Serena Williams, the Billie Jean King Cup’s defending champion, has withdrawn from the upcoming BNP Paribas Showdown, scheduled for Monday, March 1, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Williams, who qualified for the Showdown based on her 2009 victories at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon, has withdrawn due to a leg injury sustained during her recent run to the Australian Open Championships. This injury has also forced Williams out of WTA events in Paris and Dubai. Former French Open Champion, Ana Ivanovic has been added to round out the field. Only current and former Grand Slam champions or year ending World No. 1 ranked players are eligible for the one night event.
"I'm very disappointed I won't be able to compete in the Billie Jean King Cup this year,” said Williams. “I loved playing in this event last year and was really looking forward to returning to New York and Madison Square Garden. Unfortunately I am still recovering from my leg injury in Australia and am not quite ready to compete at the highest level. I wish the event a great success and look forward to seeing my fans in New York in the fall."
Williams was to face Kim Clijsters in a semifinal matchup. The match would have marked the first time the two players will have faced each other since the semifinals of the 2009 US Open. Ivanovic, who competed in last year’s BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup, is a former World No. 1 player and captured the 2008 French Open Championship defeating Dinara Safina in the final. A UNICEF Ambassador in her native Serbia, Ivanovic is a former recipient of the WTA Humanitarian of the Year Award. Earlier this month, Ivanovic was one of the featured athletes in Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue. She was voted 11th in the 2009 FHM Sexiest Women in the World Poll, and is nominated for that same list in 2010.
Ivanovic will replace Williams in the draw resulting in semifinal pairings of Ivanovic vs. Kim Clijsters and Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Venus Williams and will be played in this order.
"First of all I would like to wish Serena a speedy recovery. I've had my fair share of injuries lately and it for sure must be a very frustrating time for her," said Ivanovic. "I am very happy and flattered to be invited to take part in this event once again. I had a great time last year, both on and off the court. No-ad scoring is such an exciting concept, for both spectators and players. Last year I had a very intense match against Serena; the atmosphere was amazing. I expect a very tough and exciting contest with Kim in just over a week's time."
Limited VIP tickets and additional tickets for $250.00, $125.00, $75.00, $50.00 and $25.00 are currently on sale and can be purchased at the Madison Square Garden box office, all Ticketmaster outlets and online at www.thegarden.com.
The “BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup” is the featured element of the national “Tennis Night in America” promotion. Through “Tennis Night in America”, the USTA will continue its efforts to grow youth participation in the sport of tennis. “Tennis Night in America” is among the sports largest ever grass roots initiatives. The USTA has made this event a major component for its Youth Registration Night, where youth from all over the country can begin signing up for spring and summer league play beginning on Friday, February 26th through March 1st. To find a sign-up location please go to www.tennisnight.com.
Title partner BNP Paribas has returned for a second year, continuing their strong commitment to support the sport of tennis. BNP Paribas will be joined by Official Partners Caesars Atlantic City, Delta Air Lines, FIJI Water, Fila, FXDD, Jumeirah Essex House, Lexus, NASDAQ OMX, Optimum, Rums of Puerto Rico, Sportime Tennis Clubs, Steuben Glass, Tennis.com, Travelers Insurance, Ubisoft and Wilson.