LANDOVER -- Gee, let's put on a tennis tournament to help stop world hunger.
We'll get some top professionals. Hold a pro-am tournament for Congressmen. And then top it off by playing in the Capital Centre, rent-free.
If that sounds like some sort of Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney movie come to sporting life, so be it. Jonathan Clark will tell you that a little naivete can go a long way.
Last year, with nothing more than an idea and boundless energy, Clark managed to lure John McEnroe and Andre Agassi to an exhibition and pull off the inaugural 2000/LOVE tennis event, which raised $250,000 for projects to end world hunger.
The 2000/LOVE event comes back to the Capital Centre tonight, TC bigger, better and potentially more lucrative than ever. Pam Shriver and Mary Joe Fernandez will play in the women's match, which begins at 7 at the Capital Centre.
A pair of understudies will meet in the men's match, as Brad Gilbert takes on MaliVai Washington. Gilbert and Washington were summoned to the event last night when Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras were forced to withdraw with injuries.
Lendl has a staph infection in the right wrist between the thumb and forefinger, making it difficult for him to hold a racket. Lendl, an overnight guest at the White House, may attend the matches.
Sampras, the 1990 U.S. Open champion, suffered a sprained ankle in an exhibition Saturday night against Andre Agassi in Minneapolis. It's unclear how long Sampras will be sidelined. America's rising young star missed this year's Australian Open because of shin splints.
Clark, a former teaching pro at the Skyline Tennis Club in Falls Church, Va., and Graham Stillwell, an ex-Davis Cup performer for Great Britain, conceived the 2000/LOVE idea last year. They had watched a video chronicling the plight of those around the world suffering from chronic hunger, and they were moved to act.
"This event has been described as a miracle," said Clark, the 2000/LOVE executive director. "Everything that has happened has been unpredictable."
"It was a shock," Clark said. "After we saw the video, we thought we'd raise a few dollars for ending hunger. We were like most people who wanted to do something. We just acted on an impulse, and it just mushroomed into something like Live Aid with tennis."
Clark said that once he made contact with tennis players, they generously provided their time and support for the event. Normally, the pros can pull down hundreds of thousands of dollars for exhibitions. But tonight, they'll play for free.
"Tennis players are the same as everyone else -- they want their lives to matter and have the world work," he said. "They'd like to make a difference, but a lot of them don't know how."
The lineup of players is impressive, a mixture of veteran stars and youthful performers.
Shriver, of Lutherville, is in the midst of a comeback after shoulder surgery last year. She has won 21 singles titles and 20 Grand Slam doubles crowns, and she recently reunited with Martina Navratilova in doubles.
Fernandez is continuing a great leap in her career. In 1990, she reached the final at the Australian Open, was a quarterfinalist at the French Open and a semifinalist at the U.S. Open. This year, she has advanced to the semifinals of the Australian and Pan-Pacific (Tokyo) Open tournaments, and reached the quarterfinals at Sydney, Australia, and Boca Raton, Fla.
Shriver and Fernandez are longtime rivals who teamed in doubles at the 1989 U.S. Open, where they advanced to the final, only to lose to Navratilova and Hana Mandlikova.
Gilbert is accustomed to coming in at the last moment to replace a star. He stepped in Andre Agassi's slot in the Davis Cup and led the United States to a victory over Mexico last month. Gilbert has been in the top 10 for three years, was a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon in 1990 and won a bronze medal in men's singles at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
Washington cracked the top 100 in 1990 and was named the men's rookie of the year by Tennis magazine. He recently defeated Gilbert in a three-set quarterfinal in Orlando, Fla., and extended John McEnroe to three sets in a semifinal in Chicago.
Facts and figures
What: 2000/LOVE, The Tennis Celebration to End World Hunger by the Year 2000. A tennis exhibition featuring Pam Shriver, Mary Joe Fernandez, Brad Gilbert and MaliVai Washington.
Where: Capital Centre.
When: Tonight, 7
Tickets: $30 and $15. Tickets can be purchased at all TicketCenter locations or by calling (202) 432-0200.