As we’ve reported previously, Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf are set to take on John McEnroe and Maria Sharapova in ‘Pickleball Slam 2’ on Sunday.
The event follows the inaugural Pickleball Slam held last April at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
More Comic Relief Than Inspiring Cameo
At one point during that encounter, an exasperated John McEnroe threw Stefanie (Sports Illustrated states she stopped using Steffi years ago) Graf a paddle and invited her onto the court to replace him in his and Andre Agassi’s match against Michael Chang and Andy Roddick.
Although she eventually won a point, it wasn’t pretty and served more as comic relief than an inspiring cameo.
It obviously hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm for the game, as her return for the second iteration proves.
However, her preparation hasn’t been straightforward. “Goodness, I’m still trying to unlearn [tennis],” she admitted to Sports Illustrated.
“I Don’t Want To Slow Down And Be Patient”
She had originally taken up the game with Agassi as a way to stay active with their kids during the pandemic. Despite the superficial similarities with tennis, Graf acknowledges the challenges, stating, “I want to move around. I want to hit the ball. I don’t want to slow down and be patient, waiting for the right moment to attack. I tend to want to keep my feet moving. That’s what I learned in tennis. My mind knows what I should be doing, but my body is not quite ready to let that tennis mind go.”
While Agassi sharpens his skills with his tennis buddies, Graf has been actively taking lessons to adapt to the nuances of pickleball.
Her facing the notoriously feisty McEnroe, with whom Graf has a history as they were mixed-doubles partners at Wimbledon in 1999, adds an intriguing dynamic to the matchup. They reached the semifinals, but Graf defaulted as she wanted to concentrate fully on her singles semi-final. McEnroe was reportedly quite peeved at the time.
However, that was in the past, and if their good-natured exchanges on social media are anything to go by, they seem to have buried the hatchet.
Despite the past tensions, Graf says she is determined just to enjoy the evening and any challenges it throws up.
Moments Of Frustration
“I have a bit of a hard time getting back into that [competitive] mode,” she says. “I want to enjoy it. I love the challenge of it. I do like the competition, but I also don’t want to get too competitive.”
Reflecting on her practice sessions with Agassi, she acknowledges that there have been moments of frustration, but she also highlights their mutually supportive natures:
“We know when we get to our boiling points or when we get upset with ourselves,” she says. “We are able to pick each other up pretty well.
But it has happened the last few months that a paddle kind of, you know, slipped out of the hand and just kind of went into flying into a corner. But that’s because we’re mad at ourselves. It’s been a challenge for me—a good challenge.”
As ‘Pickleball Slam 2’ approaches, the stage is set for a compelling clash between tennis legends and current stars.
Tune in to the live ESPN telecast, which starts at 8:30 p.m. ET.
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