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Tennis Stars Join Elton John for Annual Aids Charity Event

  • Parke Brewer

From left to right: Andre Agassi, Elton John, and Steffi Graf at news conference

From left to right: Andre Agassi, Elton John, and Steffi Graf at news conference

World Team Tennis held its 18th annual Smash Hits fundraising event on November 15, co-hosted by British pop singing star Elton John and U.S. tennis legend Billy Jean King. And for the first time, Washington served as center court.

It was a night that included entertaining and serious tennis, featuring well-known legends of the game -- including Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and husband Andre Agassi. But it was also a charitable event, benefiting the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Organizers say half of the proceeds from a live auction goes to local organizations to improve HIV/AIDS prevention, testing and care services. This year's auction raised more $100,000 for local charities.

Co-host Billy Jean King, herself a former tennis champion, said it was important to stage this year's event in Washington. The city's HIV infection rate is 12 times the national average.

"It's wonderful to be here because it's the hub," King said. "It's the capital of our country."



Tennis Stars Join Elton John for Annual Aids Charity Event

Tennis Stars Join Elton John for Annual Aids Charity Event

Elton John's usual game is singing and song writing, not tennis. But he takes to the court each year for the Smash Hits pro-celebrity doubles match.

"Of all the sports, tennis people were on the page first when it came to supporting AIDS and becoming aware and helping out. And so it's all credit to the tennis community," the singer said.

The now retired Agassi and Navratilova say it is a privilege to participate.

Andre Agassi warms up before tennis fundraiser as Martina Navratilova looks on

Andre Agassi warms up before tennis fundraiser as Martina Navratilova looks on

"Whenever I can, when they ask me I show up," she said. "It's great to be on the court with all of these legends and great to make a difference."

"I do love getting out there and seeing what a little effort can go such a long way," added Andre Agassi, "and I think that's what we see every time we perform at this event."

And the fans come out not only to open their wallets and purses for charity, but also to enjoy the matches.

Andre Agassi and wife Steffi Graf look on during HIV/AIDS fundraiser auction

Andre Agassi and wife Steffi Graf look on during HIV/AIDS fundraiser auction

"This is my 10th Smash Hits, so I'm a big fan of Smash Hits and a World Team Tennis fan. I love the format. Everybody comes out. Obviously there are some great players here, some legends. It's cool. It's fun," said tennis fan Claude Okin.

"They're such natural, wonderful people that really it's obvious how much they all love giving back after they've given all of us so much on the tennis court, and they're really doing a wonderful job giving back," fan Christine Cornish added.

So does it really matter to Elton John who wins the annual charity tennis match?

"It does matter to me actually," John said, "but that's because Billy Jean and I are so competitive and we've been friends for so long."

But on this night in Washington, it was Billy Jean King's team that beat Team Elton John, 19-15.

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