Like in Barcelona with the match between Nadal and Ferrer inside the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the city's opera house, some organizers don't hesitate, in order to promote their tournament to take their best seeds out of classic courts to make them hit the ball in the most unexpected places: on water, in the mountains, at the foot of a glacier or on the rooftop of a building... Everything which is not forbidden is allowed!
« The Battle of Surfaces »
It was in May 2007 and two superheroes were outrageously dominating world tennis. On the one side, Roger Federer and his 48 straight victories on grass, and on the other, Rafael Nadal and his series of 72 wins on clay. To find out who was the best, someone had an absurd idea: what if we made them play on a hybrid court? Half-grass, half-clay. A funny idea for a fairly unconvincing final result. This "Rolambledon" or "Wimblegarros" held in Mallorca has still been seen by 200 million people according to the organizers.
The Qatar tournament is held annually early January and is financially supported by an American oil and gas company with virtually unlimited resources. This is convenient to attract the biggest stars of tennis, but also to invent the craziest exhibitions. Since 2009, Nadal and Federer have been used as soon as they stepped off the plane. For the 2011 edition, the best tennis rivals of the world played on a specially made floating court in Doha Bay. Like all exhibitions, it was sportingly useless but at least the pictures were beautiful.
On a magic carpet
Another example of the Qataris’ limitless imagination when it comes to staging the finest players in the world and promote their annual tournament. The scene took place in 2010 in the heart of Doha’s Souk: Nadal and Federer met on a kind of magic carpet stretched by cables a few meters above the ground. A way for them to show the world that Qatar isn’t only about money but also has a history… Even if this time, it was more from Arabian Nights than from school books...
On a court lit by candlelight
One last little example of exhibition madness from Doha. It was for the 2012 edition, once again, Nadal and Federer were starring to open the tournament on a court only lit by candlelight. It maybe wasn’t the most spectacular idea of the organizers but it surely was the best visually. Note that Roger Federer is the race record holder, with 3 titles to his name.
On the rooftop of a luxury hotel
Not far from Qatar, in the UAE, they also know how to impress. In 2005, Roger Federer and Andre Agassi played on the helipad which sits on top of the Burj al-Arab hotel in Dubai, the famous self-assigned seven stars hotel. The Swiss and the American exchanged a few balls at 212 meters above the ground, but given the little hindsight of the court, it was better for them to avoid playing rallies from the baseline!
On the rooftop of a Parisian department store
In a substantially similar style, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) teamed up with a famous Parisian department store to promote the 2011 edition of the French Open. Gasquet, Tsonga, Stosur and Ivanovic were all invited to inaugurate the clay court, which was then made available to the public until the end of the tournament. Hitting the yellow ball on the roofs of Paris, how glamorous.
In the mountains
Nürnberger Gastein Ladies tennis tournament takes place every summer in Bad Gastein, a famous ski resort in the heart of the Austrian Alps. During the 2011 edition, one of the sponsors had the idea to make two players, Julia Goerges and Jarmila Gajdosova, play an exhibition match on a small mountainside platform. "Small" is the word to remember, the court wasn’t much bigger than a ping-pong table. The fresh air didn’t serve the German and the Aussie: both were eliminated from the very beginning of the tournament...
In front of a glacier
Tennis in the wild again, with the promotional tour made jointly by Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the end of last season. The two stars started with a penalty shootout at the Boca Juniors Bombonera, followed by an impromptu match on a boat, just in front of the Perito Moreno, one of the largest glaciers in the world. The images are pretty impressive.
In the streets of Manhattan
It was in 1995, the two biggest stars of tennis were both American and both sponsored by the swoosh. The advertising executives of the brand then had the brilliant idea to make Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras play a match in the streets of New York for a successful campaign, dynamic and Rock’N’Roll, with the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing in the background. The idea was reused by the same brand in 2006, still in Manhattan and featuring the two new stars of tennis, Nadal and Federer.
On the top of a scoreboard
In 2008, Ana Ivanovic and Alicia Molik were invited by their common equipment manufacturer to climb up the platform located above the Scoreboard of the Melbourne Cricket Ground to ensure the promotion of the Australian Open. They played a small exhibition match in mixed doubles, which brought more luck to one than to the other: Ivanovic moved up to the final of the competition, while Molik was eliminated from the second round...
Bonus: At the opera
This is the last big thing to date in terms of exhibition. It was the work of the Barcelona Open’ organizers and staged the two seeds in the tournament, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, on the 21st of April. The Spanish champions met on the stage of the prestigious city opera house, the Gran Theatre del Liceu. An original idea particularly appreciated by Nadal. « My grandfather was a conductor, he said. I came here before but it was a long time ago. It’s a moment that I will never forget. »