I went to the BNP Paribas showdown last week in Madison Square Garden. Roger Federer took on Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova fought hard against Caroline Wozniacki. Maybe you caught the live chat, maybe you didn't. Federer lost to Roddick and Sharapova blasted Wozza.
With all of this happening, there were little asides showing that they weren't playing too hard. Does this take away from the sanctity of the game? We wouldn't have "open tennis" without the invention of exhibitions. Once Rod Laver and company decided to leave amateur tennis for a paycheck, the magic began. He was banished from all majors until 1968, when he won them all, the last man to win all 4 in a calendar year.
But this match was different. Roddick seemed to be playing better, while not playing as hard. I think Federer had a hard time pulling back on the reins and playing his "B" tennis instead of the normal "A."
Roddick beat Federer in straights, and Sharapova beat Wozza in straights.
The most interesting part of the night came in the after match press conference where Neil Harman of the London Times and Andy Roddick got into a bit of a misunderstanding. Harman asked Federer if exhibitions were bad for tennis, because they have seemed to have bad press and that there were too many. Federer didn't think that was the case and Andy chimed in with "We can play tournaments through December but God forbid we play an Exo." Harman didn't mean anything by the comment, and Andy took it the wrong way, but it was still a good point. Listen to the Roddick Argument
Are exhibitions bad for Tennis? In a word, no. It shows fans the lighter side of the sport, and shows that the machines we call players have another dimension to them. Maybe the tennis isn't as good, and the forced tweeners are a little out of place, but the crowd loves it. And in the end, isn't that why the sport exists? Without fans paying to get in, and loving players and the game with all of their heart, this game wouldn't be half as fun.
I'll leave you with some press conference action I shot with my iPhone, sorry for the quality! Roddick sure knows how to handle a press conference!
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