Pickleball Slam; tennis greats featured in Sunday match
When Andy Roddick agreed to join John McEnroe, Andre Agassi and Michael Chang at the Pickleball Slam, the 2003 U.S. Open champion figured he had two distinct advantages against the three other International Tennis Hall of Fame inductees participating in the made-for-TV exhibition in Hollywood, Florida.
At age 40, Roddick is the junior member of the quartet (McEnroe is 64, Agassi 52, Chang 51). And Roddick’s serve, which topped 150 mph back in his days on the tennis tour, was the fastest among the group of retired Grand Slam title winners who signed up for something that features a $1 million purse and airs Sunday on ESPN at noon Eastern, before the March Madness women’s championship game.
Roddick will face Chang, then McEnroe will take on Agassi, before a McEnroe- Chang vs. Agassi-Roddick doubles competition at the Pickleball Slam — the latest in a series of attempts to draw eyeballs to a sport taking over courts in neighborhoods all over while still finding its footing on television.
“Everyone likes it instantly. It’s pretty well-regarded by people that play it,” Roddick said. “But you also don’t know if it will ever translate to TV and be a very watchable product without knowing the ins and outs and nuances that, frankly, I don’t know that people have the time to learn.”
Horizon Sports & Experiences (HS&E) is producing the Pickleball Slam in tandem with InsideOut Sports and Entertainment (ISE). The idea, HS&E co-CEO David Levy explained, was for bold-faced names from one racket sport to help promote another.
Likening the appeal of Sunday’s event to what drew fans to “The Match,” a televised golf exhibition that began under his watch at Turner with Tiger Woods playing against Phil Mickelson in 2018.