In case you were watching the Grammy Awards or any other lesser-quality sports programming on Sunday night, I am here to provide you an update on what you missed at Pickleball Slam 2 which aired on ESPN. John McEnroe and Andre Agassi were back but with new partners this year in Maria Sharapova and Steffi Graf. As an added benefit, James Blake and Jack Sock acted in dual roles as players and coaches. It was a pinch-me moment for tennis fans of all six of these players to see them together on the court.
Spoiler alert: Team Agassi won for the second year in a row. Jack Sock showed his skills that have made him an immediate sensation on the Pickeball tour; he retired from the ATP in 2023. In the three match format, Sock paired with Agassi in the first match, Graf in the second match, and acted as a coach to Agassi and Graf in the third match.
The immediate difference noted from last year to this year is that Andre Agassi improved his game considerably. Andy Roddick, his partner in the Inaugural Pickleball Slam who was a commentator this year, noticed his enhanced skills immediately. Agassi joked that he had a better partner, but his movement and ability to stay in longer rallies were evident. Agassi said that better weather in Las Vegas this winter was the reason because he was able to log more practice time on the outdoor pickleball courts.
Steffi Graf admitted to being nervous while John McEnroe and Maria Sharapova showed their competitiveness
In my humble opinion, Steffi Graf stole the show. A generation of tennis fans do not know how good she was in her prime. Seeing her on a court showing exceptional movement at 55 years of age and a pickleball version of her legendary slice was a treat. She also admitted to feeling pre-match nerves something she has not experienced in years.
While Team McEnroe lost for the second straight year, it was not because of a lack of effort. Maria Sharapova got better as the night went on; her confidence and shotmaking improved. John McEnroe's lefty shots and effortless ability to charge the net at 64 years of age were also admirable.