Roger Federer’s impromptu ‘Hit for Haiti’ is to be replicated in Indian Wells by new tournament owner Larry Elisson in an event expected to raise at least $1million for relief efforts in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
Due to take place on March 12 ahead of the main draw of the BNP Paribas Open, the latest Haiti fundraiser looks set to be less of a banter-filled knock around than the Melbourne event, more a doubles clash encompassing two of the sport’s greatest rivalries.
Federer will team up with 38-year-old Pete Sampras to take on Rafael Nadal and Andre Agassi – a pair who would arguably have won far more than their 14 collective Grand Slam titles were it not for the long-standing dominance of the Swiss and the American.
Software billionaire Elisson coined the idea of a second ‘hit for Haiti’ after seeing the success of the Melbourne event, which raised over $600,000 from ticket sales and donations.
“When I saw the first Hit for Haiti event in Australia, I was very moved by the players coming together, on the eve of an important tournament, for such a worthy cause,” said Ellison.
A crowd of around 17,000 people gathered for the initial event at Melbourne Park’s Rod Laver Arena, and Ellison hopes to create an equally well-received event at what has become the most attended tennis tournament in the world outside of the four Grand Slams.
But unlike the jovial atmosphere in Melbourne, the return of the Agassi-Sampras rivalry looks set to be especially spicy, particularly after Agassi’s ill-received comments about the 14-time Grand Slam champ in his candid autobiography ‘Open’.
“I envy Pete’s dullness,” Agassi wrote. “I wish I could emulate his spectacular lack of inspiration, and his peculiar lack of need for inspiration.”
Sampras responded by saying he would like a ‘sit-down’ with his long-term rival.
“I got wind of a few things that he said about me, and I was a little surprised and a little disappointed,” Sampras said in January.
But the pair will once again let their tennis do the talking in Indian Wells – a tournament Agassi won once and Sampras won twice during their careers – and Elisson is particularly excited about their participation in the fundraiser.
“I wanted to bring together an exceptional group of players, with an unprecedented amount of Grand Slam titles, at the BNP Paribas Open,” he said.
“Our goal is to leave a memorable impression on fans, while raising a substantial amount of money that will directly impact the needs of people in Haiti.”