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The Good Sports: Crisis Center 03/10/2008 - 3:41 PM

Php1lysoopm

Howdy, everyone. Just got back a short while ago from the pre-exhibition press conference, featuring Roger Federer and Pete Sampras. The presser was held at the Essex House hotel on New York's Central Park South, not from from the Parker-Meridian hotel where Pete Sampras so often stayed during the U.S. Open, back in his heyday. What nostalgic feelings I had about that were dwarfed in comparison to the way I feel about tennis being back in the storied venue, Madison Square Garden.

For the record, I don't buy into all this Greatest sports venue on earth! hype; you'll find one thing in common among all those who parrot that line - they're New Yorkers. For them, it's inconceivable that something/anything (bagels? theater? mob influence?) can be greater than in its Manhattan incarnation, which is, ironically, an extremely provincial and silly conceit. I like the Garden fine, but it's a big and fairly generic indoor sports venue done up in a woefully bland color scheme that I'd call "corporate", insofar as the word denotes ease of maintenance and an eagerness to please everyone rather than concern for character or aesthetics.

Nevertheless - the Garden is the Garden, as fine a venue in this era of Big Commercial Sport as anywhere. And let's face it, hype and perception are as important as reality in these discussions, so tonight's exo is indeed a major coup for the game. The bottom line is that the last event held at MSG the 1996  "Nike Cup."  In that one, a collection of all-stars (and Nike clients, including Jim Courier, Sampras and Andre Agassi) played  a mini-tournament using just tiebreakers and some sort of simplified scoring that made World Team Tennis seem like Davis Cup (best-of-five, no fifth-set tiebreaker).

Tonight, though, will be different. This is one hot ticket, and thats because we have a rare and intriguing match-up that will give us about as good a sense of how two titans of (barely) overlapping generations might have stacked up against each other if they were contemporaries. Forget that this is an exhibition. Just think how rarely players of comparable skills and achievements have been able to flex their muscles and egos and go head-to-head in a such a potentially telling way. And that's for one simple reason: Sampras is just 36, among the things that he can do as well (or almost as well) as ever is serve, which also happens to be the thing he always did best - it was the stroke upon which he built his reputation.

Federer is a decade and four days younger (he was born on Aug. 8th, Sampras on the 12th). True, that's an entire generation in tennis terms, but the bottom line is the difference between 26 and 36 is a lot smaller than between 16 and 26, or 36 and 46. We're just lucky, if Sampras is not, that the first player to challenge his claim as the greatest-ever came along so quickly.

So this really is a unique moment in history, and I sensed that at the press conference. One thing that amazed me was the degree of credibility everyone present seemed to accord this event. Nobody expressed the kind of skepticism or outright cynicism that such extraveganzas often incite, or hammered away at the So how real is it? theme. It was as if it doesn't matter: what you have here was two great champions who clearly feel the utmost respect - and a good deal of personal warmth - toward each other. And they've agreed to go out and let a few rip.

I have the utmost respect for Roger Federer and the way he has gone about doing this. I can name a dozen top guys who either would never have agreed to play a match of this kind (so you tell me what the up-side is for The Mighty Fed) - perhaps including Roger's opponent tonight. For at one point in the presser, Sampras very honestly expressed his feelings about the issue: "I have to give Roger a lot of credit. He doesn't have to do these exhibitions. Back in my day, if Mac (John McEnroe) had asked me to do something like this (at a comparable stage in our careers) I'm not sure I would have done it."

Make no mistake about it, one of the main reasons - perhaps the main reason - this event is happening is because TMF is not just an open-minded and secure champion, he's also a good sport.  Somehow, a lot gets lost in translation when that phrase is used. "Good sport" may be a description that has less gravity and fewer implications that "open-minded" or "secure", but in some ways it's a more critical and rare quality in an individual like Federer.

TMF lives daily with pressing demands and expectations (just look at the reaction to the bumps he's hit lately on his champion's trail), yet he's willing to expose himself just because. . . it would be fun. Interesting. Memorable for him, as well as presumably, everyone else. Think of great tennis players and ask yourself: what have they done outside the playing field that, first and foremost, shows them to be good sports? Not worthy champions, not responsible individuals, not even kind or decent or responsive people, but something that is in some ways smaller, but also sweeter and often less subject to praise or payback - good sports.

My main interest in this match is how the men will react emotionally when they play on such a great stage, before a packed house, if the match happens to be close. At what point does A friendly little hit with my pal, Pete Sampras, or A chance to roll out my big second serve, one last time, against Roger become: All right, dude, I'm stepping on the gas - outta my way!

Would it be unseemly for either or both men to get caught up in the moment and go flat out to win in a way that isn't usually a part of the exhibition gestalt? I asked them about this. This is what Roger said:

"Seoul (the first of the three exhibitions the men played in Asia last fall) was different. Pete didn't want to be embarrassed and he didn't know where his game was. For me it was easy,  I could afford to lose a little more easily than now. Actually, I'm a little more nervous this time around, what with being in this arena, in this city. But sure, it's fine to get carried away in an exo, and if the match goes that way I'm sure we might go a little crazy, try some of those crazy shots you can do in an exhibition. . . My worry is that Pete will get a chance to hit those jump overheads."

