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Agassi, Graf beat McEnroe, Sharapova for $1 million

Agassi, Graf beat McEnroe, Sharapova for  million

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — John McEnroe threw a couple of fits. And Maria Sharapova eased him away from throwing a few more. 

But the tennis legends were no match for the sport’s most popular couple. 

Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf defeated McEnroe and Sharapova to win a $1 million purse in Pickleball Slam 2, which was broadcast in primetime on ESPN at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino on Sunday night. 

“I’m sure we got some good ideas,” Graf told USA TODAY Sports when asked about their plans for the winnings. 

The four former world No. 1s, who combined for 42 Grand Slam singles titles in tennis, embraced the stage in pickleball, one of the fastest growing sports in the country.

Agassi and McEnroe starred in the event last year with former tennis pros Andy Roddick and Michael Chang.

But the additions of Graf, Sharapova and former tennis players turned pickleballers Jack Sock and James Blake expanded the event’s range with an effort to bridge the passionate divide between the sports.

“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,” McEnroe said of pickleball. “But the better the level [of competition], you better practice.”

Added Agassi: “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, and I think that’s less and less.”

Agassi and Sock, who plays professionally in Major League Pickleball, won the first match against McEnroe and Blake, a team owner of the MLP’s Milwaukee Mashers, 11-7, 9-11, 11-8. Graf and Sock won the second match against Sharapova and Blake 9-11, 11-8, 17-15.

Agassi and Graf won the third and final match 11-7, 13-11 to sweep the event. 

Steffi Graf returns a volley from John McEnroe as teammate Andre Agassi looks on during Pickleball Slam 2.

McEnroe says he prefers singles matches in pickleball for a better workout, while he felt exposed with doubles matches with dink shots – returns closer to the net which require players to lower their bodies to make contact.

McEnroe only slammed his paddle to the ground twice during the event in patented frustration.

“I’m probably more frustrated, but I am getting older,” McEnroe said. “So, I’m trying to come up with something new, you know?”

Graf said she’s been playing pickleball “seriously” for about six months with Agassi, who picked up the sport more frequently after last year’s event.

Despite being the most accomplished player in her house, Graf said she felt some nervous jitters before the event.

“Before we started, I had a lot of nerves and I haven’t felt that way in many years,” said Graf, who retired in 1999 with 107 singles titles. “It’s a great crowd and it’s really special.”

There will be three matches:

∎ Match 1: Agassi, Sock win first match against McEnroe and Blake 11-7, 9-11, 11-8 

∎ Match 2: Graf and Sock win the second match against Sharapova, Blake 9-11, 11-8, 17-15.

∎ Match 3: Agassi and Graf won the third and final match 11-7, 13-11 to win the event over McEnroe and Sharapova. 

Graf and Sock win the second match against Sharapova, Blake 9-11, 11-8, 17-15 

Team Agassi is up 2-0. But the final match is worth two points. Next up are the four tennis legends. 

Graf and Sock stormed back down 10-7, to win the final set 17-15. 

“It’s been a lot of fun. Before we started I had a lot of nerves and I haven’t felt that in many years,” Graf said after the match. “It’s a great crowd and it’s really special.” 

Agassi, Sock win first match against McEnroe and Blake 11-7, 9-11, 11-8 

John McEnroe returns a volley during Pickleball Slam 2.

Agassi’s side is up 1-0 on the event after a win in the first match. And he didn’t pass up an opportunity to poke fun of 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,” Agassi said of McEnroe. 

During the same interview, Sock said this event helps bridge the negativity between tennis and pickleball because “there’s room for both and they’re both amazing in their own way.” 

John McEnroe slams his paddle on first point loss

McEnroe didn’t waste any time making his presence felt on Sunday, slamming his paddle after he and Blake lost the first point in the first match. Then, McEnroe was upset at his first foot fault. 

“You can’t challenge the foot call?!” McEnroe yelled. 

The referee then told McEnroe “we can trade places if you want to.” 

When explaining the point system before play even began, the referee told McEnroe: “I’ll hold your hand the entire match, don’t worry.”

What are foot faults in pickleball?

Players are not allowed to step into the squared off area closest to the net where they can commit foot faults. The area is called the non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, on the pickleball courts.

Scoring at the Pickleball Slam 

The first match will be 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 will be mixed doubles format: Rally scoring (every point counts), best two out of three games to 21, win by 2.

Who won Pickleball Slam 1? 

Agassi and Andy Roddick earned a $1 million purse after beating McEnroe and Michael Chang in a winner-take-all doubles match 21-15, 21-23, 12-10.