New York, NY, February 17, 2009 - The pairings for the two semifinal matches of the inaugural “BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup” have been set for the March 2 event at Madison Square Garden.
The 2008 year-end No. 1, Jelena Jankovic, the US Open finalist, is the top seed and will play Wimbledon Champion Venus Williams, who closed the year at No. 6. The other semifinal features 2008 US Open and 2009 Australian Open Champion Serena Williams, who finished 2008 No. 2 but has now regained the No. 1 spot, against French Open Champion Ana Ivanovic, who ended 2008 at No. 5. (Head-to-heads follow this release.)
Limited tickets are still available and can be purchased at the Madison Square Garden box office, all ticketmaster outlets and online at www.thegarden.com. The matches will be broadcast live on HBO beginning at 7:30 p.m. E.T. (4:30 p.m. P.T.).
Should Serena Williams win her semifinal, the “BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup” is assured of having a rematch of a 2008 Grand Slam championship for the final match at Madison Square Garden. Serena lost to her sister Venus in the 2008 Wimbledon final before coming to New York and defeating Jankovic for the US Open crown.
During a media teleconference last week, Venus Williams made it clear how she hopes the tournament plays out. “Of course, I’m hoping for an all Williams finals. I think that would be most exciting for us and hopefully for the fans too,” the older Williams sister said. “Obviously I do want to win, so I would love the cup to say Venus Williams. I don’t know if that’s greedy or not, you know wanting it over my own sister. But I can’t help it.”
In the unique format for the $1.2 million “BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup,” each participant will compete in a one set, no ad scoring semi-final with the winners advancing to a best of three set final (regular scoring) for the Billie Jean King Cup.
The March 2 event marks the return of women’s tennis to Madison Square Garden and the return of the sport to HBO. On the heels of last spring’s sold out Pete Sampras/Roger Federer extravaganza, women’s tennis returns for the first time since 2000 when Martina Hingis defeated Monica Seles in the WTA Championships. The Garden hosted the WTA season-ending tournament every year but one between 1977 and 2000. This event will mark the return of professional tennis to HBO. For 25 consecutive years, beginning in 1975, HBO was the exclusive cable network home of the Wimbledon championships.
The pairings for the semifinal matches were determined by using the 2008 year-end rankings and having the highest ranked player take on the lowest ranked, then assigning the two remaining players to play each other. The order of play for these semifinals on March 2 will be announced at a later date.
Serena Williams has already earned the first invitation to the 2010 “BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup” by virtue of her win at the 2009 Australian Open. The winners of the remaining three Grand Slam events in 2009 will also be invited to participate in the 2010 event at Madison Square Garden.
The “BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup”, the featured component of the national “Tennis Night in America” promotion, is produced by StarGames and Madison Square Garden. The event will benefit the Dream Vaccines Foundation and Women’s Sports Foundation.
In partnership with the USTA, the national governing body for the sport of tennis in the U.S., more than 700 tennis facilities, parks and community centers across the country will host the first-ever national youth registration initiative for spring and summer tennis programs. Along with demonstrations for kids and parents, Monday, March 2 will celebrate “Tennis Night in America.” National Youth Registration Night events serve as a great night for parents to sign-up their children for league and team tennis play, including USTA Jr. Team Tennis.