Local tennis fans gathered Wednesday night at the Swedish embassy in Washington, D.C., to thank tennis great Chris Evert and former Sen. John Breaux, D-La., for their continued support of the Junior Tennis Champions Center.
OK — that and the spread of mouthwatering Swedish barbecue (saucy ribs, rosemary-spiked beef).
The event, now in its fourth year, was, theoretically, all about the incredibly talented kids who are well on their way to joining the pantheon of tanned and toned tennis gods on hand for the ceremony.
Still, folks couldn’t help but heap praise on Breaux — “Tennis’ ambassador in D.C.,” as they called him — even while criticizing his cutthroat nature on the court.
According to Okun, Breaux always had an ace up his sleeve — which is to say his partners were almost always professional tennis players. The final straw: when Breaux’s office called to inquire whether they wanted to try their luck against Andre Agassi (Okun passed).
A lifelong fan of the game, Breaux admitted that he once did the unthinkable in the Deep South: He skipped a week of football practice to sneak away to tennis camp.
He noted that during his time here in Washington, he’s volleyed with a slew of colleagues past and present. He held out former Democratic Sen. J Bennett Johnston — who paved the way for the members-only court carved out within the Hart Senate Office Building — as a personal hero, and named ex-solons Rick Santorum, R-Pa., Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., John Warner, R-Va., and the late Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, as regular challengers.
Breaux hailed former House lawmaker “Stormin’ Norman” Dicks, D-Wash., as “one of the better players” he’d faced off against, and tipped his hat to the junior senator from New York in the 113th Congress.
“I’ve hit with Kirsten Gillibrand before. She’s very good,” he assured HOH.
If anyone wishes to test Breaux’s game these days, they’re free to make their way to the Regency Sport & Health Club in McLean, Va., for a quick set. “I’m there as often as I can be, but not as often as I would like,” Breaux said of his playing schedule.
And just how long does he think he can keep this up?
“My goal in life is to win the national 100-and-over champion … by being the only entry,” he quipped.