Tennis rallies for Hurricane relief effort
Thu Sep 1, 8:12 PM ET
NEW YORK (AFP) - Eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi took time out from his US Open tennis championships campaign to offer a word of sympathy and a pledge of help to victims of Hurricane Katrina.
As the top players in tennis slugged it out in the final Grand Slam of the year, the ATP men's tennis circuit and WTA women's tour announced plans to auction autographed equipment and apparel to aid the relief efforts.
The US Tennis Association, which organizes the US Open, announced Thursday it was donating 500,000 dollars from the tournament's proceeds to the American Red Cross for hurricane relief, and also planned to enlist players for public service announcements to be broadcast during the event soliciting donations.
"This is going to be an ongoing effort," said Agassi, comparing the devastation along the US gulf coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to that left by the Asian tsunami.
"This is going to continue for a long time. Schools and hospitals ... this is something we need to stay with for the long haul."
The ATP and WTA on Thursday announced plans for an auction to begin on September 11 and featuring equipment, apparel and memorabilia signed by the game's stars.
"Players who already have committed to supporting the relief efforts include Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova, Andre Agassi, Lindsay Davenport, Robby Ginepri, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Donald Young, Amelie Mauresmo, and Bob and Mike Bryan, a statement from the organizations said. "In addition, many other players are making individual donations and filming public service announcements.
On Wednesday night, seven-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams announced she would donate 100 dollars for every ace she hits for the rest of the year to relief efforts.
Tennis legend John McEnroe, working as a television commentator at the US Open, told viewers he was donating 25,000 dollars and urged others in tennis to join him.
Women's world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport declined to discuss her possible individual contribution, but acknowledged that the juxtaposition of the tournament with the news of the devastation on America's Gulf coast made for a strange disconnect.
"It's funny, you feel so removed," she said. "It seems like everyone here is concentrating on tennis. All you have to do is turn on CNN to see exactly the horrors that are there.
"You would think once the storm was over maybe they were out of danger's way, and it gets worse and worse every day."
Agassi said that in the coccoon of the tournament it was hard even to know the best way to help.
"I hope there's something I can do," he said. "I'll be a part of anything that might make a difference. It's hard to know right now what to do. What do you tell those people that are sitting there waiting to be rescued and people can't even get to them?"
Andre Agassi forever