Royal Albert Hall

The Five Best Tennis Venues in the World

With just a few weeks to go until the beginning of one of the most prestigious events on the Grand Slam Calendar, Wimbledon, we’re all thinking about booking tickets to go and get a glimpse at our favourite stars taking to the courts.

For many of these events, the location is as exciting as the tournament itself. If you can only afford to hit one tennis venue in your lifetime, make sure it is one of these, which offer world class hospitality and entertainment like no other.

Montecasino, Johannesburg

Up until 2011, the South African Tennis Open would take place every February at the Montecasino Entertainment Complex in Johannesburg. It’s something of an interesting choice of venue for sports fans, but when we consider the betting element involved in many of today’s sports, it makes perfect sense that spectators would want to go and be a little frivolous in the casino on site. Of course, times have changed since 2011 – with cashback offers available from online competitors, many people are now turning away from the humble brick and mortar casino. This could be just one of the many reasons that the SA Tennis Open ended, but nevertheless, its stunning location will be remembered.

Court Central, Monte Carlo Country Club

Nothing quite says luxury like the Court Central at the Monte Carlo Country Club. As another region which offers a number of decadent pursuits including gambling, Monte Carlo attracts a certain kind of clientele – so anyone wishing to rub shoulders with the elite would be advised to brush up on their Ps and Qs first. Home to the Monte Carlo Masters, this gorgeous location offers a backdrop of rocky Provence hills and stunning views of the Mediterranean.

Foro Italico, Rome

For those who want to take a step back in time, look no further than Rome’s Foro Italico. Home to the Italian Open, this venue takes spectators away from the run of the mill modern tennis stadiums and replaces it with authentic Roman architecture. Viewers will feel as if they are in a real gladiator stadium, surrounded by a plethora of marble statues of naked athletes. With seating for 12,500, this amphitheatre is impressive beyond belief.

Royal Albert Hall, London

This is one venue that we would not usually associate with sports, but the Royal Albert Hall, usually home to concerts, ballets and operas, has also played host to many prestigious tennis events in the past. Located in the museum quarter of central London, it witnessed its first tennis match back in 1970 and today sees tennis stars from around the world coming to compete in the ATP Champions Tour Masters.

Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena, Shanghai

Head over to China’s Shanghai if you are less interested in tennis and are keener on stunning architecture. To mark the city’s official flower, the Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena in Shanghai features a steel roof which has eight sliding petal-shaped pieces, mimicking a magnolia in full bloom. Of course, this 15,000 seat stadium offers more than just a beautiful bird’s eye view – not only is it the hosting place of the Shanghai Masters, but also a variety of basketball, volleyball, ping pong and gymnastics events.

Philippoussis To Make ATP Champions Debut In London

Former Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis is to return to the city that he so nearly conquered when he plays in the AEGON Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall in London, December 1-6.

Philippoussis, who also reached the final of the US Open during his career, will be making his debut on the ATP Champions Tour when he lines up alongside fellow grass-court greats Goran Ivanisevic, Pat Rafter and Stefan Edberg at the season-ending event. For Philippoussis, who beat Andre Agassi on his way to the 2003 Wimbledon final before losing to Roger Federer, it will be an opportunity to renew rivalries and rekindle his relationship with the British public.

“I get goosebumps every time I go to the UK because of the British crowds,” said Philippoussis, who is universally known as ‘Scud’ for the power of his serve.

“The British fans are incredible – they have such a great appreciation for tennis. I’ve always enjoyed a lot of support from them and I hope they are looking forward to seeing me again. I certainly can’t wait.”

Philippoussis has visited the Royal Albert Hall once before back in 2006 when he played a charity exhibition match against Tim Henman, and the Australian is looking forward to experiencing the world’s most unique tennis court for a second time.

“I really can’t wait to play at the Royal Albert Hall again,” he said. “It is one of the prettiest tennis venues I have ever seen, it really is gorgeous. It’s perfect in terms of how close the crowd is to you when you’re playing and the atmosphere that creates.”

Philippoussis will join an eight-man singles line-up that already includes the 2001 Wimbledon Champion Ivanisevic, former World Number One Edberg and two-time Wimbledon finalist Rafter. The AEGON Masters Tennis could give Philippoussis the chance for revenge against Rafter, who beat him in the final of the US Open in 1998.

“I’m so looking forward to seeing all the guys again,” said Philippoussis.

“The line-up is really amazing so every match should be good. I’d love to play against Edberg, and I’m looking forward to seeing Goran again because he’s just a great guy. Then obviously Pat’s a fellow Aussie, so it should be great fun. I just can’t wait to get down there and get out on court.”

