Elton John Teams Up with Local Tennis Star for AIDS Charity

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Sir Elton John put his athleticism to the test and hit the tennis court at Cleveland’s Public Hall Thursday to raise money for the Elton John Aids Foundation.

“I am going to make a fool of myself on the court and we are going to make us a lot of money,” Elton John said, speaking to the live auction audience.

John and tennis legend Billie Jean King came together for the 19th Annual World Team Tennis Smash Hits event, which always starts with a VIP live auction.

The goal is to raise money for the Elton John Aids foundation and for local AIDS groups. The event travels to different cities each year and made its first stop in Cleveland in 19 years of existence. The money from the VIP auction benefited the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland.

“I have always loved playing here,” John said. This is the first place I think I ever played,” he said. “I love coming here, it is a good town.”

John and King selected their teams for the tennis matches. Elton John’s lineup included former U.S. Open Champion Andy Roddick and 18-year-old Australian Open qualifier Lauren Davis. Davis is a local player from Gates Mills, Ohio. She grew up watching the players that she got to share court with Thursday night. She also grew up listening to Elton John.

“I love his music, and growing up watching these players on TV, it is just so cool,” Davis said.

Billie Jean King’s team was headlined by 59-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova and 17-time Grand Slam winner John McEnroe. The games began with a celebrities doubles contest. Elton John and Navratilova against McEnroe and Amelie Mauresmo. John and Navratilova took victory at Public Hall Thursday night. He now has one more win than King in 19 years of fundraising. Smash Hits has raised over 10 million dollars since beginning in 1993, but John says the struggle is much greater than raising money.

“The medicine has become so much more sophisticated. People have hopes of living normal lives. The challenge now is to get the medicine to people who can’t afford it and to get rid of the stigma that is still associated with AIDS,” John said. “That people who get AIDS are ashamed of having it and they don’t tell anyone and they don’t get tested because of the stigma of the disease.”

Other participants included Coco Vandeweghe, Mark Knowles, Amelie Mauresmo, and Jan-Michael Gambill.