Several of the biggest names in tennis came together at the 19th annual WTT Smash Hits presented by GEICO at Cleveland Public Hall, raising more than $500,000 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland. Team Elton rallied to win the match over Team Billie Jean 19-18 in front of a crowd of 3,477 fans.
Team Elton John bounced from an early 10-3 deficit when local favorite Lauren Davis of Gates Mills, Ohio, ignited a comeback with a 5-1 singles win over Coco Vandeweghe of Team Billie Jean. After Andy Roddick pulled Team Elton even with a 5-3 win in men’s singles, he won the deciding supertiebreaker 7-1 to give Team Elton the 19-18 overall match victory.
"Lauren Davis pulled out an amazing performance to put us back in it," John said afterwards. With the win, Team Elton broke a 9-9 tie in the overall series.
In its 19-year history, WTT Smash Hits has raised more than $10.5 million for the Elton John AIDS Foundation and local charities throughout the U.S.
"You have to make sure you can give the money raised to the right people," said John during a pre-match press conference. "Our challenge now is to get medicine to people who can’t afford it, and get rid of the stigma that’s still associated with AIDS. Some people who get AIDS are ashamed of having it and don’t tell anyone or get tested. You don’t get ashamed if you have cancer. You go get your medicine and treatment."
Before the on-court action began, the co-hosts and players attended a pre-match reception and live auction. The top auction items of the night were the two popular Billie Jean King hitting sessions, which King served up for $17,000 each. Other auction items were a 2012 Super Bowl Package, two Elton John-signed piano benches, hitting sessions with Andy Roddick and Martina Navratilova, and a French Open package. The live and silent auctions raised more than $155,000 of the evening's total.
Following the auction, an exciting night of tennis took center stage. Sir Elton John kicked the evening off, partnering Martina Navratilova to a 4-3, (5-4) victory against John McEnroe and Amelie Mauresmo in an entertaining celebrity doubles set. At 1-1, the music legend delighted the crowd, ripping a serve out wide and charging the net to put away an overhead smash for a winner, which received a standing ovation. On a deciding set point for both teams in the nine point tiebreak, John clinched the win with a crosscourt forehand return winner.
Though John triumphed to start the night, it was Team Billie Jean that came out firing in the opening set of men’s doubles. The combination of John McEnroe’s craftiness at the net and Jan-Michael Gambill’s powerful serves led the pair to a 5-2 win over Smash Hits rookie Mark Knowles and seven-time participant Andy Roddick.
Martina Navratilova and Coco Vandeweghe cruised past Lauren Davis and Amelie Mauresmo 5-1 to give Team Billie Jean a commanding 10-3 lead heading into the third set. Navratilova set her teammate up several times, utilizing her years of experience in doubles to open up the court.
Trailing by seven games, Team Elton needed a spark, and they found it in local teenager Lauren Davis. The teenager, who grew up in the Cleveland area and now trains at Evert Tennis Academy, topped Vandeweghe 5-1 in women’s singles to close Team Elton’s deficit to 11-8 at the halfway point. The 18-year-old Davis impressed with her well-struck backhands.
"It’s a great experience playing with Sir Elton John ... I love his music," Davis said. "Growing up watching these players on TV, it’s so cool [to be here]."
In a hard-fought mixed doubles set, Mauresmo and Roddick prevailed 5-4 (4) versus Navratilova and Gambill to move Team Elton within one game heading into the final set. With both teams having set point, Roddick closed it out with a nifty backhand volley winner to give Team Elton its second straight set.
Roddick broke Gambill to take a 3-1 lead in the final set, and held on for a 5-3 win in men’s singles, tying the score at 18-18 to send the event into a deciding supertiebreaker. From there, Roddick took over, taking it 7-1 to give Team Elton the 19-18 match victory.
Celebrity Set (does not count towards final score)
►Elton John & Martina Navratilova def. John McEnroe & Amelie Mauresmo 4-3 (5-4 in Tiebreak)
Final Results - WTT Smash Hits presented by GEICO at Public Hall in Cleveland, Ohio
Team Elton def. Team Billie Jean 19-18 (7-1 Supertiebreaker)
►Men’s Doubles: John McEnroe & Jan-Michael Gambill (Team Billie Jean) def. Andy Roddick & Mark Knowles (Team Elton) 5-2
►Women’s Doubles: Martina Navratilova & Coco Vandeweghe (Team Billie Jean) def. Amelie Mauresmo & Lauren Davis (Team Elton) 5-1
►Women's Singles: Lauren Davis (Team Elton) def. Coco Vandeweghe (Team Billie Jean) 5-1
►Mixed-Doubles: Andy Roddick & Amelie Mauresmo (Team Elton) def. Jan-Michael Gambill & Martina Navratilova (Team Billie Jean) 5-4
►Men’s Singles: Andy Roddick (Team Elton) def. Jan-Michael Gambill (Team Billie Jean) 5-3
►Supertiebreaker - Men's Singles: Andy Roddick (Team Elton) def. Jan-Michael Gambill (Team Billie Jean) 1-0 (7-1)