Tennis stars hold court in Charleston

Andre Agassi sets up for a forehand against Mardy Fish during the PowerShares Series match Saturday night.

A row of tennis royalty lined center stage of the press room at Family Circle Tennis Center on Saturday, joking about balding and Charleston bars and memories — lots of them — over the years.

Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, James Blake and Mardy Fish were all noticeably loose — just happy to be together on Daniel Island for the PowerShares Series; happy to be competing in a low-pressure, more-fun environment for the fans.

“I love the opportunity to play against friends, as well as legends. These guys are one in the same in that regard,” the 36-year-old Blake said. “I really enjoy these matches because I think the fans get to see a little bit of our personality, as well. We’re having more fun out there. It’s not as businesslike as some of us were when we were playing on tour, on the main tour.”

Indeed the fans did get a glimpse of the group’s sense of humor, as Agassi and Fish matched up in the first one-set semifinal, followed by Roddick and Blake in the second. Agassi and Roddick met in the championship, which Roddick claimed 6-1.

At one point in his first match, Agassi delivered a crisp, cross-court backhand out of Fish’s reach, only to quip across the net, ‘You forgot about that, didn’t you?!’ as fans laughed heartily. Midway through Roddick’s set with Blake, Roddick paused for a moment to take a sip out of a spectator’s drink.

“On the golf cart over we were talking about how much we love Charleston,” Roddick said. “My wife and I always talk about if we were forced to move, this would be on the short list of places we would want to go.”

But while Saturday was mostly a lighthearted affair for those in attendance, the players included, for 79-year-old Leah Hughes from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., seeing Roddick play had a much deeper meaning.

“Mom just got out of the hospital and she wanted to see Andy play so badly,” said Hughes’ daughter, Rachel Johnson. “So we drove up from West Palm Beach, Fla., just for this so that she could see her favorite player. I mean heck, there’s more pictures of Andy Roddick in the house than there are of me.”

Leah was wrapped in a jacket and gloves another spectator had lended her, and she sat in a wheelchair while she cheered on Roddick. Through the entirety of the match, Rachel held up a lime green sign shaped in the form of a fan. On it, it said “Andy’s Super” to make it known that her mother was Roddick’s super fan.

All Rachel wants is for Leah to meet Roddick one day, and that’s why making the drive from Florida to South Carolina was fully worth it.

“I wrote his organization, I wrote everybody, called everybody to see if I could just get them to meet her,” Rachel said. “She’s not well, and I’d like her to meet Andy while she still can.”

Grace is the Post and Courier's Clemson reporter. She graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in journalism.