The fourth annual Dirk Nowitzki Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic kicked off in the dry Dallas heat with 12 rounds of intense matches. The September tournament, a fundraiser for the former Mavericks MVP’s foundation, was completely star-studded.
Current ATP Tour players John Isner and Mitchell Krueger took part, and so did former pros Tommy Haas (an Olympic gold medalist) and Mark Knowles (a three-time doubles Grand Slam champion). Plus NBA Rookie of the Year Luca Dončić joined Mavericks teammates Dwight Powell (below) and J.J. Barea, along with past Dallas players Steve Nash and Devin Harris.
The first round, which consisted of 10-point doubles matches with tiebreaks, was filled with strong matchups, as the celebrities and pros teamed up with members of the community to form duos against other pros.
During the pre-match press conference, Nowitzki threw Powell and Harris under the bus, claiming they were the “weak links,” despite Dončić having never played in the tournament. Nowitzki referred to Dončić as the unknown factor; Dončić laughed, claiming he only got an invitation because he commented, “Can I get an invite?” on Nowitzki’s Instagram post from earlier in the month.
While everyone’s tennis skills, both the amateurs and the pros, were impressive, one could not help but notice the sheer height of the participants. Isner, who tops out at 6’10”, claimed he didn’t grow until he was 18 years old. Even though he had the height for basketball, he decided to stick with tennis, and he’s currently ranked 19th on the ATP Tour. Nowitzki thanked all the celebrities who were part of the tournament. “The support from everybody means the world,” said Nowitzki, who gave a special thanks to Haas, a fellow German, for flying in on a red-eye to make the tournament.
And what tennis players would make Nowitzki’s ideal basketball starting five? “It’s got to be Isner at center, for sure,” he said. “Maybe we can just put some big guys in and play zone [defense] all day.” Could Nowitzki be planning a new event?
A potential scheduling conflict popped up: the Dallas Cowboys game kicked off at noon. “We were debating, Should we put a couple screens up inside and have the game on?” explained Nowitzki. However, he decided against it, claiming, “Then nobody would come out to watch us play some bad tennis.”
Nowitzki’s foundation benefits organizations that focus on children’s wellbeing, health, and education. Though the tournament has only been around for a few years, it continues to grow and gather interest. “It’s been wonderful,” said Nowitzki. “We started this just four years ago, so where we’re at now has been amazing to watch.”
The tournament ended at 3 p.m. when Haas and his partner beat Nash’s team 10–6 in a tiebreaker match. Though on the court they’re competitors, off the court, all the players are friends. Said Nowitzki, “Basketball comes and goes, but friendships stay forever.”