LOS ANGELES, January 13, 2006 —
Top Australian’s Two-Year Deal Expands Field to Include
Two of Top Five, Six of Top 25 Singles Players in the World
Panasonic also Announced as Presenting Sponsor of Inaugural Las Vegas Event
The Tennis Channel Open – the ATP tournament owned and operated by The Tennis Channel – announced today that Lleyton Hewitt, Australia’s top-ranked tennis player, has signed a two-year commitment to play in the Las Vegas tournament, which this year takes place Feb. 27-March 5. The event will be held at the new Amanda & Stacy Darling Memorial Tennis Center.
The event also announced that Panasonic has signed a minimum two-year deal to be the presenting sponsor of the Tennis Channel Open. Beginning this year, the event will be known as “Panasonic presents the Tennis Channel Open.”
“We’re very serious about building an annual tournament that brings the best players in tennis to Las Vegas, and these multiyear commitments from both Hewitt and Panasonic keep us moving in the right direction,” said Steve Bellamy, president and founder, The Tennis Channel. “We’ve now got the fiercest competitor in tennis with Lleyton, the most explosive player in Andy Roddick, and incredible ball strikers like Fernando Verdasco, Fernando Gonzalez, Xavier Malisse, Tommy Haas and James Blake. We also have the two best grinders in tennis in Robbie Ginepri and Vince Spadea, and big serve-and-volley chops from the Bryan brothers, Mark Philippoussis and Max Mirnyi. It is an incredible mix of verve, artistry and athleticism.”
One of the most consistent performers and recognizable stars in professional tennis today, the 24-year-old Hewitt is the No. 4-ranked singles player on the ATP tour, and joins a top-25 tournament field that includes American players Andy Roddick (No. 3), Robby Ginepri (No. 16), and James Blake (No. 23), in addition to Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez (No. 11) and Spain’s Tommy Robredo (No. 19). US Open-winning twins Bob and Mike Bryan, the World No. 1 doubles team, are also committed to play at the event.
“(My wife Bec) and I are extremely excited to come to Las Vegas,” said Hewitt. “The Tennis Channel Open is the talk of locker rooms around the world. For an international series event, it already has one of the strongest player fields on the tour in just its first year. The players are all
extremely appreciative and confident in The Tennis Channel and I think coming to Las Vegas is a chance for them to show that confidence and appreciation.”
Adelaide-native Hewitt became the youngest qualifier in Australian Open history in 1997, at 15 years and 11 months, and quickly set about adding his name to the country’s long list of tennis legends. From November 2001 to November 2002 he became just the fourth player ever to maintain the World No. 1 ranking for every week during a calendar year (joining Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras), and is one of only seven players to finish two consecutive seasons at World No. 1. He won the 2001 US Open and 2002 Wimbledon titles, was a vital piece of Australia’s 1999 and 2003 Davis Cup championship teams, and has amassed 24 tournament trophies in his young career.
With a record of consistent performance and deep advances on tennis’ most pressure-filled stages, and a reputation for being a fierce, highly enthusiastic competitor, Hewitt is an unequivocal threat to win almost any tournament he enters. In 2005 he made it to the Australian Open final and the Wimbledon and US Open semifinals, the latter of which marked the fifth time in six years that he reached at least the final four of America’s pinnacle tennis event. Hewitt, who missed the French Open and entire 2005 clay-court season due to injury, has lost to the eventual tournament winner in each of his past seven Grand Slam events.
In addition to six of the top 25 players, the Tennis Channel Open will host Spain’s Fernando Verdasco (No. 31), Belarus’ Max Mirnyi (No. 33) and Belgium’s Xavier Malisse (No. 39). Other players include Britain’s rising-star Andy Murray, Australia’s 2003 Wimbledon-finalist Mark Philippoussis, 2004 American Olympic silver medalist Mardy Fish, and 2000 and 2004 American Olympian Vince Spadea.
As presenting sponsor of the Tennis Channel Open, Panasonic will be included in all event promotion and marketing endeavors.
“In the years to come, with the proliferation of high-definition television in the marketplace, more viewers are going to watch sporting events like this on a TV picture that’s clear and as close to the real thing as actually being there,” said Andrew Nelkin, vice president, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Co. “While all sports look better in hi-def, those who’ve watched it know tennis looks especially good. Panasonic makes the best hi-def television in the business, and it makes tremendous sense for us to associate with the Tennis Channel Open.”
Individual Tennis Channel Open tickets and ticket packages can be purchased at 888-TCO-TIXS (888-826-8497) or www.tennischannelopen.com. In the Las Vegas area, tennis fans can buy tickets at Station Casinos, Fiesta Properties, Galleria Mall and the Thomas & Mack Center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. UNLV Tickets is handling ticket sales for the tournament.
The Amanda & Stacy Darling Memorial Tennis Center is a new, state-of-the-art 40-acre complex with 23 courts, among them a 2,400-seat stadium court that will expand via bleachers to an approximately 3,500 seating capacity during the event. The grounds also include space for two additional, smaller stadium courts, which are currently being planned.
The Tennis Channel Open has been dubbed “Tennispalooza,” with the men’s competition serving as the centerpiece of a multifaceted gathering of events that focus on tennis and the lifestyle of its enthusiasts. Plans include men’s, women’s and juniors’ tournaments, surrounded by other events that feature amateur and professional tennis players. Founded in 1986, the ATP tournament was previously held in Scottsdale, Ariz., and has played host to most of the game’s greatest stars. The network held programming rights for three years prior to its acquisition of the event in 2005. In the 2005 Tennis Channel Open, Wayne Arthurs of Australia captured his first ATP singles championship by defeating Coatia’s Mario Ancic 7-5, 6-3 in the final.
The Tennis Channel (www.thetennischannel.com) is the only 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination dedicated to tennis and the healthy, active lifestyle that surrounds it. As the most concentrated single-sport network on television, the brand combines comprehensive sports coverage with health, fitness, pop culture, lifestyle and travel programming. Fifty-two week tournament telecast rights include the US Open Series, ATP Masters Series, top-tier Sony Ericsson WTA Tour championship competitions, Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, Fed Cup and Hyundai Hopman Cup, offering compelling coverage of the game’s most dramatic rivalries and energetic personalities.
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