NO JOKE: SAMPRAS DOMINATES.
TENNIS: Following an evening of merriment, Sampras defeats Roddick in the name of charity.
By Dominic Perrone
IRVINE — The evening began with some playful prematch trash talking. The friendly banter continued onto the court in various forms with the crowd joining in on the fun.
But when the third and final competition began Thursday and the two tennis heavyweights took the court, the crowd grew quiet and the once-lighthearted Pete Sampras and Andy Roddick became intense.
It was the former king of U.S. tennis in Sampras against the reigning American superstar of the sport. With nothing but pride on the line, Sampras won, 5-3, 5-3 in the World Team Tennis scoring format.
Sampras' win gave Team Billie Jean King, made up of Sampras, Rennae Stubbs and King who did not play, a 15-10 victory over Team Elton John, which consisted of Roddick, Anna Kournikova and John, who did play.
The 14th annual Advanta WTT Smash Hits charity event took place at the UC Irvine Bren Events Center and raised money for the Elton John AIDs Foundation. A live auction generated $184,500.
Roddick was fresh off a trip to the U.S. Open final, which he lost Saturday, but Sampras, who played for the Newport Beach Breakers in July after retiring in 2002, was the one on top of his game.
Sampras' serve-and-volley game kept Roddick off balance the entire night. His powerful serve set up delicate volleys that consistently painted the lines, far out of Roddick's reach.
"I started playing a little tennis a week ago so I wouldn't embarrass myself out here," Sampras said before the match.
Stubbs, the 14-time Grand Slam champion's teammate, had a front-row seat to the rebirth of sorts.
"Pete showed you how good he is," Stubbs said. "Andy probably hasn't hit a tennis ball since the U.S. Open. He has just been relaxing."
King preferred the intensity level at the end of the event, to the more humorous play that preceeded it.
"Elton and I like for them to play for real," King said.
The evening started with joking comments about fierce competition. John drew the proverbial line in the sand, or court.
"We are definitely going to win," said John before his team lost for the fifth time in a row. "We have already drugged the other team."
Both teams acted silly, though. Stubbs regularly consulted the crowd behind her about her next move.
Kournikova and Roddick who began on opposite teams for a special match that included John, regularly taunted each other. Roddick would let his serve sail high, whizzing it past Kournikova. Kournikova replied by blasting a volley directly at Roddick.
Much of the evening's comedy would be short lived at any tournament, but in this setting, it continued. When Sampras entered the match, Roddick pretended to be nervous, constantly wiping faux sweat from his brow.
Sampras responded with an ace, to the delight of the crowd. Roddick sneaked in a between-the-legs shot and slammed his racquet jokingly when a call did not go his way.
When the sets began to count, Sampras decided to make a prediction ala Babe Ruth's pointing of the finger, only without as much at stake.
"Two-two, second serve," he said. "This is where I hit an ace."
And so he did.
When Kournikova stepped up to serve, the speakers blasted a song from her boyfriend, singer Enrique Iglesias. Roddick quickly flipped his racquet upside-down to look like a microphone and serenaded the popular Russian with a karaoke version.
"It's nice to come to an event like this and play and just have a bit of fun," Stubbs said.