A charity match-up with tennis superstars Serena and Venus Williams and All Black brothers Julian and Ardie Savea raised more than $65,000 for Kaikoura earthquake recovery efforts.
The stars played before a sold out crowd at ASB Tennis Arena this afternoon. ASB created the friendly match to raise money for the South Island coastal town, damaged by the November earthquakes. More than 2500 tickets were sold and ASB is donating proceeds to the Kaikoura District Council.
The afternoon opened with friendly doubles play that saw Serena and Venus Williams paired with Kiwis Marina Eracovic and Jade Lewis.
Tennis fans then welcomed Julian and Ardie Savea on-court for an older siblings (Venus and Julian) vs younger siblings (Serena and Ardie) match-up, before swapping to sisters vs brothers. Caroline Wozniacki later made a surprise arrival on court to join the Savea duo.
Speaking after the match-up, Venus Williams said she was glad to support a great cause, and was complimentary of her All Black opponents.
“The guys’ athleticism really shone through,” Williams said. “It was a great show. I couldn’t stop laughing myself.”
The Savea brothers said they were nervous wrecks waiting to take the court.
Ardie Savea, who said his tennis career was just three-days old, said his nerves were greater than they were before an All Black test match.
Asked how they thought All Black coach Steve Hansen would have rated their performance, they suggested he would have been happy it was for a good cause.
Kaikoura District Council Mayor Winston Gray attended the match and said the money raised was a fantastic result for Kaikoura.
Although the recovery was still in its early stages, he believed the donation could go a long way to help restore some of Kaikoura’s sports infrastructure, damaged in the quake.
Gray thanked ASB and tennis fans across the country for their support and the players for their time.
“To have the Williams sisters in Auckland and prepared to give their time for this cause, along with the Savea brothers, is a huge honour.”
ASB head of community, sponsorship and events Mark Graham said it was wonderful to see tennis fans and the players support the event for a fun afternoon.
“We can’t think of a better way to kick-off an exceptional two weeks of tennis in Auckland,” Mr Graham says.