If the PNB Paribas is known as “High Drama in the Desert,” then the annual Desert Smash is the comedy relief. Held at the La Quinta Resort & Club, it’s a prestigious day full of celebrities, tennis stars and entertainment, all for a great cause – the Cancer for College charity. If you hope to attend the event next year, get your tickets early (to visit the Desert Smash website, click here); the pro-celebrity tennis exhibition ends up selling out quickly.
Things kicked off after Chris Mann (‘The Voice’ finalist) did a fine job singing the National Anthem…
This year’s celebrity host, the hilarious Will Ferrell, was joined by Kevin Spacey, Rebel Wilson, Joel McHale, Timothy Olyphant, Lance Bass, Jon Lovitz, RedFoo and a number of others. The tennis world supplied its own share of celebs, with such players as Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Bob and Mike Bryan, Daniela Hantuchova, Ana Ivanovic, Fernando Verdasco and more. Other celebrities, including Timothy Olyphant and Jon Lovitz, participated in a ProAm tournament during which regular folks paid to play with a celebrity and a professional player, such as Nick Monroe and Simon Stadler.
Ferrell, kicked off the event by teaming with his wife against actors Joel McHale and Rebel Wilson. I had a chance to chat with Rebel before the match and she shared her excitement at being asked to participate in the event, calling it a “win-win” situation; she loved being able to help raise money for the charity, and she got to come hang out in the desert and play tennis at the gorgeous La Quinta Resort & Club. Of her game, Rebel stated that she loves tennis, qualifying that by saying “years and years of working in comedy have taken their toll on my game.”
Other matches included Bob and Mike Bryan vs. David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco, Redfoo and Donald Young vs. Boris Kodjoe and Sam Querrey, Ana Ivanovic vs. Daniela Hantuchova and, the final match of the day, Novak Djokovic vs. Stan Wawrinka.
The highlight of the day had to be when Ferrell partnered with Novak Djokovic to play against two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey and Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka. One of the things that makes Mr. Ferrell so successful as an actor and comedian — his revealing of truths, large and small — is also what made him such fun to watch on the tennis court. He communicates the continual inner angst (and occasional thrill) that comes during the playing of a good tennis match in a way that the crowd understood from experience. They roared with approval at Mr. Ferrell’s cleverness. After chasing a drop shot delivered accidentally by the opposing team, Will Ferrell crashed to the ground. He missed a shot at the net, but announced achieving some abrasions on his knee. When an arriving ball (that was clearly on his side of the court) ended up being unreachable, Ferrell had no problem yelling to Dojokovic, “Yours!” Djokovic responded, asking “Mine? Shouldn’t that be yours?” To which Ferrell replied, “Well, yes… normally… but I thought you could get it and it’d boost your confidence!” Meanwhile, the ball delivered by Kevin Spacey’s weapon of a backhand went unreturned. Ferrell also gave some free advice to the players: “Make sure you hydrate, OK? I’m doing that by drinking a lot of Herradura Tequila and Finlandia Vodka” (two of the events sponsors).
The money raised at the event goes to College for Cancer, an organization that provides college scholarships to cancer survivors. Cancer for College has been helping young people who are diagnosed with cancer by providing them with scholarships since 1994. Cancer for College has given out over $2 million in scholarships over the years, providing priceless inspiration to young people in the process. Will Ferrell is a member of the Cancer for College Advisory Board and he volunteers as the organization’s spokesperson. Visit their website (click here) to find out more about this great cause.
After the tennis exhibition, the fundraising events continued into the night, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino. Will Ferrell kept up his hosting duties at his ‘Epically Awesome Desert Showdown Concert Extravaganza,’ a concert that featured a number of special guests and musical performances by Boyz II Men and Nelly.