The AEGON Masters Tennis runs from the 1st to the 6th of December at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The tournament uses a round-robin format, with all players playing at least three matches each. Each day of the tournament, except the final Sunday, features two sessions – an afternoon session starting at 1pm and an evening session starting at 7.30pm. All sessions will feature a combination of singles and doubles matches. The event is the final tournament in 2009 on the ATP Champions Tour – a circuit of former World Number One tennis players, Grand Slam singles finalists and Davis Cup winners.

For more information, visit: http://www.aegonmasterstennis.com/

For tickets, go to: http://www.aegonmasterstennis.com/tickets.asp

Pete Sampras Joins The BlackRock Tour of Champions

Pete Sampras has given a huge boost to the BlackRock Tour of Champions by announcing that he is to join the circuit of former World No.1’s, Grand Slam finalists and Davis cup winners in 2008.

Sampras, who won seven Wimbledon titles and ended six successive years as the World No.1, will play two tournaments in his first year – the Grand Champions Brasil in Sao Paulo next month (21-24 May), and the BlackRock Masters Tennis event (2-7 December) at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England.

The trip to Sao Paulo will be the first time he has visited South America, and the BlackRock Masters Tennis event will mark his first journey to England since his last Wimbledon appearance in 2002. In an exclusive video interview on the BlackRock Tour of Champions website, Bjorn Borg welcomes Sampras to the Tour, and Sampras says:

“It’s still fun for me to compete, it’s still a challenge and I still want to hold that trophy up at the end. Today, or 10 years from now, if I’m on the tennis court, I’ll still want to play well and win. When you’re out there, even though it’s now a different sort of arena, you want to win.”

To see the full interviews, click here: http://www.30love.net/#openVideo-YmxhY2tyb2NrX3RvdXJfb2ZfY2hhbXBpb25zLjEyMDgyNzE2NjMzNzM=

Nuala Walsh, Head of International Marketing at BlackRock commented:

“We are delighted that Pete Sampras will be joining the BlackRockTour of Champions. The Tour gives tennis fans a wonderful opportunity to see some of the world’s greatest tennis legends in action again. With tournaments taking place across so many countries in which BlackRock operates, this is also a great way for us to entertain our clients globally.”

Sampras Finds Perfect Balance

Sampras, 36, retired from the ATP circuit in glorious fashion in 2002, winning the US Open, his 14th and final Grand Slam title. It set a record that still stands today. Upon retirement, the American took a step away from the sport.

“Tennis had been such a big focus in my life and for a while it was great to be away from the sport and I loved it,” he said.

“I was playing golf and having fun, but after two or three years I started to get a little bored and a little bit restless. There’s no book on retirement, especially at 31 years old. Initially you love it but after a while you need something to do. I have two kids – a five-year-old, Christian, and a 2-year-old, Ryan, and it has been a lot of fun to see them grow and spend time with them. But, at the same time I feel like a man should work, maybe I’m a little old-fashioned. It took me a while to get to the realisation that I would like to play again and get back into the sport. When I was 26, I never thought I would want to play Champions tennis. But, as time goes on, when you’re playing golf, taking some trips here and there and maybe putting on a little bit of weight, you just kind of feel a little bit unfulfilled as a man. That’s how I felt.”

It didn’t take long for Sampras to re-discover his fitness, form and desire to play and he is now looking forward to the unique blend of fun and competition to be found on the BlackRock Tour of Champions.

“It’s definitely going to be a lot more relaxed,” said Sampras.

“I used to be so focussed that I would just see the hotel and the courts and that was it. I had the feeling that I was expected to win and then there was all the pressure that I put on myself. Today, I still want to play well and still want to win but if I don’t it’s not the end of the world. It’s a totally different feel. I was pretty serious when I played but now I’m a little more relaxed. At the same time, people do want to see competitive tennis, they want to see the real deal. The crowd still want to see me serve and volley the way I used to and pull off my shots, but with a slightly lighter atmosphere.”

Sao Paulo and London

Having never previously been to South America, Sampras is excited at the prospect of visiting Sao Paulo.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about Sao Paolo but I’ve never been there, so I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

“It’s a different culture and I was just thinking the other day that I used to go somewhere and not even care about the city or its history but now I’ll go there and maybe have a few days off to see some sights, something I wouldn’t have done back then. I’m still there to win though, and I’ll be focussed to put on a good show.

