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Gridiron meets tennis in Dallas special

The $1.2 billion Dallas Cowboys Stadium will stage a special tennis exhibition in July.
The $1.2 billion Dallas Cowboys Stadium will stage a special tennis exhibition in July.
  • Tennis breaks new ground with glittering exhibition in Dallas Cowboys' NFL stadium
  • Serena Williams will play Maria Sharapova and Andy Roddick takes on John Isner
  • Cowboys Stadium, which will host the 2011 Super Bowl, will be reduced to 20,000 capacity
  • Belgium's King Baudouin Stadium hopes to set attendance record for tennis two days earlier

(CNN) -- When you think of iconic tennis venues, top of the list are New York's sprawling Flushing Meadows, the green grass of traditional Wimbledon in London and the rusty red clay of chic Roland Garros in Paris.

But next month some of the sport's top players will grace a new stage: the glittering $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, which hosts Super Bowl XLV next year.

U.S. star Serena Williams plays glamorous Russian ace Maria Sharapova in a battle of world number ones present and past, while Texas-based Andy Roddick takes on fellow big-serving American John Isner in the men's match-up.

Roddick, who lives in Austin 300 kilometers away, is excited by the prospect of being able to take the freeway to a tournament, as well as his sport breaking new ground in the hot-bed of gridiron.

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He will be action on July 10, just six days after the men's final at Wimbledon in England, where last year he lost an epic title match to Roger Federer.

"I can drive there. With my friends from home, we might just make a weekend of it and have some fun," Roddick said when the Texas event was announced.

"I think it will be cool. I don't know if we're going to fill it, but tennis getting into kind of mainstream venues like that more often is a good thing. Selfishly, I like it."

Roddick's fears over filling the 80,000-seater stadium -- which will expand to around 100,000 for the Super Bowl -- are probably misplaced as the matches will be played across one of the end zones.

The configuration will mean a seating capacity of 20,000, but still one of the biggest audiences for a tennis event.

The biggest capacity at a regular tournament is 23,200 for the Arthur Ashe Stadium Court at Flushing Meadows during the U.S. Open.

The center court at Wimbledon can take 15,000 spectators, and all four players in the Dallas exhibition will be hoping to be involved in the finals of the grass-court grand slam the weekend before.

Williams took the women's singles title last year and Sharapova won in 2004, while Roddick suffered a heartbreaking five-set loss to Federer last year.

Tennis getting into kind of mainstream venues like that more often is a good thing. Selfishly, I like it
--Andy Roddick

For the Dallas Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones, it is another string to the bow of their new state-of-the-art stadium. It has already hosted soccer, this year's NBA All-Star game and world title boxing as Filipino sensation Manny Pacquiao beat Ghana's Joshua Clottey earlier this year.

"We have seen the flexibility our new stadium has for holding spectacular events of all kinds, and this event should be like no other," Jones said.

"Being able to attract some of the best tennis players in the world under one roof for a night like this will be something special."

Filling big stadiums for tennis one-offs looks set to become a regular feature on the calendar for the world's elite players.

Just two days before the Dallas exhibition, Belgian rivals Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin will be looking to break a world record in a battle between two former top-ranked stars in the 40,000-capacity King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels.

It is an attempt to break the record crowd of 30,492 that assembled for the legendary "Battle of the Sexes" match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs at the Houston Astrodome in Texas in 1973.

"The Best of Belgium" match is expected to easily surpass that attendance, but maybe Cowboys Stadium will wrest the honor back for the Lone Star state in the future.