Steve Bellamy, the P.T. Barnum of tennis and founder of the Tennis Channel, these days devotes much of his time to getting his fledgling Ski Channel off the ground — but he’d not done with tennis.
On Aug. 3 at his Palisades (Calif.) Tennis Center, Bellamy is unveiling the 1st Annual Shotgun 21 World Championships, where men and women, amateurs and pros, will compete in the same draw against each other in a variation of a tennis “groundstroke game” up to 21.
Current and former pros Vince Spadea, Justin Gimelstob, Alexandra Stevenson, Murphy Jensen and Derrick Rostagno are among the pros participating, with more to be announced. Andy Roddick and the Bryan brothers have also been extended invitations.
“There will also be admittance of all age, gender or ability to the qualifying draw, meaning anyone off the street could qualify to play with against the pros,” Bellamy says.
Stevenson, a former Wimbledon semifinalist, likes her chances competing against the men with no serving.
“I have done well in mixed doubles against the guys and when you take the serve out of the equation, it is a much more even playing field,” Stevenson said.
Wilson Racquet Sports is the main sponsor of the unique event.
“The opportunity to increase heads-up play between men and women and the opportunity for basically anyone to go up against tour professionals with a schedule that is great for fans to enjoy from the start to end is going to be exciting to see with this type of marquee event,” said Jon Muir, general manager of Wilson Racquet Sports. Other sponsors are Palisadian Post, Pepsi, The Ski Channel, Palisades Tennis Center, Westwood Tennis Center and Fender Guitars, with $20,000 in prize money up for grabs.
If the Shotgun 21 format sounds familiar, Bellamy first unveiled it as the qualifying tournament format when he ran the former Tennis Channel Open ATP event in Las Vegas.
All serving in Shotgun 21 is drop-hit, and fed from below the waist. Each player serves five points crosscourt from the deuce side, then each player serves five points from the ad side. Balls are considered “in play” when they bounce anywhere on the appropriate side of the court. The winner is the first player to 21, with a sudden death point at 20-all.
The 32-player main draw will take no more than three hours to play, says Bellamy, and will be accompanied by music and a carnival atmosphere, with admission free for fans.
“We have always done these types of tournaments at the Palisades Tennis Center because it is far more appealing to our world today,” Bellamy said. “Traditional tennis is still basically scored the same way it has for centuries. One-day events fit in people’s lives much better. Also, the fact that any hacker can play the qualifying and then minutes later have a chance to play against someone who won a Wimbledon title is pretty cool.”
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