Top tennis athletes and celebrities join a fun Mario Tennis alternative to canceled pro sports.

Live sports events are canceled everywhere (thanks, COVID), but you can't keep a great athlete down. Viewers and networks have turned to esports tournaments as a stopgap replacement, and this weekend's Stay at Home Slam is looking to be the most fun yet. Facebook Gaming and IMG Tennis are teaming up to host an exclusive livestream event that pits tennis legends and celebs against each other on a digital court.

You can tune in live on Facebook Gaming this Sunday, May 3, at 4 p.m. (ET).

While "esports" tends to mean professional gamers, not athletes, several organizations like the NBAMLS, and Premier League have given game controllers to their sports athletes. But the Stay at Home Slam is unique—other official tournaments featuring players have used licensed, realistic games. The players control an avatar that looks just like them, and the game more-or-less simulates how their sport is played.

But now it's Super Mario time! Players will join the game remotely from their homes and take control of famous Mario characters like Luigi, Princess Peach, Donkey Kong, and Bowser. Mario Tennis Aces, which is played on the Nintendo Switch, is a zanier take on tennis that involves trick shots, special moves, and flaming rackets. It inspired a fanbase of competitive players and exciting tournaments back when it released in 2018—will pro tennis players be able to translate their real-world skills to the game?

peach and daisy
A powerful team-up, who will play as Princess Peach and Princess Daisy? Courtesy of Nintendo.

The doubles partners are: 

  • Serena Williams & Gigi Hadid

  • Naomi Osaka & Hailey Bieber

  • Venus Williams & Deandre Hopkins

  • Maria Sharapova & Karlie Kloss

  • Kei Nishikori & Steve Aoki

  • Madison Keys & Seal

  • Taylor Fritz & Addison Rae

  • Kevin Anderson & Ryan Tannehill

Competitors are awarded $25,000 to be donated to their charity of choice, and the winner receives another million to donate. Tennis legend John McEnroe and YouTuber iJustine will commentate.

The game has its own competitive nuance to it—online communities have worked out all kinds of strategies, including which characters have the best attributes. Here's one tier list ranking the characters when played at a high level:

tier list
As puzzled out by top North American players and posted on reddit.com/mariotennis.

It'll be fascinating to see which players pick which characters, and what real-life game-sense looks like in a Mushroom Kingdom tennis tournament. My money's on whoever picks Peach.

Do you think you could beat Serena Williams in Mario Tennis?