On the Baseline Tennis News
FLUSHING MEADOWS, New York—There are many fancy parties and events during the two weeks of the US Open, but on Friday night, the Legends Ball was the hottest ticket in town.
The invitation read: Festive Attire/Black-Tie Optional. Which means, anything goes–as long as it’s fancy. I arrived early at Cipriani, wearing my fancy black dress and painful high heels, waiting patiently for the biggest names in tennis to walk through the door.
Just about an hour before The Legends Ball began, the US Open announced that it had to postpone all tennis matches for the day, due to rain. But the news didn’t put a damper on the Legends Ball festivities—cocktail hour, dinner, a live auction, and dancing.
Who Was There
The event honored the Tennis Hall of Fame’s Class of 2009 – Donald L. Dell, Andres Gimeno, the late Dr. Robert Johnson, and nine-time Grand Slam Champion Monica Seles. Other honorees were Arthur Ashe & Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, recipients of The Eugene L. Scott Award. The Tennis Channel was also honored with this year’s Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Award.
Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts was the Master of Ceremonies for the event. I was surprised to hear Robin say that she was awarded a tennis scholarship in college, even though she became a well-known college basketball star. “I’m a tennis nut at heart,” she says. I had a chance to chat with Robin on the red carpet about newcomer Melanie Oudin, and her run to the quarterfinals at the US Open. “I loved her innocence,” says Robin. “She just ran out of gas. You can tell she’s not satisfied.”
When I probed her to give predictions for the women’s final, she said that whoever won the Kim Clijsters/Serena Williams semifinal would win the tournament. While no one could have ever predicted the way in which that semifinal ended, it looks like Robin’s method of predicting the US Open champion was on the nose.
I was completely caught off guard when Real Housewives of New York cast members, Jill Zarin and Ramona Singer walked through the door. But then again, tennis has been warming up to reality TV lately. Former tennis stars such as Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Justine Henin, and Hall of Fame Inductee, Monica Seles have all jumped onto the reality TV bandwagon.
Another surprise guest at the Ball was Miss USA, Kristen Dalton. I would say she looks a little bit like Maria Sharapova, only about 40 pounds lighter, and no where near as tall.
Stacey Allaster, the Chairman and CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, was also in attendance. At first I didn’t recognize her, since I’ve only seen her in a photo. My immediate impression of her was how small in stature she is, as she stood next to Monica Seles for a photo. Yet, Allaster has become a big presence on the WTA Tour, since taking over for Larry Scott, former CEO of the WTA Tour.
Former tennis stars and US Open commentators Mary Joe Fernandez, Tracy Austin Martina Navratilova, and Pam Shriver were also at the event. Liezel Huber was the only current WTA player at the Ball, who took advantage of a break in the US Open doubles competition to support the Tennis Hall of Fame.
What Were They Wearing?
There were outfits of every variety on both men and women, but there was no lack of glamour. And, no, I didn’t see anyone who broke the “No White After Labor Day” rule.
In fact, black seemed to be the color of choice for most guests at the event. Tracy Austin was one of the few who resisted the temptation to wear black, showing up in a full length, light blue gown. Monica Seles wore a classic two-piece black suit, with gorgeous earrings, and fancy black patent leather pumps.
We’ll Start the Bidding At…
One of the most fun parts of the evening was the live auction, which benefited the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum. The auction featured dozens of unique items and experiences, and the competition to win the best auction items was fierce.
Some of the items that sold:
1) Wimbledon 2010. Two Centre Court tickets for the ladies’ final and the men’s final.
2) Australian Open 2010. Two tickets to the men’s and women’s semifinals and finals in the President’s Lounge. Four nights accommodations at the Hilton on the Park Hotel in Melbourne, Australia, including transportation to and from the hotel.
3) Roland Garros 2010. Two Centre Court tickets in Chatrier Stadium for the men’s and women’s finals.
4) Monica Seles Hit Session (one hour). Learn to improve your game with Monica Seles, near her home in Florida. Monica will also give lessons on “grunting”.