Net Talk: Time to celebrate
World Tennis Day takes place today (Monday) - our Andy Schooler's Net Talk column explains what's happening.
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Today (Monday) is World Tennis Day - a time to celebrate the sport and take it to the masses.
The global event was first staged last year having been set up by the International Tennis Federation, with the help of promotional company, Star Games.
From Azerbaijan to Yemen, from Canada to Kiribati, its main aim is to increase participation with the ITF describing it as "an annual celebration of tennis around the world in which the ITF works with national associations to host events to promote participation in the sport.".
In practical terms, what will that mean?
Well, events are being organised in more than 70 countries - up on the 58 who took part last year.
In Melbourne, Tennis Australia opened up some of the Australian Open courts and invited the public to play for free.
The USTA, with the help of Great Britain's Fed Cup captain Judy Murray, staged what they hoped would be the world's biggest-ever tennis lesson yesterday - with it being a non-working day in many countries several events were held then - and hope to get their part in World Tennis Day entered into the Guinness Book of Records.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame will use the day to announce those it will enshrine later this year - former world number one Lindsay Davenport and legendary coach Nick Bollettieri are among those expected to make the cut.
Here in the UK, the LTA is focusing on the role tennis can play in education with an 'education festival' taking place at the National Tennis Centre at Roehampton where players across the young age groups - from pre-school to university - will hit the courts.
While those are just some examples of the grassroots events taking place - you may find more at your local club - perhaps the most visible presence of World Tennis Day will be in the staging of three 'showdown' events - one in Hong Kong, one in London and one in New York, which will feature some of the biggest names in tennis.
Lleyton Hewitt will play Tomas Berdych and Sam Stosur takes on Li Na at the Hong Kong Velodrome before attention turns to London - Earls Court to be precise - where two legends matches will see Pat Cash face Ivan Lendl before Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi renew their famous rivalry of the 90s.
But perhaps the marquee event of the day will be at New York's Madison Square Garden where Wimbledon champion Andy Murray takes on world number two Novak Djokovic. The New York event also sees the Bryan twins face the McEnroe brothers in a special doubles match.
All three 'showdown' events will be televised live in the UK by British Eurosport.
Whether you watch on TV or hit the court yourself, all in all it's a day to enjoy tennis - the organisers want you to do just that.
It's been a fine run from the Sporting Life tennis tipping team with my colleague Tim Clement having picked out Roger Federer (6/1) to win in Dubai, hot on the heels of backing Ernests Gulbis (6/1) in Marseille. Before that I'd landed Fabio Fognini (7/2) in Vina del Mar and selected Eugenie Bouchard to win Australian Open quarter at 66/1.
We're hoping the strong start to the season continues in Indian Wells - my preview of that event will be published on Wednesday so make sure you log on then.
Meanwhile, Federer is now a 7/1 shot for Wimbledon with our betting partner Sky Bet after continuing his strong start to the season with that Dubai win where he beat both Novak Djokovic (for the first time in 18 months) and Tomas Berdych. The price makes him fourth favourite to land the SW19 crown for a record-breaking eighth time.
Stat of the week
Roger Federer's success in Dubai brought him a 78th career title, taking him past John McEnroe on the all-time list. Only Ivan Lendl (94) and Jimmy Connors (109) are ahead of the Swiss in terms of titles won.
What you may have missed
The player auction for the new International Premier Tennis League was held with Andy Murray being sold to the Bangkok team - there will be just four teams involved this year, fewer than originally expected.
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray confirmed he will complete his preparations for this year's tournament at the BNP Paribas Classic at London's Hurlingham Club - just as he did prior to last season's historic triumph in SW19.
This week in tennis
Monday: World Tennis Day sees various events staged across the globe (see above).
Wednesday onwards: The BNP Paribas Open takes place in Indian Wells. The women's main draw starts on Wednesday; the men's on Thursday.
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