By Andy J. Gordon
At the fifth annual “Tennis with the Stars” presented by BNP Paribas on March 5, 2019, several big tennis fans got to live their dreams by playing with a few top pros. It all happened at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa one day before the official start of the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament held annually in Indian Wells, California.
The beautiful tennis and golf resort hosted a few hundred guests, who enjoyed an afternoon of clinics, a “King of the Court” competition and an exhibition by the pros, including Stefanos Tsitsipas and Victoria Azarenka. The event was a fundraiser for national nonprofit ACEing Autism and local nonprofit Desert Arc. Founded in 2008, ACEing Autism enhances the lives of children and families with autism through tennis. Celebrating its sixtieth anniversary, Desert Arc has championed the rights of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities since 1959.
Cliff Drysdale Management puts on Tennis with the Stars every year; Drysdale was a legendary pro in the ’60s and ’70s who has since become a celebrated tennis announcer. His management company specializes in tennis program development, daily tennis operations and tennis management for resorts, hotels and private tennis clubs.
Over the course of the afternoon, both kids and adults participated in the clinics. Tsitsipas, who just cracked into the men’s top 10 on the world tennis tour, helped run a clinic on the main court for a group of about 20 people with autism. Elsewhere, a set of Cliff Drysdale Management teaching pros ran the King of the Court games on two outer courts, where tour pros Frances Tiafoe, Genie Bouchard and Daria Kasatkina joined in the fun.
Victoria Azarenka joined the other tour pros and a few amateur guests for a spirited live-ball competition on the main court. Cliff Drysdale sat in the umpire’s chair and called the play. The elimination game pitted pros teamed with amateurs, but the fans in the crowd waited for the pros vs. pros exhibition doubles games to show their greatest enthusiasm and applause. The hitting was top notch, but the comical dialogue from Drysdale in the chair and the players on the court was equally entertaining.
After the tennis games concluded, the players stayed for autographs and pictures with the fans. A nice buffet dinner in the clubhouse ended the fun day of entertaining tennis. Closing out this grand event, everyone left knowing they had helped raise money for two good causes and got a preview of some of the world-class tennis that will take place over the next two weeks at the BNP Paribas Open.