Schwartz: A Tennis Event Grows In Brooklyn

Since opening its doors in 2012, Barclays Center has had its share of landmark events.

Jay Z opened the building with eight sold out concerts.

The Nets followed by bringing major professional sports back to Brooklyn for the first time since 1957.

And NHL hockey came to Brooklyn in 2015, when the Islanders moved to Barclays Center after 43 years at Nassau Coliseum.

There has also been boxing, wrestling, and a host of other events.

But there’s never been a tennis match at the venue. But that will change on Jan. 7, when former stars John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Andy Roddick and James Blake compete in the PowerShares QQQ Cup, a unique one-night tournament that will be an entertaining evening for tennis fans.

The event not only marks the arena’s first tennis event, but it’s also the first to come to Brooklyn in quite some time. Brooklyn hosted the U.S. Pro Tennis Championships at the Terrace Club in 1935. Prior to that, the second ever Davis Cup was played in Brooklyn at the Crescent Athletic Club in August of 1902.

And now tennis comes to Barclays Center for the first time.

“We’re proud about the diversity of events that we bring to the building on a consistent basis,” said Keith Sheldon, senior VP of programming for Barclays Center. “This is one that we’re particularly proud of … bringing tennis back to the borough for the first time in the modern era. To bring a major tennis event with the caliber of athletes that are participating … we’re thrilled.”

The event gets underway at 7 p.m. and will be comprised of three one-set matches, with Roddick battling Blake in the first “semifinal.”
“We’ve played each other so many times,” Blake told WFAN.com. “There are no secrets. We know how we want to try and play each other. We’ll slug it out and compete hard. As many times as we’ve played each other, we never played each other in the US Open, so this is the first time that we’ll get to play each other in New York.”

The Blake/Roddick match will be followed by the second “semifinal” pitting McEnroe against Courier. McEnroe, who grew up in Douglaston and still resides in New York, is beloved by so many tennis fans, not only for what he did on the court but also because of his broadcasting work and his tennis academy that trains so many quality young players.

“He’s a great ambassador for the sport worldwide,” Sheldon said. “Obviously, tennis fans see him on TV on a very consistent basis.”

The winners of the two matches will then square off in the “final.” While the competitive juices will be flowing, the participants are looking forward to having some fun during their time on the court. The days of these guys playing best-of-five-set matches are over, but an event like this should be entertaining, and you might even get a “you cannot be serious!” out of McEnroe.

“We’re not in the same shape that we used to be in but you get to see us play and we’re still pretty darn competitive for a set at a time,” Blake said. “You’ll probably see some excitement out of John McEnroe, whether it be good or bad. It’s just a different atmosphere. I like Andy, Jim, and John so much and it’s always fun to play with them and then you add that enthusiasm. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The event will present a different experience for the New York tennis fan. While the US Open in Flushing Meadows is arguably the marquee event on the tour, getting an opportunity to see these four players in this type of setting is unique, especially in a building that has been very fan friendly for the Nets, Islanders, boxing, and other events.

“I think this tennis event will be absolutely no different,” Sheldon said. “New Yorkers have a rich tennis tradition. They’re some of the best fans in the world and having them coming out to Barclays Center and showcasing the great talent that we have on the court is going to be fantastic.”

There’s nothing quite like the New York sports fan and the same holds true when it comes to tennis. Anyone who has ever been to the US Open can attest that the fans are always very enthusiastic and the players not only can sense that but they feed off of it.

“I’m really excited to come back to New York,” Blake said. “I love the atmosphere and the feeling of New York and then to be in Brooklyn, hopefully to bring the energy and excitement to Brooklyn. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

There have been some other opportunities for Barclays Center to host tennis events since the building opened, but they just didn’t seem to be the right fit. But when the opportunity was there to host the PowerShares QQQ Cup, arena management jumped at the chance.

“There have always been some smaller opportunities floating out there,” Sheldon said. “But we like to say that we’re in the big event business and this event certainly suits that moniker. It’s an exciting thing for us and we’re happy that this is our first tennis event in the building.”

With names like McEnroe, Roddick, Blake and Courier, the first tennis event in Barclays Center figures to be a memorable night on Atlantic Avenue for New York-area tennis fans. For more information on the event, please click here.