Clash of the Titans Pits Sampras Against Federer

by John on November 25, 2007

 Does that sound like a preview to the 2008 Wimbledon Final? After former No. 1 and retired champ Pete Sampras defeated top-ranked Roger Federer 7-6, 6-4 in an exhibition match yesterday in Macau, you have to wonder about the possibility. The tilt at the Venetian Macau Arena was the last in a three-match exhibition series in the Far East between arguably the two greatest players ever. Federer beat Sampras 6-4, 6-3 in Seoul on Tuesday and edged the American 7-6, 7-6 in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. Sampras, known for his monster serve and bazooka forehand back in the day, downplayed his victory, noting Federer just completed a long season, culminating in the Swiss Maestro’s Masters Cup title in Shanghai last Sunday. Pistol Pete also acknowledged that the fast indoor carpet surface favored his serve-and-volley game. “Let’s not get carried away,” he said at a news conference. Sampras nixed any possibility of a comeback from retirement, telling the audience after the match, “I had my time in the ’90s.” Sampras, now 36, played his last match on the ATP Tour in September 2002, defeating Andre Agassi in the U.S. Open final for his record 14th career Grand Slam title. Federer, who won three Grand Slams in 2007, now has 12 majors to his credit. The two only played one ATP match, a five-set fourth-round Federer win at Wimbledon in 2001. “I’m sort of surprised,” said Federer after the loss. “This guy can play tennis, you know.” He said he wasn’t embarrassed to lose to the former champ. “It’s been tough beating my idol the last two times,” Federer said. “I’m happy that he got me at least once.” On Saturday, Federer outhit Sampras early in the match. But Sampras held his own with powerful serving and crafty volleying. The first set went on serve. In the tiebreaker, Sampras saved set points at 5-6 and 7-8. The American went up 9-8 on a missed return by Federer and then took the set with a forehand service return winner. Sampras broke Federer at 4-4 in the second set and served out the match. Asked how he would fare in his prime against Federer, Sampras said it wasn’t a fair comparison. “For me in my prime, I felt unbeatable,” said the American. “In Roger’s days, he’s unbeatable. It’s really hard to put one guy over the other. Having said that, I think Roger is dominating the game much more than I ever did. I think he’s going to go on and past 14 and win 16, 17, 18 majors.” You have to speculate, though, how much the win got Sampras’ competitive juices flowing again. Pistol Pete is a young 36 and it’s still 14 years until he’s eligible for the Champions Golf Tour.

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