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Agassi, Sampras show knack for court comedy

December 14, 2000

Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi know each other's game inside and out, and their skills at observation go further than just tennis.

Agassi, for example, sometimes walks like a penguin between points, taking short little steps that carry him in circles and eventually to the service line.

Sampras put into mime what's not easy for words Thursday night, drawing laughs as he imitated his bald rival's idiosyncrasies before an announced crowd of 9,247 in the Team Tennis All-Star Smash Hits exhibition at Philips Arena.

For the record, Agassi beat Sampras 5-4 in their mini-set, and Agassi's Team Billie Jean King beat Sampras' Team Elton John 23-18.

All seriousness aside, it was mostly about laughs. Sampras and Agassi, "still the best show in town" as Sampras put it, also proved to be a formidable comedic team.

Agassi's answer to Sampras' jibes was to mimic Sampras' dramatic thumb wipe of the brow.

No one was pulling out Wimbledon-speed serves, but Sampras smacked one ace that got stuck in a spectator's hair on the front row, and it took the aid of a ball girl to untangle it.

The night was also a moral victory for local tennis as the city too busy playing tennis to watch it turned out in respectable numbers. John had faith in his adopted city, or at least in Agassi and Sampras.

"We've always wanted to bring the event here because I reside here and it's a great tennis town," John said. "I'm psyched we're here because I love this town."

The Atlanta crowd was up more than 1,000 from last year's totals in Kansas City. The $72,500 brought in by auctions ranked second in the event's eight-year history. The event benefited the Elton John AIDS Foundation and AID Atlanta.

"They came out for Elton," King said. "He lives here, he opened Philips Arena (with the first concert), and he brought the first tennis here. I knew we'd do well."

The event originally had Lindsay Davenport and Monica Seles lined up, but injuries took them out last week. Then two days ago, Mary Pierce (shoulder injury) and Jennifer Capriati (flu) begged off, and the call went in to Jelena Dokic and Alexandra Stevenson.

Stevenson is finding a niche as a refreshing personality, even if her tennis career is stalled. She danced to "Crocodile Rock" and declared, "Sir Elton is really cool."

But it was Sampras and Agassi who carried the weight.

"Elton was nice enough to come to my wedding and play a few songs, so it's a nice trade-off," said Sampras, who married actress Bridgette Wilson in September at his Los Angeles home.

Sampras helped out at the pre-match auction by purchasing an Elton John piano bench for $11,000.

Agassi also is a longtime friend of John, who participates in Agassi's annual Grand Slam forChildren benefit concert in Las Vegas.

"For me, it's just awesome to be around such talent," John said. "My sport is tennis, and to sit on the bench with these athletes at the top of their sport is an incredible honor."

Article supplied by Christina Ehlers


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