The BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden is fast becoming a staple feature of the tennis social scene. The event has brought tennis back to The Garden which for so many years had been such an iconic venue...
The BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden is fast becoming a staple feature of the tennis social scene. The event has brought tennis back to The Garden which for so many years had been such an iconic venue for tennis by hosting the season-ending championships for both the men and the women. On 5th March it will be on again and will feature Roger Federer against Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova against Caroline Wozniacki. None of these players had the opportunity to play at MSG during those heady days when the year-end events were staged there. It was a time they would have heard of but the reception that New York fans have provided since the return of tennis to the Garden has been a thrill for the current crop of players who have already played Madison Square Garden. I remember those days so well with Lendl, McEnroe, Becker, Edberg, Evert, Navratilova, Graf, Seles and more battling it out, thrilling the fans. With that in mind I eagerly look forward to returning to the Garden for the first time since 2000 when the last women’s year-end event was held. The last men’s season-ender at the Garden was 1989 and I was there for that as well. “Obviously this is a huge meet to be coming to New York and playing in Madison Square Garden not only because of its history and history of tennis in that area but because it is New York City,” Maria Sharapova said. “There is really nothing like an experience at Madison Square Garden and I think for every athlete around the world, just to be in the stadium and to be performing there is really an honour and I can’t wait for that opportunity.” The event is a great lead-in to the BNP Paribas Open which is held immediately after, on the other side of the country in California at another tennis garden, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Sharapova was asked what the differences are from playing an event like the Showdown to a regular tournament. “It’s tough because in a way you are thinking this is not a tournament but on the other hand the reason why you are there is because people want to see your tennis and they want to see why you are on the top of one of the woman’s games,” Sharapova said. “But, on another hand, it gives the chance for the fans that watched you grow up over the years to see another side and personality on the court as well. “I think exhibitions are a really good combination of not just showing the skills of tennis and the way you play but athletes personalities. Yeah, it is also a few days before a new one starts so it is a great warm up in a way.” An event like the Showdown allows tennis fans to get close to the players in a match. It’s one court and while the facility is big, no doubt about that, everything is concentrated in one rectangle. It has the ability to be incredibly inspiring and absorbing because it is part sport at the highest level and it is part showbiz. “I think as a professional athlete whether we are playing tennis or other sports, I think one of our main goals is to encourage those kids to be active and to play sports,” she said. “I think that is one of the most important things for a five, six, seven year old that is just getting to know what he likes to do and which sport he is playing and I think it is a great opportunity for a young kid is just a great way to see something live and see it in person. “Sometimes when you experience a sport on TV it doesn’t necessarily bring out that energy through the screen and the physical aspect and the emotion of how you play and the energy that you put into every stroke and the emotions are gone after points or certain situations. I think it is a unique experience for children and also their parents to see it live and yeah I would love to see as many kids out there as possible.”