: The next BNP Paribas Showdown, the annual tennis event at New York’s Madison Square Garden, will feature two best-of-three exhibition matches for its fifth iteration: up first will be three-time major winner Maria Sharapova against World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki; the men’s match will be an exo between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick. This will be the first time that Maria and Roddick are playing in the Garden.

This event also celebrates “Tennis Night in America” (can they play this on the jumbotron, please?), a nationwide campaign to raise awareness for the sport in the U.S.

Info: Tickets start at $50 and go on sale Monday, October 3 via Ticketmaster. Sign up for pre-sale alerts at tennisshowdown.com.

hipster tennis? sure, for a day

SMASH!-tastic: For all the attention it gets for being a tennis town, New York hardly has a lot to claim when it comes to tennis that happens on the island we all (well, most of America, that is) think of first when we think about the city: Manhattan. Courts are hard (and expensive) to come by, and availability — good luck, tookums. But a couple of weekends ago, downtown Manhattan not only got its tennis on for the day, it did so in fashion. Gargyle and United Bamboo fashion, that is.

The boutique (Gargyle) and fashion line (United Bamboo) teamed up to host SMASH!, a day-long tournament, for a second straight year, this time venturing a bit west from the East River Park courts to those at Seward Park, on the fringes of Chinatown. SMASH! is what you would expect tennis in Chinatown to be like: fun, quirky, oh-so hipster-esque, relaxed and above all — cool.

Above: a wall of celebrating. TSF contributor and fashion extraordinaire Troy Venechanos and I ventured to the day’s worth of events to check things out. Troy snapped some TSF-worth shots while I chatted with Don Vu of Gargyle about the event, which the store has approached a bit like throwing a dinner party at their house. “Tennis is one of the inspirations for Gargyle and you can see that in a lot of the lines that we pick,” Vu told me while we took in some of the round robin tennis. “We decided to take that part of us and make a tournament out of it. For fun. It’s pretty casual, but once you get on the court it’s pretty competitive. It’s relatively mellow overall, though.”

All you need is you: The mixed doubles teams (15 of them total) were all told to dress up for the occasion, some going all out and others choosing toned-down looks. But this is no Wimbledon folks: these outfits are colorful. The teams were broken into groups of five, playing one another in a best-of-three match-tiebreak format (first to 10 points) where the top team from each group would advance to the semifinals and one wild card (Team Lisicki?) would be chosen to participate as well.

TSF Vault: Gargyle | Gargyle wraps up SMASH! on its blog

“There are similar events [around New York],” Vu told me. “For the most part there is nothing like this for tennis. It’s a social event. We’re not raising money for anything — it’s just to hang out and have fun. It’s friends and friends of friends who are playing. We run Gargyle just down the street.” While Gargyle operates a few blocks away, the Hester Street Fair was happening just next door, so Troy and I trotted over a couple times throughout the day to snack on donuts (from Wonder City) and a specially-made macaroon called the SMASH! Sandwich. The guys at Macaron Parlour and Melt Bakery knocked heads (at Gargyle’s nudging) to create a tennis-ball looking macaroon that was downright delicious. This pup below is drooling over the thought of such things.

See the SMASH! Sandwich and more on the Gargyle event after the cut. [Read more…]

summer monday? spend it with monica and jimbo

Courier serving things up at the Rock in 2009. (Getty photo)

NYC greenery: Plenty of New Yorkers (and Americans, we presume) have “summer Fridays.” You know the idea: it’s freakin’ nice outside so employees get to peace out for all or part of Friday to frolic in the sun. While we appreciate such a gesture from the higher ups, before you go off sunbathing and boozing before 5 pm today, you might want to re-consider utilizing those free hours this coming Monday.

