By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com
Let the play begin!
Play Events are happening across the country throughout March in celebration of World Tennis Day and the BNP Paribas Showdown, to be held March 3 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. As the sport for a lifetime’s popularity rises in the U.S., it’s never been easier for children of all ages and skill levels to get playing, with nearly 1,000 events scheduled nationwide from now through March 30.
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“World Tennis Day is a celebration of our sport and a great platform to bring attention to the importance of getting kids active and ensuring a positive first experience in the sport,” said Dave Haggerty, Chairman, CEO and President of the USTA. “These efforts are part of USTA’s longstanding commitment to increase access to the sport. If we reach children when they are young enough, they can learn to love physical activity and tennis for life.”
It’s a time tailor-made for kids, their parents, coaches and organizers to swing their racquets and get some exercise as the warmer spring weather makes its way north – and after the sun goes down, all can take in a night of exciting exhibition matches on Broadway. The BNP Paribas Showdown features 2012 US Open Andy Murray facing off against 2011 Open champ Novak Djokovic in the main event of the evening, preceded by a doubles match between the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, and another set of Grand Slam-winning siblings, John and Patrick McEnroe.
BNP Paribas Showdown coverage begins with the doubles match on ESPN3 at ESPN.com beginning at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the Murray-Djokovic singles match on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. As part of the broadcast, viewers have the opportunity to see a special on-court presentation from earlier in the evening recognizing the brand-new Guinness World Record for “Largest Tennis Lesson,” set March 2 when more than 250 New York City kids participated in the festivities at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
On hand for the presentation will be Judy Murray, mother of Andy and current captain of the Great Britain Fed Cup team. Having raised two sons who grew up to be professionals with a passion for tennis – Andy’s brother, Jamie, is a Top 30 doubles player and the 2007 Wimbledon mixed doubles champion – Judy Murray knows the importance of exposure to the game at an early age.
“I am excited to be part of the USTA’s efforts to enrich the lives of young people,” she said. “Tennis is a fun way for parents to play with their children and encourage them to lead an active and healthy lifestyle.”
The USTA leads the charge for youth by using World Tennis Day to provide a platform for facilities to register children for spring and summer programming. To date, more than 6,500 youth tennis events have been held as part of that initiative.