NEW YORK – There’s always one problem with the US Open, every single year.
After it’s over, you have to wait 50 more weeks to see some live tennis in New York City.
Of course, a true fan of the sport can travel across the country – or even the world – to see the best play, but nothing compares to, as it’s called, the rock-and-roll atmosphere of the big city.
That’s why it’s refreshing to see an event line the 2010 BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup which took place on last Monday at Madison Square Garden. With Kim Clijster, Ana Ivanovic, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Venus Williams playing an exhibition, a glimpse of the last summer came to New York during the cold winter.
And it really didn’t matter the first matches only went one set each and the played with the no-Ad rule, what was seen was very exciting tennis at the Mecca.
“There was definitely a real connection [at the Garden],” said Williams, the eventual winner over Clijsters, 6-4 3-6 7-5. “They were just rooting me on and it felt great. That’s the most fun I had in front of a crowd anywhere. It’s nice to see how much it means to them having tennis at the Garden.”
Back about 20 years ago, the New York area was the capital of Tennis. Besides the Open, the WTA championships were held at the Garden and even the Davis Cup came to New York. There was an event in Northern New Jersey over the summer, and even old Forest Hills hosted bigger events.
But then everything changed when world class facilities popped up around the globe offering top dollar prizes. Most of the tournaments moved out of the Metropolitan Area, leaving the last major of the year as the only tennis in the city.
And that’s why putting an event at the Garden is so important for the sport. With less and less coverage in the in the papers, having a any event in the largest media market means tennis will get the exposure it desperately needs.
That’s not to say all these other cities that want to host events shouldn’t get them, but the ATP and WTA needs to keep the sport in the focus of the largest media markets in order to keep it in conscience of the TV, radio and print.
So, maybe the powers that be should consider expanding this new late winter event into a weekend event. Instead of making it one night, it could be a full weekend with no gimmicky rules and an expanded card. And since it would be in February or March, the event won’t get the distracted of other sports. Football will be over, baseball is in Florida, and the Knicks and Rangers obviously are road teams for that weekend.
And every newspaper looking to fill their pages will be there and tennis, once again, may get the spotlight it so desperately seeks.