I found myself eager to get the new tennis year started, so I began counting down the days until January the 18th which would mark the start of Australian Open 2010. It’s always interesting to see who’s going to start the year strong in the first Grand Slam of the year.
In reviewing the preliminary stories coming out before the start of the tournament, I saw an interesting interview with Roger Federer. He proposed to round up some of the top players to get them to play an exhibition for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. The tournament had a Monday start and what Federer proposed was to have this event the Sunday before the tournament started. This event literally was planned with twenty-four hours notice!
It is commendable that Roger Federer uses his position in the game to good advantage. While the tennis players were clearly preparing for the first slam of the year, they were encouraged by Federer to take some time out of their preparation to participate. Serena Williams, Sam Stosur, Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal, Kim Clijsters, Lleyton Hewitt, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer of course, all answered in the affirmative. Jim Courier sat in as guest chair umpire. The players put on a very entertaining event that not only collected from the fans who paid the admission but from the players themselves. Not only did the players give of their time (and in some cases, money) but some of the players even donated their rackets to be auctioned off with the proceeds going to the cause.
While the event was a mere footnote in the ESPN broadcasting schedule of the Australian Open, a stream of the event was made available on the Australian Open website. I took time out to watch the event and it was hilarious! The players were miked during the event and they played mixed doubles. It was interesting to see how loose and animated the players were with each other. They poked fun at each others tics, made jokes at each other’s expense and in general entertained the audience with their antics. The local Australian TV station broadcast the event live. A large number of clips from the event are on You tube as well.
Tennis is a truly a multicultural sport with players from all over the world. For the tennis community to embrace the plight of a country which suffered a natural disaster and donate their time and talents for the cause is commendable.
I think a word of thanks should go to the reporters who were encouraged by Federer to promote the event, the Australian Open tournament promoters who made the event possible on such short notice and to the players who participated and donated either their money, their time or their equipment for the cause.
I reserve my last word of thanks to the fans themselves for embracing the event. The Hit for Haiti was obviously a hit for the fans that were fortunate enough to attend!