In Beijing, Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva dueled in the Olympic women's singles quarterfinals with a gold medal at stake. Tomorrow at 1st Mariner Arena, Williams will once again be thundering blazing serves and Dementieva answering with wicked forehands.
In China, Dementieva won that quarterfinals match and ultimately the gold medal, and Williams and her sister, Venus, won gold in women's doubles.
When Williams and Dementieva play this time, though, the winners will be the young people served by the local charities that benefit from the proceeds of the PNC Tennis Classic, an annual charity event led by former Baltimore County resident and tennis pro Pam Shriver and presented by The Baltimore Sun.
The Williams-Dementieva exhibition match is the centerpiece attraction of a tennis card that will also feature Orioles Adam Jones and Garrett Olson in a doubles match. Jones will be paired with Williams and Olson with Dementieva.
Ravens players are expected to provide sideline coaching help.
Marc Kantrowitz, managing director of the event, said ticket sales are ahead of last year's pace. Organizers had hoped that Williams might draw a sellout, but Kantrowitz said they will probably fall short. "I think we're being slightly impacted by the economy," he said. Last year's event drew 6,500. Kantrowitz said he'd be happy with 10,000 this year.
Williams was in Africa this month working on her own charitable pursuits, including opening a secondary school in rural Kenya that bears her name.
"I think those who are blessed are being given an opportunity, and if you are fortunate in that way, you owe it to give back," Williams said in Africa. "To those whom much is given, much is expected."
Dementieva said that when Shriver called to ask her to play in the exhibition, she couldn't refuse.
"What Pam does is a great thing and I was happy to take part," the Russian Olympic gold medalist said. "And I get to play against Serena. ... She is one of the most athletic players in the world, and she's always fun to watch."
Shriver said this year's pairing of two women ranked among the top five in the world should be particularly attractive. Williams is ranked No. 2 on the WTA Tour and Dementieva is No. 4. Other matches will include top international juniors.
"When I first started playing as a pro and never having a chance to play in my hometown, it sort of felt like there was a void," said Shriver, who lives in Southern California.
She saw an answer to that in the charity event she started in 1986. More than two decades later, the event has raised about $4 million.
Proceeds are donated by the Baltimore Community Foundation to various charities with an emphasis on children, including the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Living Classroom Foundation, Maryland Special Olympics and Baltimore Tennis Patrons.
"To me, it just seemed the perfect way to blend the things I care about," Shriver said, "tennis, community and charity."
Baltimore Sun reporter Childs Walker contributed to this article.
IF YOU GO
What: PNC Tennis Classic, exhibition match between Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva, plus Orioles Adam Jones and Garrett Olson in a doubles match.
When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.
Where: 1st Mariner Arena
How much: $25-$110, purchase at 1st Mariner Arena box office or TicketMaster by phone 410-547-7328 or online.
Parking: Nearby lots.
Related event: Grand kickoff reception and auction, Today, 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m., Tremont Grand, 225 N. Charles St., Baltimore. Admission $75. For tickets, call 410-296-2929.
For more information: www.pnctennisclassic.org or 410-296-2929.