The 41-year friendship between Elton John and Billie Jean King continues to thrive and to raise funds in the fight against AIDS.
Their annual event WTT Smash Hits (WTT stands for World Team Tennis which was founded by King) was held over the weekend in London and raised more than $1 million dollars for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
It was only the second time in the event’s history that Smash Hits surpassed $1 million. It has now raised more the $13 million to support HIV and AIDS prevention and awareness programs since the first event in 1993.
It was the international debut of WTT Smash hits which had previously only been held in various US cities.
Among the tennis stars who played in this year’s event were four retired players who had once been ranked number one and won the US Open at least once: Andy Roddick, John McEnroe, Kim Clijsters and Martina Hingis.
McEnroe and Hingis also won Wimbledon in singles and doubles during their careers. They were joined by British players Tim Henman and Jamie Murray as well as female pros Sabine Lisicki and Heather Watson.
The tennis pros participate in various one-set matches in singles and doubles.
‘This is a wonderful evening,’ John told the crowd.
He then paid tribute to the event’s main sponsor, Mylan.
‘Without Mylan, we couldn’t possibly do this,’ he said. ‘They’ve make drugs for HIV positive people and we’re an HIV positive AIDS Foundation, so the two of us fit hand and glove very well and it’s a wonderful relationship. It would be wrong of me not to acknowledge the extent of the generosity Mylan has given us, which is immense.’
John and King were at the peak of their powers in 1973 as rock star and tennis legend, respectively, when they first met.
They became close friends with Elton going on to write his hit song Philadelphia Freedom about King – the beat is based on the way she stomped around the tennis court.