Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Smash Hits Vegas Raises $1M for EJAF

Elton John’s fundraising celebrity tennis tournament brought in more than $1 million with its first-ever matches on the Strip outside Caesars Palace where he debuts the next leg of his residency “The Million Dollar Piano” tonight.”

Elton even sold two of his autographed Yamaha piano benches for $30,000 apiece to fans at the auction in nearby Omnia that preceded play.

Andy Roddick defeated James Blake 5-1 in men’s singles to lead Team Elton to a 17-11 victory over Team Billie Jean at Mylan WTT Smash Hits in front of a 3,000-strong capacity crowd Monday night, with some high rollers shelling out more than $500 for courtside seats. The multicolored court was set up opposite the “Absinthe” tent near Serendipity 3.

The Mylan World Team Tennis Smash Hits event raised more than $1 million for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, with a portion of those proceeds benefiting our local Aid for AIDS of Nevada.

Since the first event in 1993, Elton and Billie Jean King have raised through Smash Hits more than $14 million to support HIV and AIDS prevention and awareness. Last year, Elton and Billie Jean’s teams played at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

The evening began with all the players participating in a live auction at Omnia that raised approximately half of the night’s total. Officials set a goal of $500,000, and the bidding just topped that mark.

Among the top auction items was a $100,000 bid for a private coaching session with Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf and the two signed piano benches. Billie Jean’s Wimbledon package with her center court seats sold for $35,000.

Andy bid on and won three of the auction packages: $18,000 for a vacation villa in Bali, an Elton John song dedication at a Colosseum concert for $20,000 and another $75,000 teaming with Billie Jean at center court for the U.S. Open as coach and ball boy for four people.

When the action moved from the auction to stadium court, it was “Fantasy” at the Luxor headline singer Jamie Lynch who performed the national anthem. Elton stole the tennis show despite a bandaged knee from recent surgery.

The avid tennis player and fan showcased his tennis skills while teamed with longtime friend Martina Navratilova for an upset 3-2 victory over husband-and-wife Andre and Stefanie. Although the opening celebrity set didn’t count toward the final overall score, it inspired Team Elton to a quick start in men’s doubles.

Andy and Mardy Fish teamed together for the first time since they paired up on the ATP World Tour in July in Atlanta. The duo was too tough for Andre and James Blake, as they posted a 5-3 set win for Team Elton.

A quartet of Hall of Famers took the court for women’s doubles. Team Elton added to their lead as Lindsay Davenport and Martina outlasted Stefanie and Tracy Austin of Team Billie Jean, 5-2.

Andre and Stefanie gave Team Billie Jean their first set win as they impressively took out Mardy and Martina 5-2 in mixed doubles, but Andy quickly regained the momentum in men’s singles to clinch the match and give Team Elton the 12-11 edge in the all-time series.

Luckiest girl of the night was Las Vegas resident Mike Tyson’s daughter, who won an invitation from Andy to play against him on the court in front of the crowd. James hugged the heavyweight boxing champion to make up for her obvious loss at the net.

Billie Jean was thrilled with the Las Vegas debut of Mylan WTT Smash Hits. “We raised a lot of money for EJAF and left money locally for HIV/AIDS organizations. The players come for no cost every year, so they are amazing. The crowds were so packed tonight, we had to turn people away.

“I loved being here at Caesars Palace, but I have to live with being down to Elton. He will be reminding me of his victory for a full year.”

Elton performs at the Colosseum in Caesars tonight through Oct. 31 before Celine Dion returns Nov. 3.

- Las Vegas Sun

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