It is, after all, day one of Wimbledon, which means you could wake up at your usual ungodly time and take in some of ESPN 2’s coverage of day one at The Championships. After a few hours of tubing, you’ll be itching to get outside (it is summer, after all!) and we’ve got just the solution for you: Monica Seles and Jim Courier, playing some grass-court tennis at Rockefeller Plaza. Seles and Courier hit the court at noon on Monday for what should be an entertaining hit and giggle, former ESPN commentator and Tennis Channel buff Brett Haber will emcee.

Can’t make it Monday? There’s more: Play (yes, you! Play!) on Manhattan’s only grass court Monday through Friday. To reserve a court call (855) 688-7715. Can’t find the right bounce on the grass? Prince has pros who will be there to touch up your game. The sched? Monday 4 to 5 and Tuesday through Friday noon to 1 and 5 to 6. Plus: Get your racquet re-strung Monday through Friday between 11 and 1; eat some special strawberries and cream all week long; and play some Wii “Grand Slam” tennis. Find out all the info of HSBC’s Wimbledon at Rockefeller Plaza here.

short balls: good bye, counselor

by Benjamin Snyder

Serena is outta the Nike exo, but staying on as a ref. Think Shino will be there to join her? (Reuters)

Forget becoming an esthetician, Serena Williams is taking on a new career as a lineswoman. The sidelined former no. 1 won’t be playing in a much-anticipated return at the Nike exhibition on March 8. Instead, she’ll be a referee. That’s tough luck for the 12,000 fans expecting to see the 13-time major champion’s form alongside Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova. Citing the foot injury that’s been kept her out since after Wimbledon, Serena released the following statement: “I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to play … as I had anticipated. I’m thrilled, however, to still be able to participate … in the exhibition as a referee during the mixed doubles.”

Is something sketchy going on here? Columnist Greg Crouch thinks so. Taking her place on court is Victoria Azarenka. With Masha and Vika both on court, make sure to bring the ear plugs, Eugene.

Pakistani dubs expert Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi is flashing his pearly whites (and wavy locks) in a recent ad with CloseUp toothpaste. Seriously, Rafa and Fernando, this dude is nipping at your modeling heels. He’s just going for a – er – cleaner approach.

He’s not just a hot head, he’s also an art aficionado. Getting a custom-made sculpture in the process, tennis legend and New York City art collector John McEnroe took to the streets of Delray Beach against Mats Wilander in a game of street tennis as part of the “On the Ave” exo. Although Mayor Woodie McDuffie served as the chair umpire, it didn’t make Johnny Mac bite his tongue or keep the snide remarks at bay. He called Mayor McDuffie’s math “fuzzy” on his way to winning the TB 13-11. “I was down 2-1, and now I’m up 3-1; I like that. Is that how they count in Florida?” McEnroe quipped.

After being honored with work from artists of the Milagro Youth Center, McEnroe said, “This is definitely unique. Anybody that knows about me knows that I’m a big fan of the arts. I’ve been a collector for 30 years since I first made money playing the sport I love… The greatest compliment I’ve received as a player was that I was an artist on the court.” But seriously, what is hanging over his headboard? Oh the things we wonder.

Caroline Wozniacki has reclaimed the world’s no. 1 ranking after winning in Dubai over Svetlana Kuznetsova. Kim Clijsters nabbed the distinction from Caro for just one week ago. Kamakshi Tandon and Steve Stignor volleyed back and forth on their thoughts of the flip flop. Whether the system’s flawed or not, expect much more of the Caro-Kim ranking fight in the coming months, especially with Serena playing referee.

Splitsville: “Super Mario” Ancic has called it quits on his ten-year career due to a severe back injury. According to the 2004 Wimbledon semifinalist and former world no. 7, “It was one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make. I’m only 26 but my body said I would not be able to continue on a high level.” Although he’ll be missed on the tennis courts, expect him to put his energy into a different type of court. The University of Split law grad now plans on pursuing a career as a lawyer. So long, counselor. | TSF Vault: Mario Ancic

(serena and ancic photos by reuters)

nike's 'clash of champs' exo

Nike is pulling out all the stops for its just-announced March 8 exhibition featuring four superstars: Serena, Rafa, Maria and Roger. The exo itself is being held in Eugene, Oregon, traditionally known as a running town and mecca for all things University of Oregon related (including an almost national football title). Tickets go on sale this Friday at 10 AM.

