(Editor’s Note: As a journalist I have access to some excellent professional video and photos of this spectacular event, as an avid team tennis player in the Las Vegas Valley for almost thirty years, I’ve chosen to present a first person perspective by using my own photos and video clips.)
Some of the greatest players in tennis history returned to Las Vegas on Monday, October 10, to participate in the 23rd annual World TeamTennis (WTT) Smash Hits in conjunction with the Elton John AIDS Foundation-(EJAF) to raise funds for prevention and to promote community awareness of HIV and its ramifications. It’s only fitting that these champions would face-off on a custom tennis court on the famous Las Vegas Strip in front of Caesars Palace Colosseum: After all the Colosseum is synonymous with an arena of glorious gladiators that battled all odds to become the best of the best in their world.
The annual AIDS awareness fundraiser is the dream child of two legends in their own right: Sir Elton John and Billy Jean King. Since 1993, WTT Smash Hits has raised more than $14 million for the Elton John AIDS Foundation and local AIDS charities. “Every year it’s always exciting,” said Sir Elton during an early evening press conference that also featured Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick, Martina Navratilova and Liezel Huber. “It never loses its luster.”
The acclaimed pianist/composer and singer broke the ice in the press room with a ribald jest at Andy Roddick’s expense. Roddick handled the moment with aplomb as he complimented Sir Elton’s dedication to the event. “Despite his vulgar sense of humor he’s done an amazing thing with the Elton John AIDs Foundation. It’s a cool thing to be a part of,” said Roddick.
WTT Smash Hits is more than an event. It’s a singularly wonderful experience for tennis players and fans as well as a superb fundraiser for a worthy cause. “The tennis community from the word go has always been here for the AIDS crisis,” said Sir Elton. “These people are giving their time and that is very very special. It’s a commitment not an involvement.”
This is the second year in a row that Caesar’s, now celebrating its 50th anniversary, has hosted the family friendly fundraiser. Caesars is also home to Sir Elton John’s hit show, “The Million Dollar Piano.”
“People say when you’re dead you go play Vegas,” said Sir Elton. “That’s nonsense. Some of the greatest entertainers have performed here in their prime. When you come to Vegas you have to step up to the plate. There are so many great venues here in this city.” He went on to add that, “this is a great town for charity. I love this town very much. It’s been great to me.”
Las Vegas proved those words to be true; over $600,000 was raised for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Following a spectacular live auction that raised $160,000 of the evening’s totals, Maria Sharapova opened the night with Andy Roddick for a set of celebrity doubles against Elton John and Martina Navratilova. Sharapova and Roddick got the best of John and Navratilova 3-1 in an entertaining quick set that preceded the World TeamTennis match.
Match play on Monday, October 10, 2016, went as follows:
Team Elton def. Team Billie Jean 19-14
Women’s Doubles: Martina Navratilova / Liezel Huber (Team Elton) def. Maria Sharapova / Taylor Johnson (Team Billie Jean) 5-2
Men’s Doubles: Andy Roddick / Mardy Fish (Team Elton) def. Mark Philippoussis / John McEnroe (Team Billie Jean) 5-3
Men’s singles: Andy Roddick (Team Elton) def. Mark Philippoussis (Team Billie Jean) 5-3
Mixed Doubles: John McEnroe/Maria Sharapova (Team Billie Jean) def. Andy Roddick / Martina Navratilova (Team Elton) 5-3
Extended Play: John McEnroe/Maria Sharapova (Team Billie Jean) tied Andy Roddick / Martina Navratilova (Team Elton) 1-1
Below is a customized playlist of a number of on-the-scene highlights from Caesars Palace 2016 WTT (World Team Tennis) Smash Hits.
For news about next year’s event or to reserve tickets, please visit: http://www.wtt.com. Sponsorship packages are also available by contacting Natalee Jarrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 586-3444 x. 111. This year’s sponsors included official host sponsor Caesars Palace and presenting sponsor Citi. Additional sponsors and partners included AmerisourceBergen, Cashman Photo, Core Academy, DecoTurf, Donnelley Financial Solutions, Fanatics, GEICO, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, KXNT News/Talk Radio & CBS Sports Radio – Las Vegas, Marty Hennessy Inspiring Children Foundation, NBC & The CW – Las Vegas, WG Communications Group, Wilson and XS Tennis – Chicago. Ryan Wolfington and USTA Nevada are promotional partners of WTT Smash Hits.
For more information on the Elton John AIDS Foundation, visit http://www.ejaf.org/