On Oct. 11, World TeamTennis hit the Bren Events Center for its 12th annual All-Star Smash Hits. The event, benefitting the Elton John Aids Foundation, included a star-studded lineup of professional tennis players hosted by Billie Jean King and Sir Elton John.
The WTT has traveled across the country for over a decade and finally decided to make it’s mark in Irvine, Calif. John commented that a reason they decided to come to Irvine was because ‘Southern California’s always been good for support for tennis,’ and because the Newport Beach Breakers won the WTT Pro League this year.
The night proved to be a success. The Bren was packed not only with tennis admirers, students and families, but with a great tennis game and lighthearted fun.
Andre Agassi, who has become a regular in the event the last few years, likes ‘to see a lot more involvement with the fans.’
This is one of those events where there is interaction between the players and the crowd, which is uncharacteristic of sporting events. But Agassi also feels that the event is also about bringing ‘tennis to places who don’t see this level [of play] … It’s a great way to expose it.’
Before the event, a silent auction of sports memorabilia, including an autographed picture of Anna Kournikova and an autographed piano chair from John, were ready for bids.
Andy Roddick, Tracy Austin, Billie Jean King and John made brief appearances at the auction to greet the crowd and answer a few questions. Afterwards, the Bren began to fill up for the highly anticipated event.
The occasion was marked by the traditional competition between two coed teams. Team Billie Jean King included Agassi, Agassi’s current coach Darren Cahill and Kournikova; team Sir Elton John was made up of Roddick, Roddick’s own coach Brad Gilbert and Austin.
First, there was a celebrity match with John and Roddick versus Agassi and Kournikova. The tennis rules were also tweaked a little for the event. The match proved to be a warm-up for both the players and the crowd.
‘I’m living a fantasy tonight by being on the court,’ John said.
It was the only time he would play for the night and he performed well considering the company he was in. Team Elton won the match, but the score would not count toward the final team score.
Next, in one of three matches which would count toward the final score, was the men’s doubles. It featured Roddick and Gilbert against Agassi and Cahill. It ended with Agassi and Cahill taking the match to put Team Billie in the lead.
Next was the mixed doubles match. The players let loose and had fun with each other and the fans. Gilbert and Austin started out against Cahill and Kournikova, but the score once again started to go towards Team Billie. Agassi came in to substitute for Cahill and Roddick followed his lead by substituting for Gilbert.
Agassi was poking fun at Kournikova regarding all the attention she was receiving from the male audience members, but that’s not to say that Agassi didn’t have a lot of female fans rooting him on.
At one point he even took off his shirt to take some of the limelight away from Kournikova and everyone loved it.
Roddick also got into the action by showing off his dance moves at one point and imitating the way Kournikova yells after she hits a ball back to her opponent.
But after everyone calmed down and got back into the game, not even Roddick’s dance moves were enough to overtake Agassi and Kournikova who won the match and kept Team Billie in the lead.
The final match was two sets of play from men’s singles players Roddick and Agassi. This powerhouse match-up proved to be one of the night’s highlights as fans gasped with amazement and clapped in admiration for the competitors.
During the match, one fan even yelled a comment at Roddick saying that his serve looks faster on TV. Roddick answered by getting the fan to come down to the floor and receive a few of Roddick’s lightning serves.
Agassi lent the fan his racket, which was his only form of protection against Roddick’s 135 mph serves. It was entertaining and both Rodick and the audience member were good sports about it.
Roddick was making a good comeback for Team Elton and won the first set, but in the second set it was Agassi who took a commanding lead and went on to win the match.
Overall, the final score for both teams was 12-17, with another win for Billie’s team, making it three years in a row and the seventh overall win during the event’s 12 year history.
It was a memorable night for tennis fans and players who, in the end, all helped a good cause, the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
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