Novotna makes First Annual Extravaganza a smash Published Wednesday, December 6, 2006[IMG]http://cache.****************/xt/53191459.jpg?v=1&g=editorial_emea&s=1[/IMG]
By Mario Sarmento
It was an idea that was 10 years in the making, but on Monday the First Annual Tennis Extravaganza with Jana Novotna came to fruition at Broken Sound Country Club.
The event was a fundraiser for the Donna Klein Jewish Academy presented by the Eagles Booster Club, with the money going back into the school's many sports programs.
Donna Klein was able to attract the Tennis Hall of Famer because of the close friendship between Novotna and Eagles Booster Club president Rebecca Siemens Spooner.
"For years we've been talking about her coming to the school or doing a tennis event," Spooner said. "This year she was not traveling this month, so we picked a date. It worked for her, it worked for us."
Novotna and Spooner met through Chris Evert's personal trainer a decade ago because Novotna needed a home. Spooner helped her find one, and they've been close ever since.
The event itself consisted of Novotna and fellow WTA Tour veteran Iwona Kuczynska playing with and against 60 participants who paid to test their skills on the court.
After playing for almost two hours nonstop, Novotna and Kuczynska took on the winners of the Red, White and Blue Divisions in exhibition matches on the main court.
"It was great," said Sara Kaminow, who played with her husband against Novotna and Kuczynska in one of those final matches and received a trophy for winning their division. "It was a lot of fun for a great cause, and we had a good time."
Novotna had a good time too, as she and Kuczynska bantered with opponents and each other throughout their matches.
"I had a lot of fun because all of the players were very good," she said. "And that makes it easy, makes it nice because it makes it competitive."
After the matches were over with, those who paid had lunch at tables with unusual centerpieces - trophies from the various professional tournaments Novotna won during her 14-year career. Included amongst those was the silver platter from the only Grand Slam singles event she ever won, Wimbledon in 1997.
"We were thinking about it and since I was moving to a new place, I had all these trophies in one room," Novotna said. "And Rebecca came over and I said, 'What am I going to do with all these trophies in my room?' And she said, 'These are centerpieces, this is it.' And I think it's great. It's nice for people to see what we play for, what we get rewarded. And I think it was a brilliant idea."
After lunch there was a raffle drawing where participants could win various items, like Novotna signed tennis racquets and a diamond tennis bracelet.
And for $3,000, a lucky tennis fan could buy a one-hour private tennis lesson with Novotna.
Despite being retired from the game for seven years, Novotna is still a busy woman. She competes in Senior Tour and various other charity events, and next week she will fly to Barcelona to play in an exhibition match for retiring tennis pro Conchita Martinez.
But she and Kuczynska plan on playing in this event next year, and Spooner wants to turn this into an annual exhibition.
Donna Klein Academy president Karen Feller said, "So many people probably want to come that there'll probably be a waiting list (next year)."