Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – ranked No. 1 and 2 and the two men who have squared off in the finals of tennis’ last four Majors – will meet again Saturday, July 14, live at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN2, but this time playing for charity as well as bragging rights. The exhibition will be played on a grass court in Nadal’s native Spain at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium only six days after the Gentlemen’s Final at Wimbledon. The best-of-three sets match will benefit the Realmadrid Foundation and the Rafa Nadal Foundation.
With his recent victory, Nadal now has won a record seven French Open titles. In the previous three Major finals, Djokovic had prevailed, winning his first Wimbledon, completing a career Grand Slam at the US Open and taking the Australian Open championship.
Organizers of the event are hopeful the match will attract more than 80,000 fans, which would make it by far the largest live audience in tennis history. Currently, the record of 35,681 people is held by an exhibition in Belgium’s historic King Baudouin Stadium between Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams on July 8, 2010. Williams had been a late substitute for Justine Henin in what was planned as an all-Belgian battle. The previous record tennis audience was for the famed “Battle of the Sexes” between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in the Houston Astrodome in September 1973 – 30,472.
ESPN & Wimbledon
ESPN will televise The Championships, Wimbledon across its networks starting Monday, June 25, with day-long marathon telecasts through to the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Finals, Saturday, July 7, and Sunday, July 8, respectively. ESPN3 will again offer its multi-screen offering of all televised courts, including a simulcast of ESPN/ESPN2 telecasts. All the action on ESPN and ESPN2 is also available through WatchESPN online at WatchESPN.com and on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app. The new schedule is the result of a 12-year agreement between ESPN and the All England Lawn Tennis Club announced just after the conclusion of the 2011 Championships.
ESPN – All Four Slams, All In One Place
Tennis has been part of ESPN since its first week on the air and provided many memorable moments, but it has never been as important as today, with the US Open joining the lineup in 2009, giving ESPN all four Grand Slam events, something no other U.S. network has ever done, let alone in one year. ESPN has presented the Australian Open since 1984, the French Open since 2002 (plus 1986 – 1993), and Wimbledon since 2003, with exclusivity for live television with all other rights extended in a 12-year agreement starting this year.
ESPN debuted September 7, 1979, and the first tennis telecast was exactly one week later, September 14, a Davis Cup tie, Argentina at U.S. from Memphis with Cliff Drysdale on the call and John McEnroe playing.
In addition, broadband network ESPN3, now in nearly 72 million homes, carries thousands of hours of tennis annually, including all four Grand Slam events, plus ATP 1000 and 500 tournaments and WTA Premier Events, and season-ending championships for both tours. Also, ESPN Classic shows great matches from the past and the sport receives extensive coverage on SportsCenter, ESPNEWS, Spanish-language ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio, ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. ESPN 3D aired its first tennis at Wimbledon in 2011.