2018 Dirk Nowitzki Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic
View a recap of the third annual Dirk Nowitzki Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic!
DALLAS – Legend has it that if Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki would have stuck with tennis as his primary sport as a teenager, he had the talent to perhaps make it on the ATP World Tour.
“I don’t know about that,” Nowitzki said. “I was decent when I was a junior, but I think the desire to stick to basketball, I think that was a good choice looking back at it now.
“I’m not sure how it would have played out with tennis, but I like where I was headed with basketball. I was a team-sport guy. Going through ups and downs with your teammates and the emotions, I like that better than an individual sport for me, so that’s why I ended up sticking with basketball.”
While Nowitzki and the Mavs don’t open training camp until Sept. 22, the 20-year veteran put his exceptional tennis skills to good use on Saturday at SMU when he hosted the Dirk Nowitzki Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic. The tournament, which is in its third year, benefited the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation’s children charities.
As those competitors in the tennis tournament quickly noticed, the hallmark of Nowitzki’s tennis game is his thunderous serve. He has some juice behind it, according to Mavs forward Dwight Powell.
“His serve is all over the place,” Powell said. “You can’t even find the ball once he lets it go. He could probably have played pro.”
Tommy Haas, who just retired following a stellar career on the ATP World Tour, believes he has some (tennis) history with Nowitzki. Like Nowitzki, Haas hails from Germany and reached as high as No. 2 in the world in 2002.
“People claim that we played each other in the 14’s or 12-and-under somewhere back in the day,” said Haas, who played in Saturday’s tournament. “I don’t remember that, unfortunately, but it’ll be great if somebody can find actually a picture if it exists somewhere of both of us being out there on the court.
“We’re both the same age, we both turned 40 this year. He’s still doing it, I just recently retired on tour, so there’s a lot of similarities here and there. But all respect goes to him on and off the court.”
Former tennis pro Andy Roddick has developed such a strong relationship with Nowitzki that in addition to playing in Nowitzki’s celebrity tennis tournament, he also has played multiple times in the celebrity baseball game Nowitzki annually hosts in Frisco back in the spring. Roddick, in fact, was the Most Valuable Player last spring in Nowitzki’s celebrity baseball game.
“He’s been so generous with my foundation down in Austin in giving an auction item and making people feel really special being his guest at a Mavs’ game,” Roddick said. “This is a way that I can try to repay his generosity in what he’s doing in leading the way here in Dallas.
“I really hope Dallas realizes what they have with him. Culture gets set from the top, and he’s one of the icons of Dallas sports.”
Nowitzki and his wife, Jessica, held a dinner and live auction at The Joule Hotel in downtown Dallas on Friday night to help support their foundation.
“Dennis Smith Jr. came to the dinner last night,” Nowitzki said. “Doe Doe (Dorian Finney-Smith) came and Ryan (Broekhoff) came out.
“Much, much appreciate the support from the team. Coach (Rick Carlisle) was great last night — raised some money for the foundation. It was a good weekend and good support from the Mavs family for sure.”
Ex-tennis pro Taylor Dent just moved to Keller – he’s building a tennis academy there – and was thrilled he received an invitation to participate in Nowitzki’s celebrity tennis tournament.
“It’s always fun to get out here and compete and have a good time for such a great cause,” Dent said. “Dirk and Jessica, I got to see their video last night and just a glimpse of what they do.
“They’re really pouring their hearts and souls back into the communities, so it’s an honor for me to be a part of it. You can tell with his personality he takes a lot of grief from everybody, but takes it so well. He really seems like a very humble and a very genuine person.”
Devin Harris, who has spent the better part of his 14-year NBA career as one of Nowitzki’s teammates with the Mavs, said he had to get in on the (tennis) fun after what he experienced last summer.
“I came last year obviously just to watch and support Dirk, and this year I’m actually playing,” Harris said. “It’s a little hot out here, but I’m getting good cardio and having a good time doing it.
“I know (Nowitzki) enjoys it and he loves playing. And for him to invite us and to be able to support him has been great both ways.”
As far as the results of the tennis tournament go, tennis pro Mark Knowles and amateur Camelia Georgiana Marta defeated tennis pro Mitchell Kruger and amateur Jessica Nowitzki, 10-5, in the doubles finals. Marta wound up being the No. 1 amateur player and Kruger the No. 1 celebrity player.
Meanwhile, Haas is overjoyed to see his fellow countryman having such an amazing impact in the Dallas community.
“Obviously it’s great to see what Dirk has done on and off the court, and obviously I love following his career,” Haas said. “One of the greatest players of all time coming from Germany, it’s pretty incredible.
“So I’m very happy and honored to know him as a friend and to be invited back here and seeing all the great work he’s doing also off the court helping families helping kids. It’s fun to see some familiar faces here playing a little tennis for a good cause. How can you say ‘no’ to that?
That “good cause” is what makes Nowitzki ticks and why he’s hellbent on coming back year after year after year to help the less fortunate.
“Last year was obviously extremely special because we decided to do the whole thing for Hurricane Harvey victims,” Nowitzki said. “So we raised an unbelievable amount of money last year.
“This year it was a great night last night raising some money for the foundation, and the turnout was great. Everybody is having fun, a lot of celebs flew in town again to support, so we’re excited.”