Agassi, Lovitz Ace Tennis Benefit
MusiCares fundraiser serves up tennis and laughs
"It's a miracle!" declared chair umpire Pam Shriver, as comic actor Jon Lovitz and tennis great Andre Agassi launched a spectacular comeback win over Bob and Mike Bryan at the annual Gibson/Baldwin Night at the Net pro-celebrity tennis event Monday night in Westwood, California.
The pro-celebrity match — which served up an enjoyable evening of semi-serious tennis and hearty laughs to benefit The Recording Academy-affiliated MusiCares Foundation — took place on the opening night of the 80th Annual Countrywide Classic tennis tournament held at Straus Stadium in UCLA's Los Angeles Tennis Center.
Despite being surrounded by Lovitz and wise-cracking actor Jeremy Piven, it was multiple-Grand Slam champion Shriver who deftly delivered many of night's best comedic fare. Shortly before Lovitz and Agassi clenched the win, she razzed Lovitz about his difficulty with his tennis game.
As a helicopter made a low pass over the stadium, she deadpanned, "They're here filming, just in case Jon gets a serve in."
The Night at the Net event raises funds for MusiCares' Financial Assistance Program, which assists music industry people in need of health care referrals, confidential crisis intervention, and financial aid for medical emergencies. An online auction held throughout July, as well as a silent auction that took place at the event, raised additional funds for the Foundation.
Prior to the match, United States Tennis Association President Franklin Johnson presented MusiCares Chairman Les Bider with a check for $5,000, while earlier in the evening Gibson Guitar and Baldwin Piano, a Net at the Net title sponsor since 2002, presented MusiCares a $75,000 check. Gibson/Baldwin and its charitable Gibson Foundation work closely with MusiCares in various partnerships throughout the year.
The evening kicked off with a rousing on-court performance by the UCLA Marching Band, bedecked in cheerful Hawaiian-print shirts. Instrumentalist Mindi Abair played a jazzy sax rendition of the national anthem at center court, followed by a pair of silky R&B selections from multiple-GRAMMY nominee Brian McKnight.
Actor Fred Willard introduced the evening's participants, which included Jack and Stench, from the "Jamie, Jack and Stench" morning show on Los Angeles radio station STAR 98.7, who served as ball boys.
When asked by Willard what drew him to the tournament, Agassi joked, "Well, my wife doesn't work, and I have to pay the rent." He is married to Steffi Graf, who retired after accumulating 22 Grand Slam singles tennis titles during her career.
Agassi won his opening-round Countrywide Classic match earlier in the day against Belgian Xavier Malisse.
The 36-year-old Agassi, who will retire from professional tennis following this year's U.S. Open, first was paired with Piven, who arrived at Straus Stadium directly from the set of his hit HBO series "Entourage." He was cheered on with calls of "Ari!," the name of his slick movie agent character on the show.
Agassi and Piven faced off against returning Night at the Net champion Lovitz, who benefited from the on-court skills of both of the Bryan brothers, currently the ATP's No. 1 ranked doubles players, who alternated as his partner.
After one set, Piven had to dash back to the set of "Entourage," and Agassi and Lovitz joined forces to take on the Bryan brothers. After being down 5-1, Agassi and Lovitz surged ahead to win 10-9.
(The Gibson/Baldwin Night at the Net online charity auction will continue through Thursday, July 27. Please visit the auction here.)