09 March 2013

BNP Paribas Showdown, NYC style

Having never been to Madison Square Garden, I was well thrilled to get tickets to see Rafa, Serena, Del Potro and Azarenka in the BNP Paribas Showdown.

I've been to a lot of tournaments, but no exhibitions since my first actual tennis match which was Agassi, Sampras, Courier and Wheaton exo match way back in 1991.

I was happy enough to be in MSG seeing huge favourite players of mine, so I didn't much care about the quality of the tennis or the entertainment factor. My only hope was that Serena actually competed a bit more than she usually does in exhibitions.

I love indoor tennis with the lights and the great sound being in a stadium yields. When the players were announced, they were actually in the audience and ran down onto the court, giving high fives to lucky members of the audience. I loved that!

Vika was introduced first, then Delpo, then Serena. She got wonderful reaction from the crowd, but Rafa definitely got the biggest cheers. It was fantastic to see him back in NYC after missing the 2012 US Open.

So the ladies were first up, and to me the pace of shots was not that different from a match, particularly from Vika. She was hitting just about as hard as she normally does but thought Serena wasn't always doing that. I will agree the match lacked a lot of interactivity with the crowd which is always fun in exhibitions but this one was much more business than pleasure.

The man whose name I would rather not say, Redfoo, of course made his appearance. He hopped on court to hit a few points with Serena and that certainly broke the seriousness of the match to that stage. From then Vika and Serena tried to keep it a bit lighter...they played a few lefty points etc but overall it was a fairly businesslike affair. Serena 'won' 6-4 6-3.

Then it was time for the men and it was just brilliant to see Rafa again, and as Delpo is my strong #2 fave this was a dream exhibition match for me. Rafa played some brilliant points and seemed to be moving well on the hard courts. Five days later, I can't even remember too much about their match. It was just fun to be there.

One of the fun moments for me was watching Rafa and Delpo watching the big screen during changeovers. They showed footage from Delpo's 2009 US Open title run and one of all of Rafa's slams. It was humorous to watch these men sitting in their seats, necks craned to watch the big screen hung high from the ceiling.

The moment most talked about from this match was the mixed doubles with Ben Stiller and a young girl Del Potro plucked from the crowd. I was so busy taking pics that I missed the first few shots but it was super cute and Delpo was adorable with this young girl.

Del Potro would 'win' this match 7-6 (4) 6-4. After the net exchange, Mary Joe Fernandez came onto the court and conducted a long interview but for some reason the ticket-paying MSG crowd did not get to hear the interview! They played loud music and only right before MJF asked the guys to speak in Spanish did they turn off the music. If anyone knows the reason for this I'd be very happy to hear it - I was really frustrated by this. I know the match was shown on ESPN2 live, so why couldn't the crowd hear the interview!?

I would also like to know why the BNP Paribas Showdown doesn't include at least a set (even a few games?!) of mixed doubles. What a dream it could have been to see Serena play doubles with her 'fellow booty brother' Rafa! I'd love to see that added into the showdown...

Anyway, it was a great, great evening and the 3+ hours of fun in MSG was well worth my journey to NYC.

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