Pete at the Schick Xtreme III Tennis Challenge
Agassi, Sampras turn on the charm, Gates, Bezos play along in charity match.
October 7, 2001
SEATTLE - It was a matchup like none other the tennis world had seen: two lions of American tennis paired with two titans of the American tech economy. In the end, Andre Agassi and Bill Gates bested Pete Sampras and Jeff Bezos in a squeaker that required a tiebreaker at the Schick Xtreme III Tennis Challenge. The five-game set was even at 2-2, until Agassi and Gates took the tiebreaker decisively, 5-0. A fundraiser for the Breast Care and Cancer Research Center of the University of Washington Medical Center, the afternoon's four matches brought serious tennis, not-so-serious tennis and prime entertainment to Seattle.
The event, at KeyArena, raised $1.4 million. In the much-awaited duel between Sampras, the winningest man in the sport's history, and Agassi, undoubtedly one of the game's most popular players, Agassi edged his rival 8-6.
The overall event was won by Team Agassi -- Agassi, Bezos and Jonathan Stark. Sampras captained the other team, featuring Gates, Martina Navratilova and Jim Courier. The pro-celebrity doubles yielded the night's biggest laughs, with opponents Agassi and Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, providing most of the quips, as Sampras and Gates, chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft, played it largely quiet. The match started after a minute of silence in a darkened arena, observed by a crowd of nearly 12,000 in memory of the victims of terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Then the antics began before a delighted crowd.
Agassi served to a baseline-hugging Bezos to open the set. "You better back up," Agassi taunted. "Oh, it's coming now." When a linesman called Bill Gates' first shot of the evening out, Agassi turned and said, "I hope you don't work at Microsoft." The score seesawed, as Bezos slammed a volley winner at Agassi's gut and followed with another forehand volley winner on the next point. Gates earned back-to-back points on winners at the net to take Game 1.
As Sampras opened serve on Gates, he said, "I'll bet you $1 billion, I'll ace you." Sampras hit the first serve into the net, then delivered the promised ace on a second serve. There were several brisk rallies, including an exchange between Sampras and Gates that was won by the man with 13 Grand Slam titles. Agassi turned to chastise his partner. "Hit it to the other guy, man," he said. Just before the first serve of the tiebreak, Agassi held the ball and pointed to a returning Bezos. "122 mph, to the body," Agassi predicted. While there was no radar gun measuring the speed, Agassi served a zinger that Bezos barely managed to touch. The final point of the tiebreaker went to Agassi and Gates, when Bezos was long on his return of serve.
Next came a battle of the sexes in the singles match between Agassi and Navratilova. Neither player gave much quarter, though Agassi was limited to one serve and Navratilova could play the doubles lines. Agassi led much of the way, but another tiebreaker was required when the match evened at 3-3. This one, however, was a cliffhanger, going to 4-4 before Navratilova hit the make-or-break shot out and Agassi won the tiebreak 5-4.
Then Sampras and Courier took on Agassi and Stark in a world-class doubles match with plenty of furious volleying, well-placed lobs and killer serves. Sampras and Courier came from behind to win the set 6-4. In the final match, Agassi quickly went up 2-0 before Sampras came back to tie the match 2-2. Sampras'trademark serve was on display, though he and Agassi were closely matched in aces. As usual, Sampras came in to the net more often against baseliner Agassi. Agassi racked up more winners than Sampras, including some blistering passing shots -- and it was all in fun.
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