BNP PARIBAS OPEN
Hit For Haiti Raises $1 Million On A Night To Remember
Indian Wells, U.S.A.
by ATP Staff|
Eight tennis legends with a combined 94 Grand Slam titles between them stepped on court for the “Hit for Haiti” charity exhibition presented by Oracle, and raised $1 million for earthquake relief efforts on a memorable Friday night at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
On the women’s side, Martina Navratilova and Justine Henin teamed up for an 8-6 win over Lindsay Davenport and Steffi Graf, while Roger Federer and Pete Sampras defeated Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal by the same scoreline in the second exhibition match of the night.
Afterwards, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison presented a $1 million donation check to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund, established to help those impacted by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck in January. Ronald Agenor, a former Top 20 player on the ATP World Tour, was on court to represent Haiti during the presentation.
Ellison, whose company led a comprehensive fundraising effort including on-site, text messaging and private donations targeted to reach the $1 million goal, said: “What we guaranteed was at least a million dollars, but people are continuing to make contributions. We have our fingers crossed, but with a little bit of luck, we'll tally everything up and we'll go over the million dollar target.”
The collection of Grand Slam champions did their part to keep the crowd entertained with their running commentary throughout the evening’s exhibition matches.
At one point when a male staff member helped reattach Graf’s microphone pack to her back, her competitors quipped, “You’re going to get it from Andre!”
Agassi, who married Graf in 2001, also took part in the friendly banter on court. He joked, “All the children are probably wondering, ‘Who are these two old bald guys playing with Federer and Nadal?’” to which Sampras retorted, “I still have some left. You look like Kojak over there.”
Agassi also teased partner Nadal after the Spaniard failed to reach a shot, telling him, “You move a lot faster on TV,” and poked fun at himself after Federer told him to take off his long pants. “They haven’t seen the sun in six months,” he said before rolling up his track pants to reveal his pale legs.
The American also proved capable of amazing the crowd with a special ability. When Federer ordered a 113 mph serve to his forehand, Agassi responded “I got this one on the nose,” and delivered a 114 mph serve. Later in the evening, he promised a 122 mph serve to Federer’s backhand, and clocked in with one at 123 mph.
“[It was] very, very fun,” said Davenport afterwards. “It's nice to play in front of a packed stadium with a little bit lighter atmosphere, and the crowd very happy over all shots and all outcomes.”
The night, which was broadcast in more than 40 countries worldwide and also streamed live online on the official tournament website, finished with a special appearance by 15-time Grammy Award winner Tony Bennett, who sang Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” to a video montage showing images from Haiti.
“It does make you feel good, but you wish you didn't have to do it; just get together for fun,” said Navratilova about the charity exhibition. “But then all those people probably wouldn't show up. Because it is a charitable cause, I think everybody sort of feels compelled to do more. We can all do a little bit more.”
Fans can continue to make donations to Haiti relief efforts. Click here for more information.
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