Re: Andy's Charity Appearances
Tennis event is a smash hit
Humor carries the day at WTT Smash Hits event, which played to overflow crowd Monday at Bren Events Center.
October 12, 2004
BREN EVENTS CENTER — If you ever get a chance to meet tennis star Andy Roddick, don't tell him his serve doesn't look that fast. You might regret it.
At the World Team Tennis Smash Hits event at the Bren Events Center Monday, a fan yelled to the world's No. 2-ranked tennis player known for his blistering serve that his serves look faster on television than in real life.
Roddick stopped the exhibition mixed doubles set he was playing with Tracey Austin against Andre Agassi and Anna Kournikova to talk with the heckler. Roddick invited the man to try to return a few of his serves.
After three heaters, Dave Slingsby reached into his pocket and waved a white handkerchief in surrender.
Such was the light mood surrounding the 12th annual charity event that raises money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
The standing-room-only crowd of 5,167 was treated to fun, laughter and, oh yeah, some really great tennis.
"Southern California has always been great for tennis," John said. "This event started in California 12 years ago and we wanted to bring it back."
The inaugural Smash Hits was played in Los Angeles in 1993.
"If you look at the tennis champions that have played in this event," Roddick said, "it's just an honor to be here."
Agassi, Kournikova and Agassi's coach, Darren Cahill, were coached by tennis legend Billie Jean King. They faced Roddick, two-time U.S. open champion Tracy Austin and Agassi's former coach ad Roddick's current instructor, Brad Gilbert. They formed the team coached by John.
The opening celebrity set of Agassi-Kournikova against John-Roddick was easygoing, with the professionals not putting forth too much of an effort. At least not too much of an effort playing tennis.
Agassi was the clown of the court, telling Kournikova to bend over and sway more while he served. He was also playing cat-and-mouse wit the ball girl trying to retrieve a loose ball, letting her get close and then faking like he was going to pick up the ball.
After Kournikova double faulted on a serve, Agassi coached the blond Russian on the proper serving technique. Kournikova must have been too busy laughing to pick up on the instruction, because she double faulted again.
"I would like to bring this type of atmosphere to the [Association of Tennis Professionals tour]," Agassi said. "I think this reaches a new audience and brings enthusiasm to the game."
The seriousness got turned up a notch in the ensuing men's doubles set, but it only got turned up a little. Agassi-Cahill were forced to field Roddick zingers. Spectators in the first row behind the baseline were handed baseball gloves to protect themselves from the speeding serves that invariably slipped past the Agassi-Cahill defense.
During the mixed doubles of Kournikova-Cahill vs. Austin-Gilbert, Agassi was coaching his coach, yelling for Cahill to smash it. Apparently the students couldn't stand watching the teachers, because Roddick yelled for a substitute before the third game of the set.
With the top men back in the game, the women became a little feisty. Kournikova smashed consecutive balls at Roddick, prompting a plea for safety from Roddick. During an exchange of baseline shots, Austin yelled at Agassi to "Bring it on, baby." The four-time Grand Slam winner proceeded to blaze a groundstroke past her.
At one point, Agassi took off his shirt and flexed, much to the delight of females in the audience.
Kournikova was so impressed, she fanned her face with a playful smile.
It prompted Roddick to suggest the match should continue as a shirts-against-skins affair, but Kournikova did not follow her partner's striptease.