Wimbledon champion Andy Murray will take on Novak Djokovic in New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden in March, but London’s Earls Court will also host two memorable Wimbledon final rematches as part of the celebrations for World Tennis Day.
After the success of the inaugural World Tennis Day, held last year to mark the International Tennis Federation’s centenary, a host of tennis stars, past and present, will play in exhibitions around the world on March 3 to help promote the sport.
While Murray, who will be in the States preparing for the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, takes part in the event in New York, his coach will be in London bidding to avenge his 1987 Wimbledon final defeat to Pat Cash.
Ivan Lendl, who famously never won Wimbledon despite twice reaching the final, will take on Cash at Earl’s Court before Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi renew their rivalry in a rematch of the 1999 Championships final, one of 34 match-ups in their professional careers.
But it’s not just about Wimbledon champions – World Tennis Day was created to celebrate the sport and everyone involved from tennis tots to octogenarian coaches.
“The whole ethos behind the project is to create a day which celebrates tennis in as many countries as possible,” says Kris Dent, Executive Director of Professional Tennis at the ITF. “As well as celebrating the pinnacle of our sport, through the Showdown exhibitions, World Tennis Day also helps shine a light on the grassroots and encourage people new to the sport to pick up a racket and give it a go.
“Last year 53 nations around the world took part and we are hoping this number will grow in 2014. There was such a varied approach from different countries – in Egypt the association hosted a tennis event in front of the Great Pyramids and in Argentina they closed 9 de Julio Avenue in Buenos Aires – the longest street in the world – and put up tennis 10s nets and invited kids to play.”
With a high-profile event in London as part of the day’s celebrations, there is an opportunity for British tennis clubs and businesses to get involved and help promote the sport.
World Tennis Day was only launched in 2013, but the origins of the event stretch back to 2009 in the guise of Tennis Night in America, which combined a high-profile ticketed event in New York with a nationwide effort by the US Tennis Association to increase participation. Tennis clubs and facilities across the US hosted kids’ events and free sessions, while tennis retailers were encouraged to offer tie-in promotions.
“The whole industry came together to offer a whole host of opportunities,” Dent explains. “For example, all the US Open series events put their tickets on sale that day and there were one-day offers on equipment and opportunities for new players to have taster sessions at local clubs.”
While the Lawn Tennis Association is yet to confirm its plans for March 3, what is clear is that the ITF’s vision for World Tennis Day is widespread, spanning elite level to mini tennis and everything in between.
Last year reigning Wimbledon men’s doubles champion Jonny Marray and former British No.1 Elena Baltacha visited Britannia Village Primary School in East London, which was the 15,000 th school to participate in the Aegon Schools Tennis programme.
“World Tennis Day provides a great opportunity to promote tennis as a fun and enjoyable sport for everyone,” Simon Long, LTA Chief Commercial Officer, told TIA UK News. “It’s great to be working with the ITF and other delivery partners in sharing that message by inspiring people through the activity which will take place.”
Tickets for World Tennis Day Showdown in London are on sale now. Click here for more information