The BNP Paribas Showdown will once again grace New York City with its presence in early March, marking the 10th anniversary of the event that has attracted the sport’s biggest stars for a decade.
“The event actually got started after Pete Sampras played an exhibition against Andy Roddick in Houston,” said the event’s creator Jerry Solomon. “After the match, he said to a friend of his: ‘I can still play. It would be so much fun to play against Roger [Federer].’ Pete had been retired for about five years at that point and Roger was on top. Pete’s friend was a golfing buddy of Ivan Lendl, and I had worked with Lendl for years, so a phone call eventually came to me from him. I said I didn’t think it would ever happen, but it’s a great idea, and I said I would play around with it a little bit.”
One thing led to another and Solomon began on working to put the event together, knowing that Madison Square Garden would have to be the venue for it.
“It’s the most well-known venue in the United States and probably the world and there hadn’t been tennis there for seven or eight years,” said Solomon. “My first job in sports was working on the Colgate Grand Prix Masters at MSG, so I had seen tennis first hand in the Garden from a behind the scenes point of view. I just felt there was really nothing like that crowd and atmosphere; that heavyweight-bout history. It just made a lot of sense. Over the years there had been seven or eight pro tennis events in New York but over time that decreased. I knew that there was an appetite for a winter tennis event.”
Solomon put together the plan in advance and presented it to Federer, who came back with just one available date, March 10, the Monday of Indian Wells. And that date has stuck throughout all the years of the event.
After searching for a sponsor for the event, NetJets came on board to sponsor the first edition of the BNP Paribas Showdown, just four months before the event was set to take place. Tickets went on sale in early January and within weeks, the building had been sold out.
“I didn’t know that we would sell it out as quickly as we did, or that it would become what it’s become,” said Solomon. “It was just my sense that was the place to do it, it was the first job I had working in tennis so I had some sentimentality about it. But there are a lot of reasons to do it at Madison Square Garden. The event comes at a time where there is not much going on in the world of sports. The NFL season is over, the MLB and NCAA Tournament hasn’t yet started, and the NBA and NHL are winding down their regular seasons, so I think we get a lot of extra focus because of that, especially being on a Monday night.”
The event is part of World Tennis Day which has become a hallmark of tennis around the world with multiple initiatives and events promoting the game.
This year’s edition of the Showdown will bring fans more excitement as there will be a team format and there will be eight players competing, the most the event has ever had. It will be a quicker, faster paced form of tennis which will keep the fans engaged, and as always, there will be opportunities for fans to get on the court and hit.
“We’ve had people like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Ben Stiller in the stands,” said Solomon. “Two years ago, we had a kid who hit a lob over Federer to win a point and that got the crowd into it. I think this year stands to have the greatest entertainment value, with a lot of different looks and lots of players. I’m really looking forward to it because it will be something different for the event and the fans.”
The 10th installment of one of tennis’ most popular events returns to Madison Square Garden in early March with four matches: Jack Sock vs. Nick Kyrgios, Juan Martin del Potro vs. Kei Nishikori, Venus Williams vs. Garbine Muguruza, and Andy Roddick vs. Lleyton Hewitt in a team format of Americas vs. The World. These four star-studded showdowns will give the New York City crowd something to cheer about as the winter begins to come to a close.
“We have great success with the BNP Paribas Showdown over the years, with the event attracting the top names in tennis and providing great memories for fans,” said MSG’s Executive Vice President of Marquee Events Joel Fisher. “We are excited about the 10th anniversary edition of the BNP Paribas Showdown here at Madison Square Garden.”
Caroline Wozniacki at MSG during her match in 2016 against Serena Williams
Roger Federer entertains the crowd at the World’s Most Famous Arena
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic field questions from the media prior to the 2014 BNP Paribas Showdown
Actor Ben Stiller takes in the tennis action during the 2012 installment of the BNP Paribas Showdown
New York Tennis Magazine Staff
The New York Tennis Magazine Staff is comprised of tennis pros, tennis coaches and tennis writers