Making a racket
Exhibitions featuring Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick draw nearly 9,000 fans to Mitchell Center
Saturday, December 18, 2004
By RANDY KENNEDY
Almost 9,000 tennis fans paid an average of $57 a ticket to see U.S. Open champions Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi in a tennis exhibition Friday night at the Mitchell Center on the campus of the University of South Alabama.
Roddick, Agassi and the world's No. 1 doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan put on a serious display of tennis talent. But the not-so-serious tennis drew some of the most spirited crowd responses at the Rock-N-Racquets event.
Mobile junior tennis stars Ebie Wilson, 13, and Mary Angela Martin, 12, teamed with Agassi and Roddick in the night's first match. When Wilson -- the state's No. 1-ranked player in her age division -- finished off a game with a forehand volley for a winner past Agassi, Roddick joked, "She definitely volleys better than I do." When the crowd laughed, Roddick quickly added, "Hey, that's not funny."
Team Roddick eventually won the light-hearted portion of the program before the Bryan brothers, identical twins who played at Stanford and won seven titles last season, showed why they are the world's dominant doubles team by beating Agassi and Roddick 8-5.
In the night's feature match, Roddick edged Agassi in two tight tiebreakers, winning 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4).
"I wish everyone could experi ence the thrill of playing against their hero," Roddick said afterward. "I normally don't come out on top in these things against Andre, so this is special."
Agassi told the crowd following the match that the enthusiastic reception made the night a success.
"It was such a treat to come here to Mobile and play," Agassi said.
The exhibition followed a successful junior clinic Friday afternoon in which 450 young players were entertained by Roddick, the Bryan brothers and Olympic silver medalist Mardy Fish.
Murphy High School star Mackenzie White was the only player to successfully return Roddick's serve, although it wasn't quite as fast as the 143 mph serve he unleashed against Agassi Friday night.
"I was just bracing for the worse," White said. "I figured it was probably going to be really hard."
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