May 22nd, 2009 03:14 EST
Sampras-Agassi Rivalry Reignites Come October
Former number one men`s players in the world Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi will resume their heated antagonism on court come October for the first time since meeting last at the 2002 U.S. Open final.
Both had faced each other 34 times, 20 of which went to Sampras, with their final head-to-head coming as Sampras` swansong to the game, after which he retired.
But fans of one of the most heralded rivalries in tennis history will witness the triumphant return of the two greats who will once again play against each other before 15,000 spectators at an exhibition match during the Venetian Macau Showdown on October 25th.
Sampras told reporters of his ongoing love for the game long after his days in professional competition had ended.
"I really enjoy playing, keeping sharp and staying in shape," he said. "It`s great to see Andre playing again as well, after the problems with his back. My motivation to play Andre in Macau will be playing my rival and the great energy that Macau has, so I am very excited to play in October."
When he was asked to reminisce on his fondest memories of he and Agassi`s matchups, Sampras recalled that the passion behind each of their contests meant the most to him.
"Andre had a great return of serve, passing shots and first serve. We always had really tough matches and we brought out the best in each other," Sampras admitted. "Back in the mid-90s when we were number 1 and 2 in the world I think it was a great rivalry and we transcended the sport. When people ask me who my great rival is I always tell them Andre - our matches were so competitive, so it will be great to play him again."
On the chance to face Sampras at the Macau tourney, Agassi expressed pride over being mentioned in the same breath as many of the greatest tennis players who ever lived who played in the competition.
"I have followed the Macau events featuring Roger (Federer), Pete, John (McEnroe) and Bjorn (Borg) so when the opportunity arose... I was excited to join such an illustrious roster of top tennis names," Agassi said.
In a 15-year career from 1988 thru 2002, Pete Sampras won 14 Grand Slam men`s singles titles: a record which has yet to be broken, including seven Wimbledon championships, five U.S. Open titles and two Australian Open wins. His seven Wimbledon titles ties him for first all-time in the Open Era with William Renshaw. Since he won Wimbledon titles from 1997-2000, he is one of only three players who won four Wimbledon championships in a row: Bjorn Borg (1976-1980) and Roger Federer (2003-2007). But in Sampras` last appearance at the Wimbledon finals in 2001, he fell to the up-and-coming tennis legend Roger Federer in five sets after winning 31 straight matches at the All-England Club.
Agassi began his professional tennis career at the age of 16 in 1986. He is the only men`s player in tennis history to win an Olympic gold medal in men`s singles and all four Grand Slam singles titles. Of his eight career Grand Slam singles titles, Agassi won Wimbledon once, the U.S. Open twice, the Australian Open four times and the French Open once. Agassi also has the distinction of being the only player to win 17 ATP Masters Series tournaments. Though he revived his career in 1998 after falling to 122nd in the world, his remarkable run, lasting well into his mid-thirties, ended at the 2005 U.S. Open when he was defeated by 112th seed Benjamin Becker and announced his retirement.
The two originally squared off in 1990 at the Ebel U.S. Pro Indoor in Philadelphia, ending with the 61st seed Pete Sampras defeating the favored number six. Their first engagement in a Grand Slam tournament final came at the 1990 U.S. Open in which the then-12th ranked Sampras beat the concurrently 4th seeded Agassi in straight sets.