Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Team Elton Wins!!

The sounds of basketballs bouncing around on the hard court along with the swooshing of nets would normally be heard reverberating throughout the PMAC on a Tuesday night in the middle of December.

This Tuesday night wasn’t a normal night, as the sounds of tennis balls bouncing off tightly-strung rackets on DecoTurf court replaced the sounds of basketballs on hard courts for the 17th annual World Team Tennis Smash Hits event.

The event, which was hosted by musical great Sir Elton John and former tennis great Billie Jean King, supports The Elton John AIDS Foundation and local HIV/AIDS charities. Former and currents tennis greats, including Andy Roddick, Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Anna Kournikova, were on the two teams.

All players donated their time to the event, which in the past 16 years has raised more than $9 million.

This year, the event raised $640,000, of which more than $200,000 will stay local. That was the highest total raised since 2005 in Hershey, Penn.

“Every year gets better than the next, and as a huge sports fan and an even bigger tennis fan … it’s like being a kid in a candy shop playing with all these people,” Sir Elton said. “Sports for me is like music. It’s a great leveler. It unifies people.”

But while the event was for a good cause, tennis still had to be played to break the 8-8 series record, and King didn’t want to lose to Sir Elton.

“I want to give Elton a bad time for the next 365 days,” King said.

Although it was fun and games with the players interacting and Roddick even giving Williams a few of his grunting impressions of her, it was Sir Elton who got the bragging rights. His team (comprised of himself, Williams, Kournikova, Jan-Michael Gambill, and Tommy Haas) defeated Team Billie Jean (composed of King, Roddick, Davenport, Chanda Rubin, Devin Britton, and Lizel Huber) with an overall score of 16 games to Team Billie Jean’s 13 games.

It was the singles match between Roddick and Haas that determined the winner of the event, and Haas took the set, 5-2.
The first match was celebrity mixed doubles with Roddick and Kournikova versus Sir Elton and Williams. Team Elton won the match, and although it didn’t count toward the final score, it went the distance to a four games to three final score.
Throughout the match, Roddick and Williams were jawing back and forth.

“Venus would have returned that one,” Roddick said at one point to Williams, referring to Serena’s older sister, Venus.
The remainder of the matches counted and got a little more serious. Those matches went until the first team got to five games.

The first match (mixed doubles) put Williams and Haas of Team Elton against Roddick and Rubin of Team Billie Jean.
Team Elton took the match, 5-4 (5-4 in the tiebreaker), after falling down, 2-3, early.

In the second match (women’s doubles), Davenport and Huber of Team Billy Jean defeated Kournikova and Williams of Team Elton, 5-1, to give Team Billie Jean an 9-6 lead.

Team Elton stormed back in the men’s double match with Gambill and Haas defeating Roddick and Britton, 5-2, to tie the match at 11, leaving the singles action to determine the winner.

Even with the outcome, the hosts both said they had a great time at the event.

“It’s fun and it’s for a great cause,” King said. “Just being around these guys is fun enough for me.”

Kournikova, a seventh-year member of the event and a member of Team Elton, said the event is fun both on and off the court.
“Every time you participate in this event, you come out of it with a lot of pleasure,” Kournikova said. “You cannot not want to support this event.”

Though fans in the arena were taking numerous pictures of the stars they normally see on TV, they weren’t the only people star-struck.

Even some of the players said before the match they get nervous playing with their peers.

“Playing on behalf of people I’ve always looked up to … it’s pretty humbling just to be in their company,” said Roddick, a sixth-year member of the event. “It’s a fun event, and it’s a cause I’ll always support."


- isureveille

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