Sampras hasn’t been to the United Kingdom since his disappointing last Wimbledon in 2002 when he lost to George Bastl in the second round. The chance to go back and play at the Royal Albert Hall is something he couldn’t resist, particularly after sampling the venue for the first time almost 20 years ago in the World Championship Doubles.

“I remember it being a great arena,” he said.

“You could hear the glasses during the points with all the people drinking champagne, and everyone in their tuxedos. They really live it up there, so I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t been back to London since my last Wimbledon, which was a bit of a nightmare. I hear a lot of good things about the event in London and the stadium and the exposure it brings. So I’m excited and pretty pumped up about it. I hear the people there really support it and so I’m excited to go back and play a little tennis for them.”

The next event on the BlackRock Tour of Champions is the Seat Champions Cup which takes place in Barcelona from Thursday until Sunday. The Tour will then move onto the Foro Italico in Rome over the weekend of the 10th and 11th May, and then the BlackRock Tennis Classic at the Rothenbaum Club in Hamburg, 14-18 May.

The Tour opened in Belfast in February with Anders Jarryd successfully defending his title.

The BlackRock Tour of Champions Calendar 2008

Belfast, Northern Ireland – February 21-24 (Tennis Legends)

Champion: Anders Jarryd; Runner-up: Mikael Pernfors

Barcelona, Spain – April 24-27 (Champions Cup ’08)

Rome, Italy – May 10-11

Hamburg, Germany – May 14-17 (BlackRock Tennis Classic)

Sao Paulo, Brazil – May 21-24 (Grand Champions Brasil)

Istanbul, Turkey – July 17-20

Graz, Austria – July 29-August 2 (s Tennis Masters)

Algarve, Portugal – August 5-8 (Vale do Lobo Grand Champions CGD)

Paris, France – September 18-21 (5e Trophée Jean-Luc Lagardère)

Luxembourg, Luxembourg – September 25-28

Eindhoven, Netherlands – October 2-5 (AFAS Tennis Classics)

Budapest, Hungary – October 9-12

Frankfurt, Germany – November 13-16 (klarmobil.de Champions Trophy)

Brussels, Belgium – November 20-23

London, UK – December 2-7 (BlackRock Masters Tennis)

SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS 2008 TOUR OF CHAMPIONS RANKINGS

POS. PLAYER PTS

1. Anders Jarryd 400

2. Mikael Pernfors 250

3. Chris Wilkinson (WC) 200

4. Jeremy Bates (WC) 125

5. John McEnroe 80

6. Pat Cash 80

7. Bjorn Borg 60

8. Henri Leconte 60

WC denotes Wild Card.

OTHER INFO

BlackRock is a premier provider of global investment management, riskmanagement and advisory services to clients around the world. The rebrand from the Merrill Lynch Tour of Champions to the new BlackRock Tour of Champions,

stemmed from the merger between BlackRock and Merrill Lynch Investment Managers on the 29th September 2006. This merger united the predominantly US fixed income institutional heritage of BlackRock with that of Merrill Lynch

Investment Managers’ award-winning global retail equity franchise.

BlackRock is one of the world’s largest publicly traded investment management firms. At December 31, 2007, BlackRock’s assets under management (AUM) was US$1.357 trillion. The firm manages assets on behalf of institutions and individuals worldwide through a variety of equity, fixed income, cash management and alternative investment products. In addition, a growing number of institutional investors use BlackRock Solutions(r) investment system, risk management and financial advisory services. Headquartered in New York City, as of December 31, 2007, the firm has approximately 5,500 employees in 19 countries and a major presence in key global markets, including the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. For additional information, please visit the Company’s website at www.blackrock.com.

South Africa’s international flagship airline and the continent’s most awarded carrier, South African Airways is the official airline of the BlackRock Tour of Champions. Its modern fleet features a comfortable Economy Class cabin recently reconfigured for extra legroom and a Premium Business Class cabin featuring the airline’s award-winning, lie-flat seat. Complimentary South African wines, inspired cuisine and personal on-demand entertainment for all travellers make the trip to Africa fly by. Built on a venerable 72-year history of bringing the world to Africa and taking Africa to the world, the airline’s network is unsurpassed on the continent – connecting travellers to more than 20 destinations within South Africa and more than 20 cities across Africa. As a recent member to the worldwide Star Alliance, South African Airways is now able to offer its customers 852 destinations in 152 countries and more than 15,500 flights daily.

For the Latest News, Features and Updates from the BlackRock Tour of Champions: www.blackrocktourofchampions.com and for further information:

www.blackrockinternational.com/tourofchampions