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GREATEST MEN'S MATCHES/MONENTS AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

What do you think of this list? Where does Federer-Sampras rate?

The following is a summary of some of the other high-profile, memorable tennis exhibitions that have been held at Madison Square Garden and some of the highlights from the Masters at the world’s most famous arena taken from the upcoming books THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS and ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY, both published by New Chapter Press (www.newchaperpressmedia.com).


February 18, 1931 – Bill Tilden made his long-awaited debut as a professional in the midst of The Great Depression. As co-promoter of his tour with entrepreneur William O'Brien, Tilden opened against Czech Karel Kozeluh at Madison Square Garden on February 18 before a crowd of 13,000 paying $36,000. Tilden won, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, then ran off 16 straight victories and went on to beat Kozeluh before big galleries at almost every stop (27-6) of a cross-country tour that grossed $238,000.

January 10, 1934 - The pro tour needed some new blood and got it with the arrival of Ellsworth Vines. With much fanfare before a Madison Square Garden crowd of 14,637 (said to the largest crowd in tennis at the time), the 23-year-old made his debut against Bill Tilden, 41. The match grossed $30,125 and Tilden won, 8-6, 6-3, 6-2.

January 3, 1939 – New York’s Madison Square Garden is the scene of the professional debut of Don Budge, fresh off winning the first “Grand Slam” of tennis in 1938, as he defeats Ellsworth Vines 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and two minutes. Wrote Allison Danzig of The New York Times, “The invincibility associated with the name of Donald Budge as the world’s foremost amateur tennis player for the past two years was reaffirmed last night with the first appearance in the role of a professional at Madison Square Garden. In the presence of a capacity gathering of 16, 725 spectators who paid $47, 120, the red-headed giant from Oakland, Calif., the only player in history to make a grand slam of the world’s four major tennis titles, administered a crushing defeat to Ellsworth Vines of Pasadena, Calif., the recognized professional champion.”

December 26, 1947 - Jack Kramer makes his pro debut at Madison Square Garden against Bobby Riggs as a blizzard hits New York. With taxis, buses and commuter trains and private cars stalled and subways limping, 15,114 fans came to the arena on Eighth Avenue and 50th street. Riggs spoils the debut of Kramer, winning 6-2, 10-8, 4-6, 6-4. Wrote Lincoln Werden of The New York Times, “The former amateur king pin piled up error after error throughout and indications that he lacked complete poise and control brought an occasional reassuring cry from the fans ‘Come On Jackie.’”

Some moments and matches from the Masters at MSG

1978 – A crowd of 18,590 – the biggest crowd to ever watch at match at the time in the United States - watch a rematch of the US Open men’s singles final from nearly four months earlier as Guillermo Vilas again defeats Jimmy Connors 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in round robin play at the Masters Championships at Madison Square Garden.

1979 – Nineteen-year-old John McEnroe saves two match points and defeats 35-year-old Arthur Ashe 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-5 in two hours and 34 minutes to win the first of his three year-end Masters Championships at Madison Square Garden. Ashe held a 4-1 lead in the final set and held double match point with McEnroe serving at 4-5, 15-40, but is unable to hold on. Ashe’s praised McEnroe following the match stating, “The situation calls for a certain kind of challenge and he met it. What he had to do was compose himself and find out why he was winning and change his game if he was losing. That may be difficult for a 19-year-old who’s had coaching all of his life.”

1980 – In what Washington Post tennis writer Barry Lorge called” a tennis match for all seasons” Bjorn Borg defeated Jimmy Connors 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) in the $400,000 Colgate Grand Prix Masters at Madison Square Garden. Connors trailed Borg 2-5 in the 74-minute final-set, before furiously fighting back to force the third set tiebreak. Wrote Lorge, “This was tennis and drama of the highest order, its fierce intensity and shifting fortunes more than making up for a few patches of ragged play. In the end, it was marked by the quality that has set the best Borg-Connors confrontations above all others of the modern era in tennis. The combativeness was palpable, the sustained pace and boldness of the shotmaking extraordinary. Each man made spectacular shots in turn, and ultimately every point became a war. As the tide swung from Connors to Borg to Connors and eventually back to the glacial Swede, the vocal crowd of 16,753 at Madison Square Garden took to screaming on every point, creating an electric atmosphere.” The 2-hour 38-minute Borg-Connors match was played on the second day of round-robin play and the year-end championships for the 1979 season.

1980 – Bjorn Borg finally wins in New York – as two-time US Open runner-up wins the Masters Championship at Madison Square Garden, defeating Vitas Gerulaitis 6-2, 6-2 in the championhip match. “I wanted to win a tournament here for a long time,” said Borg, who would lose two more US Open finals in his career.

