Former pros serving up brand-new tennis event at Barclays Center • Brooklyn Paper

Former pros serving up brand-new tennis event at Barclays Center

Fan focused: Former tennis pro James Blake will compete in the PowerShares QQQ Cup at Barclays Center on Jan. 7, a chance for big-name stars to put on a show in front of fans.
Bruce Ely

They’re hoping to put on an ace of a performance.

Former pro tennis player James Blake is set to take to the Barclays Center court on Jan. 7 — joined by fellow stars Andy Roddick, John McEnroe, and Jim Courier — for the PowerShares QQQ Cup, the first-ever tennis event at the arena. Blake grew up watching the sport in New York and, now he’s anxious to bring the sport to Brooklyn.

“When the opportunity came to do it in a sort of unique environment at Barclays Center, where none of us have ever played tennis before, I jumped at it,” Blake said. “It’s definitely special for us to get there.”

The one-night event will pit Blake against Roddick in one semifinal and McEnroe against Courier in the other. The winners of each match will go head to head later that night. None of the stars may be able to turn off their competitive gene completely, but events like this allow them to showcase a bit more of their personality.

“It’s a different feeling because the crowd can see a bit more of your personality,” Blake said. “Everything in our life isn’t really tailored towards our tennis career, so people can see we’re going to have fun. We can talk to the crowd, we can interact, we can make fun of each other — and that’s something we’d never do on the main tour.”

The last competitive tennis match in Brooklyn was in 1935 — when the Terrace Club hosted the U.S. Pro Tennis Championships — and prior to that, the second-ever Davis Cup was played at the Crescent Athletic Club in August of 1902. Blake hopes that events like these can help spread interest in tennis across the city — not just for two weeks during the US Open.

“I’ve been on this tour for a couple of years and I’ve seen it grow and I’ve seen its impact,” he said. “I loved that feeling, and I hope we can gain that sort of excitement and enthusiasm when we bring it to Brooklyn. We can get another fun event in New York.”

Blake doesn’t plan on changing his approach at all during the event. He’s still a tennis player at heart and he wants to win whenever he has a racquet in his hand — particularly when his family is in the crowd.

“My family is going to come with me for this one,” Blake said. “We live out on the west coast, but they’re going to come with me and my kids will get an opportunity to watch their dad play.”

Blake has competed across the world, but he’s excited to play at Barclays Center, anxious to get onto the court, and most importantly, make a little bit of history. There have been plenty of big names who have left their mark on the arena and Blake is hoping to add to that list. It’s not the US Open, but he still wants to compete.

“I went to a Jay Z concert there and you think of some of the people who played there and you don’t want to embarrass yourself,” Blake said. “You want to put on a good show at a big arena and make sure that the fans get that. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

PowerShares QQQ Cup at Barclays Center [620 Atlantic Ave. at Flatbush Ave. in Prospect Heights, www.barclayscenter.com]. Jan. 7 at 7 pm. $35–$130.

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