For the sixth time, New Jersey native and former tennis phenom Justin Gimelstob hosted a tennis exhibition to raise money for a variety of children's charities, including The Valerie Fund, a non-profit organization supporting healthcare services for children with cancer and blood disorders. This year's event, held at Centercourt Athletic Club in Chatham, N.J., raised more than $300,000 and was a huge success.
Gimelstob, who is now a sports broadcaster and player representative on the ATP World Tour Board of Directors, was joined by former world number one and U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick, former world number four James Blake, current top American player John Isner; and former world number 33 and current ATP World Tour player and N.J. resident Alex Bogomolov. Also joining in the activities was Gimelstob's friends and tennis enthusiasts, Golden Globe Award winner David Duchovny; internationally-acclaimed model Anne Vyalitsyna; New York Mets all-star pitcher Matt Harvey; former Villanova and New Jersey Nets basketball star Kerry Kittles; and Bobbi Brown, founder and CCO of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics..
The players started by taking part in clinics for junior players at 4:00 p.m and then signing autographs for the kids afterwards.
Then it was time for the main exhibition where Roddick would team with Duchovny to face Isner & Blake (along with Gimelstob who was subbing in for Isner at the midway point of the pro-set) in doubles. Prior to taking the court for the exhibition portion of the night, the good-natured trash talk was already underway as Roddick said, "I look forward to expanding my undefeated record against Justin, as well as supporting The Valerie Fund!"
The first match was highly entertaining, and in the end, the trio of Isner, Blake & Gimelstob came out on top. The second match-up was a Roddick vs. Isner singles pro-set in which Roddick earned the win, showing he still "has it" even after retirement. The players and celebrities were all happy to be part of such an entertaining event that was for a great cause.
"When you have a friend like Justin, you will do whatever you can to help him," said Blake. "For me, it means a lot to help out a hospital where children are treated because I have one young daughter and another on the way. It has much more of a special meaning now. I wouldn’t know how I would handle it if my daughter was sick seeing how much joy she brings to me.”
“It’s a good cause and it’s something Anne [Vyalitsyna] and I are very interested in," said Harvey. "Any time there is a good cause around New York or something we can support, we go. Obviously, I am a huge sports fan so something like this event that involves sports and giving back is very important to me. It’s an honor to be able to come to events like these and help out. It is very important that you take a little bit of time as an athlete to give back.”
"Justin has been a good friend of mine for a very long time," said Isner. "He has done such an unbelievable job with his foundation and it is great to know that not only am I helping a good friend, but I am helping and giving back to others.”
“What brings me out here tonight is the foundation is a way of giving back," said Dolgopolov. "I’ve known Justin for a long time, and when I first came onto tour, he was very encouraging and friendly, and I think he does a tremendous job for his foundation and on the tour for us as players.”
"The most obvious reason is my friend, Justin," said Roddick. "Him and his family have been huge supporters of my own foundation, and I trust his efforts. I am happy to lend my support.”
It was also great to see how the American players were so tight-knit and supporting one another. The many jokes at each others expense was a prime example at how close and comfortable they all were with one another.
“I am fortunate to be part of that generation where Andy and I got along," said Blake. "We played Davis Cup together and really felt like teammates and friends. We heard stories that years ago, the players did not get along as well and we felt sorry for them because it does get lonely out there and you feel isolated. You’re on the court by yourself and it makes life so much easier when you have friends. I was lucky to have all these guys as my friends then and now.”
Isner added, “Six years ago when I was first coming up James [Blake], Andy [Roddick], Mardy [Fish], Sam [Querrey] and I would always stick together and go out to dinner and that’s how it always has been. So it’s not just for show, we all are really good friends.”
Roddick made sure to point out that despite the friendships, they were all professionals who, when they took to the courts, needed to win.
"Sticking together, not sticking together ... whatever as long as you’re working hard and still wanting to beat each other up," noted Roddick. "That’s what I like to see.”
The Justin Gimelstob Children’s Fund was established in 1998 with the mission to provide financial support to a variety of children’s charities and related causes in the Northern New Jersey and the Metropolitan New York area
"When we started this event and my Foundation 15 years ago, I could never have imagined it would have grown into what it is today," said Gimelstob. "It brings me so much pleasure to come back home and bring world-class tennis with me ... all for a great cause."
Centercourt players take part in the pre-exhibition clinic (credit photo to Adam Wolfthal)
Actor David Duchovny celebrates a winner (credit photo to Adam Wolfthal)
Event host Justin Gimelstob introduces the night's participants (credit photo to Adam Wolfthal)
New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey serves as a guest official (credit photo to Adam Wolfthal)
Brooklyn Decker, Madison McKinley, Rosa Sinnott, Carol Smith and Cary Sinnott pause for a photo (credit photo to Sasha Lipps)
James Blake gets in some practice swings before the exhibition (credit photo to Adam Wolfthal)
Justin Gimelstob playing doubles at Centercourt of Chatham (credit photo to Adam Wolfthal)
Justin Gimelstob with a copy of the latest issue of New York Tennis Magazine (credit photo to Adam Wolfthal)
Andy Roddick, Justin Gimelstob, John Isner and James Blake sign autographs prior to the exhibition (credit photo to Adam Wolfthal)
Andy Roddick and John Isner during their post-match handshake (credit photo to Adam Wolfthal)