Pickleball Slam II saw Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf secure a well-deserved victory over John McEnroe and Maria Sharapova at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino on Sunday, claiming a $1 million prize in the process.
Even though McEnroe played to the crowd with some trademark outbursts and Sharapova showed great professionalism in trying to diffuse any tension, Agassi and Graf outclassed them, winning relatively comfortably in the end.
An Expanded Event This Year
In response to their plans for the winnings, Graf mentioned, “I’m sure we got some good ideas,” as reported by USA TODAY Sports.
This triumph followed Agassi and Andy Roddick’s previous success at the inaugural Pickleball Slam, where they earned a $1 million purse by defeating McEnroe and Michael Chang in a winner-takes-all one-off doubles match.
The event’s expansion this year included the added attraction of Graf, Sharapova, and former tennis players turned pickleball enthusiasts Jack Sock and James Blake. This not only widened the event’s appeal but also continued to bridge the gap between tennis and pickleball. The Slam also had a primetime slot on ESPN.
“Tennis Is Always King”
John McEnroe acknowledged pickleball’s accessibility, stating, “To me, tennis is always the king. But it’s easy to play this. That’s why my friends play with me all the time.” Agassi added, “The sports themselves, they can live and play happily in the sandbox. There’s no reason why a tennis player can’t have a paddle in their bag and pull it out at any time. Courts are everywhere now.”
Agassi and Sock triumphed in the first match against McEnroe and Blake, and Graf and Sock secured victory in the second match against Sharapova and Blake.
The final match saw Agassi and Graf sweep the event with their 11-7, 13-11 win against McEnroe and Sharapova.
Click here to see some video highlights.
Dink Shots: A Challenge In Doubles Matches
McEnroe expressed his preference for singles matches in pickleball, mainly due to the challenge of dink shots during doubles games. He rather amusingly added, “I’m probably more frustrated, but I am getting older. So, I’m trying to come up with something new, you know?”
Although Graf had taken the event seriously, getting herself used to the nuances of the game by practicing hard for the previous six months, she did admit to butterflies before the game: “Before we started, I had a lot of nerves, and I haven’t felt that way in many years,” she said. “It’s a great crowd, and it’s really special.”
Some Amusing Exchanges
Agassi couldn’t resist a dig at his old friend, playfully teasing McEnroe post-match: “You know he’s gotten definitely more comfortable. He just has to stop hating on Pickleball. He’s going to improve dramatically.”
Sock, meanwhile, talked about the relationship between tennis and pickleball: “There’s room for both, and they’re both amazing in their own way.”
McEnroe’s unfamiliarity with the finer points of pickleball led to some amusing exchanges with the umpire. When explaining the scoring system before the game, the referee told McEnroe: “I’ll hold your hand the entire match; don’t worry.”
Then, after being foot-faulted, McEnroe exclaimed, “You can’t challenge the foot call?”
Cool as a cucumber, the referee shot back, “We can trade places if you want to.”
Scoring At Pickleball Slam II
The first match was scored in pro-legend doubles format: Rally scoring (every point counts), best two out of three games to 11 points, win by 2.
The second and final matches were mixed doubles and used the rally scoring method, i.e. every point counts) with the winner achieving the best two out of three games to 21 and winning by 2.
Pickleball Slam II Timeline
Match 1: Agassi, Sock beat McEnroe and Blake 11-7, 9-11, 11-8.
Match 2: Graf and Sock win against Sharapova, Blake 9-11, 11-8, 17-15.
Match 3: Agassi and Graf win 11-7, 13-11 against McEnroe and Sharapova.
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