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Making History on 'Tennis Night in America'

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The USTA and event producers StarGames and MSG Sports, announced today that, for the first time in history, 60-foot blended lines will be placed on a traditional 78-foot regulation court being used for a pro tennis match. The matches, featuring Ivan Lendl vs. John McEnroe and Pete Sampras vs. Andre Agassi, will take place at Madison Square Garden on February 28th during ESPN2’s live broadcast of the BNP Paribas Showdown, the crown jewel in the “Tennis Night in America” celebration. Blended lines are painted in a different, more subtle color than the traditional lines, enabling courts to be adapted for competitive play for younger children. These blended lines are a major component of the USTA’s 10 and Under Tennis Initiative.

Prior to the four Hall-of-Famers taking the court on Monday, local kids from the New York Junior Tennis League (NYJTL) will take to the 60-foot blended line court for a 10 and Under Tennis exhibition, using the QuickStart Tennis play format. The concept of 10 and Under Tennis scales the game down to size for its youngest participants, with slower-moving and lower-bouncing balls, lighter and smaller racquets, and shorter courts that make the game fun, easy to learn and easy to play, ensuring that kids will return to tennis again and again.

“For years, other sports like soccer and baseball have had kids playing on smaller fields with kid-size equipment,” said Jon Vegosen, USTA Chairman of the Board and President. “We’re doing the same thing with tennis. To have players like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, and Ivan Lendl competing on a court with blended lines is a huge step for the sport of tennis and a great way to showcase 10 and Under Tennis to the world.”

“The BNP Paribas Showdown is proud to honor the history of the sport with our legendary playing field,” said Jerry Solomon, president, StarGames, Inc. “But we also recognize the importance of providing a platform for the sport which supports growing the game for the future through initiatives like 10 and Under Tennis and Tennis Night in America.”

This is the second time in the past seven years that the USTA has been at the forefront of an innovative change in the sport of tennis. In 2005, the USTA spearheaded a national campaign to change the color of American hard courts from green to blue, enhancing viewership for millions of fans.

The BNP Paribas Showdown is part of Tennis Night in America, an integrated initiative which kicks off the 2011 tennis season at facilities across the country. Building upon the success of last year’s efforts, more than 675 tennis facilities across the U.S. will be taking part in registering youth in tennis programming at National Youth Registration events throughout March.

National Youth Registration events serve as an “opening day” for parents to sign up their kids for spring and summer programming, including 10 and Under Tennis programs and USTA Jr. Team Tennis, and also afford parents an opportunity to get involved themselves by volunteering to become parent-coaches.

The BNP Paribas Showdown, now in its fourth year, will renew classic rivalries of the 1980’s and 90’s, as McEnroe and Lendl will compete in a pro-set match (first player to win eight games) followed by a best-of-three set match between Sampras and Agassi. The four all-time greats have won a combined 37 Grand Slam singles titles and 295 ATP World Tour singles titles.

Starting at 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3.com will stream live the match between McEnroe and Lendl. At 9:00 p.m. ESPN2 will televise the Sampras-Agassi match. ESPN’s announcing team will include Chris Fowler, Patrick McEnroe and former Agassi coaches Darren Cahill and Brad Gilbert. ESPN International will distribute the matches to 45 million homes in 130 countries and territories.

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A replay of the event will be telecast on MSG Plus on Monday, March 7 and again on MSG Network on Monday, March 14. Both telecasts will feature McEnroe versus Lendl at 7:00 p.m. and Sampras versus Agassi at 8:00 p.m., with two-time Emmy Award winning broadcaster, Ted Robinson and Justin Gimelstob calling the action.

 

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