So did the title catch your attention, trust me, it caught mine when the offer came up. So let me backtrack and talk about this great evening.
Dennis Alter, CEO of Advanta, who is a strong supporter / promoter (he co-sponsors WTT) invited me to come meet with him at the World Team Tennis match of the Philadelphia Freedoms vs. Newport Beach Breakers. I graciously accepted and left a few hours later. I found the Advanta tent, found my name, and sat down to speak with some of the guests. Dennis arrived and greeted me with a big smile. We chatted for a bit after which he went to greet a few other folks.
Dennis calls me over and says “Chris, I’d like to introduce you to someone.” I turn and he introduces me to Billie Jean King, (other co-sponsor of the WTT). To say I was a little surprised was an understatement. I have to say that Billie Jean is such a dynamic and charismatic speaker, no wonder she accomplished so much off the court too! Below is a picture of us:
So what happens next? Pete Sampras arrives!! He walks up, greets Dennis and Billie. I take a step back just observing the guy I watched so many years. It was really interesting though because Pete was very sociable, and witty. In fact, he was almost boyishly goofy. It makes you realize that he really is still a young guy overall. I take a picture of the 3 of them together:
and then Pete trots off to go warm up for the match.
A bit later, we’re getting ready to go watch the match and one of the Advanta members hands me my ticket, she says “Oh sorry, you kinda gotta bad seat, you’re sitting behind Luke Wilson….” I’m thinking “HUH????” We get to our seats, and sure enough, I walk by Luke Wilson (the movie star in case you don’t know him) and end up sitting a couple seats over.
Here I am, sitting in one of the best seats in the house, directly behind the court. The match begins, and I have to say, I really like the WTT format. It is definitely more fun, fast-paced and relaxed. After a while, Dennis turns to me and says “Chris, do you want to try and return Pete Sampras’ serve?” I say “Yeeeessss…..”, not entirely sure what he meant. Sure enough, 20 minutes later, I get escorted over to the other corner of the court with two other guys for the half time show.
From the corner, we watch Pete help auction off a pair of shoes, a shirt, and a racket he competed with! (this is in the video you can watch at the end). Now it’s time, to see who can return his serve. I don’t think the first guy returned his serve, Joe, a good friend of Dennis’ did return the serve, and I sadly, made clean contact with the first one (but it sailed long) and flubbed the second one. I was still a little in shock, haha. (I have a video recording of this but unfortunately it stops right as I’m about to hit the first serve…)
I head back to my seat, and just realize that one of my high school dreams came true, playing tennis with Pete Sampras. Hopefully it’ll happen again one day
The match ended with Philadelphia winning, and I realizing that his was one of the most unique and eventful nights I’ve ever had. I want to reiterate my thanks to Dennis for inviting me, and for the generosity that Advanta shows at these events, and many other tennis related endeavors.
So now, if you’d like to watch the video recap of the evening, here it is: