Forty years after tennis' "Battle of the Sexes," world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Chinese star Li Na went head-to-head in a much-anticipated charity match in Beijing on Friday, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the China Open.
For tennis fans in attendance and those watching around the globe, the rare matchup offered an opportunity to see two tennis greats in an entirely different light.
Unlike a typical best-of-three-sets tennis match, Friday's exhibition only pitted Djokovic and Li against each other in the third and final set. The two superstars took turns squaring off against a pair of Chinese junior players in the first two sets.
With the crowd buzzing, both players were smiling and laughing from the start. Djokovic showcased his impressive linguistic skills, speaking to the crowd in Chinese before cutting the anniversary cake for Li, per Kings on Twitter:
djokovic and li na cutting at that big cake at the charity match. it's china open's 10th anniversary. pic.twitter.com/xv12rcWp4Y— Kings (@aussiesharapova) September 27, 2013
Before long, "Djoker" was living up to his moniker, dancing on the court and goofing around in the umpire's chair. Even Li couldn't contain her laughter. After the second set began and it was Djokovic's turn to take on the juniors, Li hopped onto the chair and entertained the fans.
"Gangnam Style" was off limits this year in Beijing, but Djokovic's dance moves brought back memories of his 2012 performance following the men's final.
While some points were played with great intensity, others were purely comical. Adding to the intrigue, several points were played with special donations on the line.
After battling the junior players in the first two sets, the tennis heavyweights went back and forth against each other in the third and final set, much to the delight of the crowd inside the packed Beijing National Tennis Center.
Although Li struck some tremendous shots, Djokovic was clearly holding back in an effort to keep the match competitive and entertaining.
Afterward, the two Grand Slam champions exchanged hugs and received trophies and applause for their efforts.
Unsurprisingly, Friday's charity match wasn't nearly as compelling or intense as the Battle of the Sexes was four decades ago, but Djokovic and Li put on an excellent show for a great cause.
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