It’s not every day that you are lucky enough to see six of the greatest tennis stars battle it out for victory, particularly in one of London’s greatest venues – The Royal Albert Hall. As a guest of the organisers, The Luxury Channel was kindly invited to join them.
British sports stars from all competitions – Sir Steve Redgrave and Katherine Grainger among them – turned out in force for the Statoil Masters Tennis. Part of the ATP Champions Tour, the Masters Tennis sees a roster of former tennis stars compete against each other. The rules for entry are simple – players must have been ranked number one in the world, played in a Grand Slam singles final or been a Davis Cup winner.
First up was British tennis champ Tim Henman, taking on Aussie Mark Philippoussis. With the Ashes tests simultaneously taking place, there was a lot riding on the match – national as well as personal pride! After Henman quickly gained an upper hand in the first few games, it was clear Philippoussis had got himself into a spot of trouble, as his back gave way. Whilst the ladies of the audience stole surreptitious glances in his direction as he was back massaged courtside, Henman clearly saw no reason to stop play, and got the ball girls involved in a brief knock-about, much to their evident astonishment.
The doubles match of the night was between Greg Rusedski and Jamie Murray (apparently, he has a famous brother), and Pat Rafter and court jester Mansour Bahrami. Well-known in tennis circles for his seemingly impossible trick shots, Bahrami certainly didn’t disappoint, and whilst the tennis legends of old will be only too familiar with the nature of his shots (Jeremy Bates, for instance, credits every game he’s ever played with or against the Iran-born star as his best memory of the Statoil Masters Tennis), Murray was clearly entering unchartered waters, but responded with some brilliant shots of his own. Future cleaners at the Royal Albert Hall beware, however – as Bahrami managed to lodge a tennis ball up into the ceiling disks whilst setting up a shot for Murray to return!
With money being raised for children’s charity Best Beginnings, through a silent auction and through Hawk Eye challenges (a £100 was donated for every challenge made – giving rise to some slightly dubious calls), this was a great way to spend an evening out. Roll on the BNP Paribas Tennis Classic next summer!