Top 10 publicity stunts in tennis.
Roger Federer and Andre Agassi have a hit on a helipad
As far as statements go, not many come bigger and better than this. In 2005, prior to the Dubai Open, the Burj Al Arab Hotel, situated on Dubai’s man-made Palm Islands, set up a tennis court on its helipad, 200 metres in the air. Photos of Federer and Agassi playing tennis on the court circulated worldwide, including a couple of the American looking over the edge at balls the Swiss was hitting off the suspended platform. The match was short-lived; the two players soon exhausted the Burj Al Arab’s ball supply. “This was an absolutely amazing experience. I had no issues with the height as long as I didn’t have to bungee jump off the side,” Agassi said.
Models for ballgirls
Ion Tiriac is arguably the king of the publicity stunt. What could light up a tennis tournament more than the world’s elite battling it out? Tiriac soon found an answer to that one – oust the traditional ball kid and employ supermodels, wearing revealing clothing, to gather up and deliver balls to the players instead. Controversial maybe, but it got the reaction Tiriac had hoped it would, and the girls seemed to enjoy it too: “It’s been really exciting to be involved with sport. It’s nice not having to wear heels too,” one ballgirl said.
Madrid’s blue clay.
Once the model ballgirls become part of the furniture and no one blinks an eye (ok, maybe a small glance now and then) anymore, it’s time for Mr Tiriac to hit the world of tennis with another controversial change in Madrid. Tiriac claims it will play exactly the same as red clay, but improve visibility of the ball for the armchair viewer. Early reports suggest that the blue clay does not bounce as high as its older red sibling, and the only thing that it offers to the players is thoughts of Smurfs. Ivo Karlovic tweeted: “Ha! Blue clay… It looks like something Smurfs would play on.”
Victoria Azarenka tries her hand at cage-fighting.
The world no 1 traded the practice courts of Miami for the UFC training gym earlier this year. Azarenka met with former light-heavyweight champion Rashad Evans and both took a break from their normal training regimes to provide some action shots for the cameras. The Belarusian impressed Evans with her skills and knowledge of the sport: “I can tell she’s genuinely interested in MMA – there were times when she really looked like she knew what she was doing.”
Andy Murray stands on top of the Dome.
Before the first Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, Murray stood on top of the O2 in Greenwich. Snaps of Murray serving an imaginary ball off the ‘Millennium Dome’ were posted across the world as promotion for the revamped tournament.
Pacific Life, an insurance company which used to sponsor the Indian Wells Masters 1000 tournament, produced an advert in 2003 showing Mark Philippoussis and Tommy Haas battling it out under water. Tommy Haas wins the aquatic point with a Sampras-esque smash.
Novak Djokovic goes wing-walking.
Is there anything the world no 1 isn’t capable of doing? This advertisement for Head, the manufacturer of Djokovic’s rackets, saw the Serb practicing his volleys while on the wings of an in-flight biplane. Djokovic said of his stunt: “I have already played on all surfaces in almost every continent, and now I have played in the air.”
Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal play at the palace in Monaco.
To promote the Monte Carlo Masters 2009, two of the ‘big four’ played a short exhibition match on a half-sized court in the grounds of the palace. Hundreds of spectators gathered to see the changing of the guard and were pleasantly surprised to see the exhibition taking place. Prince Albert II, an avid tennis fan himself, was there to watch.
Andy Murray and the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders.
The Scot, who owns a house in Miami and spends his off season there, visited his local NFL team before the 2009 Sony Ericsson Open. The encouragement from the cheerleaders paid dividends for Murray, as he beat Novak Djokovic in the final 6-2, 7-5.
Roger Federer’s trickshot.
We all know that Federer has produced genius-like shots within the smallest of margins many times, but this one is up there with the best. Shooting an advert for Gillette in 2010, Federer was filmed aiming to knock a bottle off a crew member’s head with a serve. He succeeded (of course he did); twice. The video went viral and there have been many recreations, including Andy Murray’s attempt on the quiz show ‘A League of Their Own’. Is it a trick of the camera or is it just another jaw-dropping example of what David Foster Wallace described as a ‘Federer moment’ in his piece ‘Roger Federer as Religious Experience’? Federer has never let on.