I thought I was witnessing the most awkward part of Day Three at Indian Wells when Maria Sharapova went down 1-5 in the first set to Vera Dushevina on Stadium 2. The crowd was groaning and wincing as she hit serve after serve into the bottom of the net. But then I heard a collective gasp coming from the main stadium and the announcer crying “Gizzzella Dooolkooooo, everyone!” Oh, geeze. After being booted out of the second round by Gisela Dulko, Justine Henin would be returning to the same court a couple hours later to play as one of the legends in the Hit for Haiti benefit.
The ladies managed to redeem themselves before the day was through. Sharapova scraped out a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory over her fellow Russian. Justine ended her tournament on a feel-good note when she and her partner Martina Navratilova beat the team of Lindsay Davenport and Stephanie (yes, it’s Stephanie now) Graf in a friendly match benefiting a worthy cause. Kudos to Martina for doing her part to soothe Justine – I think her net game would still be one of the best on tour.
So we fans were feeling happy by the time Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi took to the court to play their Hit for Haiti doubles match. Andre was sharp – cracking wise while cracking his ground strokes. Roger Federer tempered Andre’s sarcasm with his own goofy comebacks. Everyone in the stadium was laughing along and admiring the tennis. Yay! A hit and giggle with good rallies and belly laughs!
But then Andre dropped a stink bomb. It didn’t exactly clear the stadium, but it made most of us suddenly wish we weren’t sitting in it. Here’s some video of the toxic exchange between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi at Hit for Haiti:
Yep that was really, truly awkward. Drunk uncle awkward. Making someone cry at Thanksgiving awkward. None of the 16,000 of us in the stands really understood how or why Uncle Andre and Uncle Pete almost came to blows over the baked yams, we just wanted to keep the mood light until dessert was over. Then we got in our cars and gossiped all the way home.
Here’s my take on what the hell happened. Pete was uptight from the start. Maybe his feelings were still bruised from Andre’s autobiography. Andre overcompensated for Pete’s reserve, and Roger was the only guy on the court with the combination of wits and English skills to stand up to him. Maybe Andre read Pete’s stoicism as passive-aggressive and decided to goad him into something (anything!) – like that awful impersonation. I don’t even want to know what Pete’s Barack Obama joke was about. Bottom line: Andre acted like a jerk. He should know better than to take low blows at an opponent during a charity match. Forget the good cause and the worldwide audience for a minute and remember – Rod Laver was in the house!
I’d say that Andre owes Pete an apology, but honestly, he’s done this stuff to Pete before, apologized and then insulted him again. Huh, it really is like family, isn’t it?
What do you think?