ESPN has secured the premiere TV window and broadband rights in the U.S. to tennis' BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden later this month.
The one-day, tennis showcase will feature four former world No. 1s, reliving two of the greatest rivalries from the sport's recent past, as John McEnroe engages Ivan Lendl, followed by Pete Sampras taking on Andre Agassi on Feb. 28. Together, the players combined to win 37 Grand Slam singles titles (14 for Sampras, eight apiece for Agassi and Lendl, seven for McEnroe) and 295 ATP Tour events.
Through a deal with MSG Sports and StarGames, terms of which were not disclosed, broadband portal ESPN3.com will stream the Lendl-McEnroe face-off in a one-set pro match -- the first to win eight games -- at 7 p.m. (ET), which will serve as the opening act to Agassi-Sampras in a best-of-three set encounter at 9 p.m. on ESPN2. Moreover, ESPN International will distribute the matches to 45 million homes in 130 countries and territories.
Chris Fowler, Johnny Mac's brother Patrick McEnroe, as well as former Agassi coaches Darren Cahill and Brad Gilbert, will be on the call from the world's most famous arena.
Encores of the BNP Paribas Showdown will be telecast on MSG Plus March 7 and on MSG Network a week later. Both telecasts will feature McEnroe/Lendl at 7 p.m. and Sampras/Agassi at 8 p.m. Two-time Emmy Award winning broadcaster, Ted Robinson will handle play-by-play, while Tennis Channel's Justin Gimelstob provides the analysis.
The BNP Paribas Showdown, in partnership with the United States Tennis Association, will continue their efforts to grow youth participation in the sport of tennis through "Tennis Night in America", a national program which is among the largest ever grass roots initiative the sport has ever seen. To find a sign-up location please go to www.tennisnight.com.
This marks the BNP Paribas Showdown's third iteration at MSG: the first two in 2009 and 2010 showcased such top women's players as the Williams sisters, Kim Clijsters, Ana Ivanovic, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelana Jankovic. The prior year Sampras played then world No. 1 Roger Federer in a NetJets exhibition, which marked the first telecast for the rechristened MSG Plus (formerly FSN New York). That March 10, 2008 match, won by Federer in three sets, was the first tennis event at MSG since 2000.
"We're happy to once again have television partners who can help showcase tennis as it's played in such an historic venue," said Jerry Solomon, president StarGames Inc., in a statement. "ESPN is a proven leader in tennis with their coverage of the majors, while MSG is the authority on the arena that shares its name. We look forward to both their broadcasts."
"ESPN has been a terrific partner, and their participation in the BNP Paribas Showdown inherently makes this an even bigger national event," noteed MSG Sports president Scott O'Neil. "In addition, the matches will be rebroadcast on MSG Networks on March 7th and 14th, so fans will have another opportunity to watch these tennis icons perform on the world's biggest stage."
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