2008-10-02 / Sports

Agassi wows 'em

He's the main attraction at Bryan Brothers' All-Star Tennis Smash
By Stephen Dorman sdorman@theacorn.com

STILL  HAS  SKILLS—Tennis great  Andre  Agassi  fires  a forehand  return  during Saturday's  charity  event  at Sherwood Country Club. After playing  two  matches,  Agassi auctioned his racket for $5,000. STILL HAS SKILLS—Tennis great Andre Agassi fires a forehand return during Saturday's charity event at Sherwood Country Club. After playing two matches, Agassi auctioned his racket for $5,000. Andre Agassi can work a tennis racket, and he can work a crowd, too.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, when some of the top names in professional tennis took center court at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks for the Bryan Brothers' All-Star Tennis Smash, it was the retired Agassi who thrilled the crowd with his youthful enthusiasm, well-placed humor and powerful play.

The event, hosted by the world's top-ranked doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan, both Camarillo residents, benefited local and national charities, including City Impact, a nonprofit organization which assists Ventura County youths.

Agassi, playing in his first event of the year, was the headliner on a card that also featured world No. 10 James Blake, Lindsay Davenport, Justin Gimelstob, Robbie Ginepri and Paul Goldstein.

Photos by WENDY PIERRO/Acorn Newspapers WELL PLAYED—Andre Agassi, above, takes a breather during the  Bryan  Brothers'  All-Star Tennis  Smash.  When  Agassi was finished playing, former women's world No. 1 Lindsey Davenport and actress Kaley Cuoco, bottom right, took part in a celebrity match. The event raised money for local and national charities. Photos by WENDY PIERRO/Acorn Newspapers WELL PLAYED—Andre Agassi, above, takes a breather during the Bryan Brothers' All-Star Tennis Smash. When Agassi was finished playing, former women's world No. 1 Lindsey Davenport and actress Kaley Cuoco, bottom right, took part in a celebrity match. The event raised money for local and national charities. "It was a beautiful day," said Bob Bryan as he signed autographs afterward. "I'm really happy with the turnout. I love that Andre came. He made a big difference and even played a little singles, which we didn't expect him to do. He was a big hit."

The first action of the day featured Agassi and Mike Bryan taking on Blake and Ginepri in an eight-game pro-set match.

Agassi and Mike Bryan built a 6-2 advantage before Blake and Ginepri narrowed the gap to 7-6. When a Ginepri return went long shortly thereafter, Agassi and Mike Bryan were victorious, 8-6.

The real winners, however, were the charities. After the first match, Blake auctioned the shirt off his back for $1,500. Ginepri's racket went for $1,200.

Before taking the court, Ginepri praised the Bryans for their efforts.

"So far, this is one of the best charity events I've been to," said Ginepri, the world's 64th-ranked men's player. "I'd give it a 10."

Agassi and Mike Bryan teamed up again in the second match to face Gimelstob and Goldstein, but when Gimelstob's back flared up and he hobbled off the court, Agassi and Goldstein finished with a bit of singles play.

Agassi won, 7-5.

Afterward, Agassi auctioned off his racket for $5,000. A pair of oversized tennis balls signed by the players fetched $1,500 apiece.

"I want to thank (Gimelstob) for making me feel so young today," Agassi joked to the crowd. "That's what I get to look forward to, I guess. . . .

"It is so great to be here. I really miss all the people in this game, all those that I've grown so close with over the years. To have one day where I could come out and see everyone again, it does mean a lot to me, and it's great to be here."

The day's final match featured Davenport and actress Kaley Cuoco of "8 Simple Rules" fame taking on Mike Bryan and funnyman/actor Jon Lovitz.

Before the match, Davenport, who owns a home in Ventura County, said she'd probably throttle back a bit on the celebrities, although firing a fastball at Lovitz was still in the back of her mind, she added.

"You have to scale back a little bit," Davenport said. "That would be like if we went on stage to sing with a rock band—they wouldn't be expecting much. Still, you want to make good points and have fun with it."

Lovitz and Mike Bryan won the match, 6-2.

According to the Bryan Brothers Foundation, the entire event, which was the first of its kind for the Foundation and also featured a gala and dinner to honor Agassi, raised more than $100,000 for charity.

Bob Bryan said he was blown away with how well the inaugural event went.

"When you have Andre, that adds a lot of pop," Bob Bryan said. "It might be a bit downhill from here after getting one of the greatest players of all time in the first year, but we're really looking forward to doing it again."

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