Pete Sampras, a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, will serve as the first spokesman for the 2011 Tennis Night In America, a joint promotional effort between the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and StarGames Inc. Tennis Night in America, the annual celebration of tennis that includes youth registration events at facilities around the country and concludes with the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden, will take place Feb. 28, 2011.
"I am honored to be the first spokesperson for Tennis Night in America," Sampras said. "Tennis was a great sport for me when I was young and having tennis facilities around the country come together to promote the game and the BNP Paribas Showdown makes for a great celebration for tennis. Last year, Tennis Night had over 700 tennis facilities involved. I would like to see that reach 1,000 in 2011."
Tennis Night in America showcases tennis at local facilities around the country. In 2010, more than 700 tennis clubs and recreation centers hosted open houses, clinics and parties. Along with the festivities was the USTA's Youth Registration Night, the organization's largest youth tennis recruitment effort.
"Tennis Night in America is a great platform to raise awareness of our sport, and now with the help of one of tennis' greatest stars, we can raise the level even higher," said Kurt Kamperman, chief executive, community tennis, USTA. "We believe Tennis Night can be a platform to kick off the tennis season in hundreds of markets throughout the United States."
Sampras, who began his professional career at the age of 16 in 1988, holds 14 Grand Slam singles titles, the most Wimbledon titles with seven, two Australian Open titles, five U.S. Open singles titles, and the record for the most number of weeks as world number one with a total of 286 weeks.
Sampras debuted in 1988 and played his last professional tournament in 2002 when he captured the U.S. Open, defeating longtime rival Andre Agassi in the finals. Sampras walked away with a total of 64 singles titles and a world number one ranking, which he held for a record six consecutive years from 1993-1998. Sampras was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 2007.
In addition to serving as the Tennis Night in America spokesman, Sampras will also play in the BNP Paribas Showdown. In 2011, the event will renew classic rivalries of the 1980s and 1990s, as John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl will compete in a one-set pro 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 Tour events.
Tennis Night in America began in 2009 and is a partnership between the USTA and StarGames, the co-promoter of the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden.
"We started Tennis Night in America as a promotional idea, and with the partnership of the USTA, it has grown into an exciting grassroots program to involve the broad tennis community," said Jerry Solomon, president and CEO of StarGames. "With Pete's support and involvement this year, the whole concept is taken to an even greater level. Pete has been an inspiration to so many tennis players, and we look forward to him spreading the message of the game on this special day."
The BNP Paribas Showdown is produced by StarGames and MSG Sports. Tickets will officially go on sale Sept. 27 at 10:00 a.m. and can be purchased at the Madison Square Garden box office and all Ticketmaster outlets. BNP Paribas Showdown information, including an opportunity to sign up for pre-sale alerts prior to tickets going on sale, can be found at www.tennisshowdown.com