(screengrab via matthewknightarena.com)

short balls: it’s not over until the (small) lady sings

Justine Henin made her return to Belgian television earlier this week by singing and dancing on a variety TV show. Singing the song “Now It’s Time” on the show Cap 48. Was that lip synching we saw there, JuJu? Might have to refer to this video to figure it out. Hopefully Lady Henin didn’t re-injure her elbow in said dance routine, in which she wore a bright white pant suit, black dance shoes and had her hair put up. Now we get why she wants her phone on a desert island: she has the Autotune app.

Justine is scheduled to take on Kim Clijsters in an exhibition in December, though she hasn’t made her 2011 schedule public yet. Guga Kuerten is due to play an exhibition in his home country of Brazil in December as well, flying down former rival Andre Agassi for a little hit and giggle. Fame bound? Meanwhile, Andre headlines the 2011 ballot for the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The last time Andre was in Newport? To help honor his wife Steffi during her own induction in 2007.

With the tennis season winding down, the exo season is picking up. The Belgians will do battle in their home country and Guga has Andre going south. Roger has invited Rafa up to Switzerland for a duel of their own, which, if the trailer runs true, will be mostly giggling and not much hitting. Stateside, no less than four exo’s will take place in November and December, with players like Anna Kournikova, Martina Navratilova, Mark Philippoussis, Mardy Fish and the Bryan Brothers participating in one event or another. (Line up: Surprise, Ariz. | Delray Beach | DC | Vero Beach, Fla.) (Exhibition info from tenniswire.org)

The season is prematurely over for a myriad of WTA ladies, including Venus, Serena and Maria Sharapova. The Williams sisters will not only miss the Season Ending Championships but also the Fed Cup finals, which they had expressed interest in playing after controversy swirled in their lack of participation in the team’s ties earlier in the year.

More of short balls – featuring short(er) balls – after the cut. [Read more…]

trophy watch: in asia, the week of three-setters

Malaysian Open: Fourth seed Mikhail Youzhny bagged his second title of the year by taking out Andrey Golubev 6-7 (7), 6-2, 7-6 (3) in Kuala Lumpur. “I cannot say I showed by best tennis here,” shared Youzhny, “but, although it’s good when you show your best tennis and win the tournament, it’s probably better sometimes when you don’t show your really best game but you have a really good result.” The Russian also won the BMW Open, on clay, back in May.

PTT Thailand Open: All the big players bit the dust — including Rafael Nadal and the rusty Juan Martin Del Potro, Verdasco, Melzer — leaving Guillermo Garcia-Lopez to square off against Jarkko Nieminen in the finals. The scoreline, in Gigi’s favor: 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. This was the Spaniard’s second final of 2010 and the first title. “It has been an unbelievable week for me, from the first round to the final. Every match is different. I think I played relaxed, enjoyed my game and everything was perfect. It’s hard to express what it means, I’m really happy inside.”

Toray Pan-Pacific Open: Over in Tokyo, top seed Caroline Wozniacki fended off an upset by Elena Dementieva with a 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory.

Exo: And Nole won an exo over Andy Roddick in Seoul. The blooper reel’s here.

(images via Getty Images)

belgian sweets

Fila created this yellow dress especially for Kim Clijsters to play in at her recent (formerly known as) “Best of Belgium” exhibition. Gotta look good for a homecoming, right? Too bad it won’t be available for sale…

If you like this dress on Kim as much as we do, you’ll be happy to know that she’s wearing more of these figure-flattering pieces (i.e., less separates) in the future.

P.S. Francesca Schiavone, please do not tease me with that jock hair of yours. I was ready to replace you with one of my Italian HOATs!