The biggest current rivalry in tennis could soon be taking on a whole new venue. The Serbian newspaper Blic is reporting that Rafael Nadal expressed interest to play an exhibition match in Belgrade, Serbia and that Blic is now in talks with Novak Djokovic’s “Femili Sport” firm about solidifying a date in the calendar.
The match is anticipated to be played in the “Red Star” stadium (below) which primarily hosts soccer matches and could have a capacity of up to 60,000 spectators for a tennis match. Although rare, this wouldn’t be the first time a tennis match has been played on these grounds. Twenty-five years ago, on October 1, 1987, Slobodan Zivojinovic beat Boris Becker in front of 10,000 spectators.
With Nadal and Djokovic slated to play an exhibition match in Madrid between Wimbledon and the Olympics, it’s clear that players are always interested to play for a cause. Blic would be the media sponsor of the exhibition match — which could also include various other sponsorship opportunities to promote the sport of tennis and even the city of Belgrade — and a portion of the proceeds would go towards charities. With a country that has never fully rebounded from civil war in the 1990s, there is much to be happy about for Serbian fans if this exhibition takes place. Not only would it give fans the opportunity to see their top talent out on a tennis court (as the Serbian Open tournament this week was without any of the top Serbian men in the main draw), but it would also bring in a substantial amount of money for the city in terms of investments.
The only aspect that could potentially become a problem is the price of tickets. If they are too high, it will weed out “true” tennis fans instead making it easier for corporate personalities to acquire packages possibly leaving the stadium half empty as has been done on several occasion for the Davis Cup and Fed Cup ties in Serbia. It’s still a delicate balance between fans’ and corporations’ rights to tickets in Serbia and this could either exacerbate or alleviate the problem. We won’t know until it happens but hopefully it won’t dampen the atmosphere of the event if it occurs.