1981 – After defeating Gene Mayer 6-3, 6-4 to reach the singles final of the Volvo Grand Prix Masters, Ivan Lendl denies charges from Jimmy Connors that he tanked his final round-robin match to ensure a better semifinal match-up in the year-end championships. In a match that concluded 18 minutes after midnight earlier in the day, Connors calls Lendl “a chicken” for allegedly not trying in the second set of his 7-6, 6-1 victory. With both players having already qualified for the semifinals with 2-0 round robin records, the semifinal pairings hinged on the winner and loser of the Connors-Lendl match. The loser of the match would face Gene Mayer, while the winner would draw Wimbledon and French Open champion Bjorn Borg. Wrote Barry Lorge of the Washington Post, “Given those circumstances, the result of an unfortunate flaw in the hybrid round-robin-knockout Masters format, there was every temptation for a player to deliberately lose, and play Mayer rather than Borg. Since the loser would be due back on court in less than 13 hours, there was also incentive for the man who lost the first set to lose the second quickly.” Lendl would lose the second set to Connors in 18 minutes, winning only 10 points and, according to Lorge, rushing the net “suicidally.” "I think he's a chicken,” said Connors. “No matter what happens, you're supposed to try your hardest on every point." Asked his reaction to Connors calling him "a chicken," Lendl said: "That can be his opinion. If he thinks I didn't try, it is better that he says that, and doesn't say he thinks I tried. It is his opinion. Everybody is entitled to his opinion . . . I understand how somebody can say I did, but I say I didn't." Connors would lose to Borg in a highly intense semifinal by a 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 margin.

1982 – Trailing two-sets-to-love and down match point in the third set tiebreak, Ivan Lendl stages one of the great comebacks in the history of the Masters Championships, defeating Vitas Gerulaitis 6-7, 2-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the 3-hour and 52-minute final at Madison Square Garden.

1983 – Ivan Lendl routs John McEnroe 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to win the Volvo Masters Championships at Madison Square Garden for the second straight year. After defeating McEnroe for a seventh straight time, Lendl collected $100,000, raising his earnings for the 1982 season to $2,028,850, a men's record. For 1982, with the Masters as the season-ending event, the 22-year-old Lendl's singles log was 107 victories and only nine defeats. Although raised as a clay-court player in Czechoslovakia, he has not lost an indoor singles match since April 1981, a string that now spans 59 consecutive matches. When asked what surface he felt would be his best against Lendl, McEnroe said grass. Then, suggesting his current problems, he added, ''At this point, maybe mud.''

1984 – John McEnroe defeats Ivan Lendl 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to win the Masters at Madison Square Garden for a second time in front of a crowd of 18, 253. Said McEnroe, “I wanted to make sure that he felt the pressure was on him. I think I did a good job of it.” Said Lendl, “That was one of the best, if not the best, he has played against me. All I can really say is that John played very well and deserved to win.”

1985 – John McEnroe wins his third Masters singles title, defeating Ivan Lendl 7-5, 6-0, 6-4 in the final at Madison Square Garden. Said Lendl of McEnroe, “I would say that he played very well. Unfortunately, I’ve seen him play very well many times.” The only hiccup in the match came with McEnroe serving for the first set at 6-5 and, while bouncing balls off his racquet while waiting for photographers to settle down in their courtside positions, he bounces one of the balls higher than anticipated that hits his eye and requires McEnroe to engage in a three-minute injury time-out. Said McEnroe, “I couldn’t see for a couple of minutes. I’ve hit myself before never when it hurt that way.”

1986 – Ivan Lendl defeats a diving, rolling and tumbling Boris Becker 6-2, 7-6 (1), 6-3 in the final of the Masters tennis championships in front of 16,227 fans at Madison Square Garden.in New York. Said Becker of his opponent after the match, “Ivan Lendl is the best tennis player in the world."

1988 – A back-hand let cord winner after a 37-ball rally is all that separates Boris Becker from Ivan Lendl in an epic final at the Nabisco Masters in front of 17,792 fans at Madison Square Garden in New York. In arguably, one of the greatest matches in the sport, Becker defeats the world No. 1 5-7, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5) in four hours and 42 minutes, with Becker clinching victory when his backhand crawls over the top of the net to conclude the fifth-set tiebreak. Said Lendl of the let-cord winner to lose the match, "What can you do? It's just heartbreaking, but there's nothing you can do about it." Said Becker, ''At the end, I was just playing,'' Becker said. ''I didn't even know the score. This tournament,'' Becker said, ''has a lot to do with prestige and pride. Beating Ivan in the final gives me even more satisfaction. I am playing the very best tennis of my life.''

1989 – After a 13-year stint at Madison Square Garden, the year-end Nabisco Masters stages its final match at the world’s most famous arena as Stefan Edberg defeats Boris Becker 4-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-1 to win the year-end championship in men’s tennis. Edberg lost major singles finals at the French Open and Wimbledon and held a 1-6 record in finals entering his match with Beckler. “I’ve been waiting for this one. It is something I really needed. I’m going to start believing in myself, and that’s something I needed to do because I know I’ve got the game and the talent to challenge for the No. 1 spot.”
 

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Forum Umpire:, Gaston Gaudio,
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Wrestlemania 1 at Madison Square Garden was more prestigious than Fedclown and Sampras.
 

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It was an exhibition, and a pretty ugly one at that. I don't know how history will remember it, but I plan to put it out of my memory as soon as possible.
 

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Bud Collins was probably there for some of those matches in the thirties. :rolleyes:
 

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I watched the last set during dinner, I wouldn't mind it at all if they were playing some re-run of a soap opera instead.

Comparing an exhibition with the 1980 TMC is beyond hilarious.
 

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Two bums fighting over a dollar bill is more interesting than an exhibition.
 
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