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Serving for Tsunami Relief - Houston, Texas January 31,2005
Lighthearted action brings relief in serious cause
Over $500,000 raised as 8,193 see tennis event
By DALE ROBERTSON
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
If the purpose couldn't have been more serious, the action was decidedly less so. Goose-and-giggle tennis is what they played at Toyota Center on Monday night.
But Andy Roddick got a victory, which he needed even if it had to come with a whole lot of silliness attached, and so did Houston, which came through in its typically generous fashion on behalf of the Bush-Clinton Fund for Tsunami Relief.
"Give yourselves a hand," announcer Wayne Bryan told the crowd. "You people are unbelievable."
Coming off a disappointing semifinal loss to Lleyton Hewitt in the Australian Open, then having to battle Houston traffic to get to the arena, Roddick put on a happy face and defeated Tommy Haas 7-6 (6) in the evening's feature.
The turnstile count for the Serving for Tsunami Relief exhibition was 8,193, and although there appeared to be a significant number of no-shows on a cold, wet night, the event proved a rousing financial success on behalf of the millions of people affected by the giant tidal wave.
One "fan" who insisted upon anonymity paid $250,000 for his 50 seats. The total take, including on-site donations, was $518,952, presented in the form of a giant check to the city's first sports fan, former President George H.W. Bush. Some $2,944 was collected by students at the KIPP Academy, a local charter school. The United States Tennis Association sent an additional $25,000.
The players accepted no compensation for participating, and the Rockets provided the arena rent-free, save for the cost of staffing.
In an opening singles match, a jet-lagged Jim Courier, whose production company staged the event, lost to John McEnroe 6-4.
"Everything's going very smoothly — except for the fact that I just lost to a guy who has more gray hair than my father," Courier said of McEnroe, who is 12 years his senior and had to receive treatments for severe back spasms.
In the celebrity mixed doubles, TV psychologist, top-selling author and North Texas alumnus Dr. Phil McGraw teamed with Anna Kournikova for a 6-4 defeat of former University of Houston and NBA legend Clyde Drexler and his partner, Chris Evert. Admonished for losing to McGraw by Bryan, Drexler responded, "The ball I played with was a little bigger."
McGraw, however, happens to be a pretty solid player. He had also umpired the McEnroe match — without incident.
"The running gag is I used to get fined if I cursed an umpire," McEnroe said. "Now I get fined if I don't."
McEnroe and Kournikova paired up to defeat Roddick and Evert 4-2 in the abbreviated concluding match.
Kournikova, the 23-year-old Russian, pretty much summed up the feelings of the players when she said it was her pleasure to participate.
"I was looking for something to do (in response to the tsunami)," she said. "The next day I got the call and I said, 'Of course I'll be there.' I would have canceled a lot of things to be here."