At that point, Sampras interrupted, "That would be nice. Let me hit at least one of those, okay?"

But Sampras quickly turned serious and admitted that he does feel nervous. He described that the surface in Macao, where Sampras beat Federer, was "like ice. . . almost unfit for tennis" - which was code for It was tailor-made for what I do best, serve!. . .

The surface tonight will be significantly slower, giving both men the chance to use off of their tools and weapons. Sampras was prudent and not exactly filled with hubris as he discussed his game:

"I can still serve pretty well, I serve and volley okay, but I don't move as well as I once did and I'm not as sharp because I only play sporadically. So my consistency and confidence are not quite right. Now, I toss the  ball up and I'm not sure what will happen. I know what I want to happen, I know what I hope will happen, but I'm not sure what will happen. What I hope for, mostly, is that I can hold a few times, kind of get into the match. If I can do that, I'll be okay. . ."

Later Sampras would turn to Federer, and joke: "I just want to ask you, Roger, if I can just hold two times. . ."

In Sampras's eyes, Federer's has the best mind in tennis, and his greatest weapon is his forehand. He he also likes TMF's serve and his versatility, but above all else it's the way Federer moves that separates him from the pack. "Roger is the best mover in the game, and I saw that the first (and only) time we played (in their only meeting, Federer beat Sampras in a great five-setter in 2001)." 

For his part, Federer paid tribute to the quality of Sampras's second serve, saying, "Pete changed the game with the way he would go for his huge second serve, instead of just kicking the ball into play. Many of the guys today go for their second serve in a similar way, and they just didn't used to do that."

Of course, given Federer's recent history (he revealed last Saturday that he was suffering from mononucleosis, and lost before the final in the only two tournaments he's played, The Australian Open and Dubai), it isn't as if consistency and confidence are at career high levels for him, either. But he says he's much better now - that biggest hit he took from mono was in the days before the Australian Open. "What's missing now is the matches," he said. "Otherwise, I feel fit and fine."

Sampras, of course, has heard those The King is Dead rumors along with everyone else. So it was hardly surprising when he came to his pal Roger's aid. "Roger is the guy with the bullseye on his chest now, he's the guy who's the target. When push comes to shove, if I were a betting man - and I don't be on tennis, honest! - I'd say that in the  big, big events, this will be the last man standing, this is the guy who will be holding the trophy."

He turned and looked at TMF and added, "They (the media) need a story, Roger, and this is their story."


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Posted by Sherlock 03/10/2008 at 03:50 PM

Excellent, Pete! You've got me on the edge of my seat just reading through this. Can we start it already??? :)

A question though, Pete. When Roger says, "Otherwise, I feel fit and fine", do you think it's sincere?

No, I don't mean is he lying, but rather, is he being protective as he has a right to be, like before the AO. I know these guys never want to give anything away about their health. Everyone is obviously curious, so I was interested in your opinion on the issue.

Posted by Beckham 03/10/2008 at 03:52 PM

Pete: I second Sherlock's question....also did the press present believe he had mono or is it still up in the air???

Posted by Pete 03/10/2008 at 03:54 PM

Hey 'Lock! You know, I usually take these things at face value. Roger said he's had time to recover and has been practicing normally, and I see no reason for him to cover up if he's still feeling lousy. In fact, it would be more of an advantage for him to leave question marks in his trail as he prepares for his rivals.

Posted by Chiconinja 03/10/2008 at 03:57 PM

I don't think I'll be first cause I read the whole thing before posting hehe.

Very nice post by the way.

I feel the very same way about Roger this year. I think Rafa will take RG once again, but I definitely see Roger taking both Wimbledon and the US Open.

About the exo, hopefully Pete takes a set from Roger today. Roger winning 7-6, 4-6 & 6-4 would be a nice match for everyone to see.

Posted by Pete 03/10/2008 at 04:00 PM

Actually, Becks, nobody challenged him on the mono issue, but Roger made it clear that the mono was a problem before the Aussie Open and any affect it had on him is, by now, long gone. I really see no reason for him to misrepresent himself, if you do the math on the implications of various strategies of disclosure. My gut feeling is that he was not going to say anything about the mono, then maybe after Dubai he and his advisers felt they had to counter the "King is dead" rumors, so they decided to reveal the mono. In fact, it was a classy thing to do,theoretically, because the revelations were made long after they could be seen as constituting an excuse for his loss Down Under. There are all kinds of conspiracy theories floating around, some even from pro-Federer folks, but I have no reason to doubt TMF (and won't, until given good reason to do so).The whole thing seems to have been handled pretty nicely.

Posted by Tim 03/10/2008 at 04:03 PM

great recap Pete, thanks much... it's exactly true, what Pete says..the media needs a story, and for now, Fed in decline? fits the bill, there's nothing left to write about... funny how TIger Woods can win only ONE Slam in a year and everyone still calls him the King of Golf...

with the slower surface at the Garden, I have a feeling this will be Fed's night, I knew that last match in Asia was a skating rink and Fed was kinda flailing at every return...

Posted by CL 03/10/2008 at 04:06 PM

Thanks Pete - but you didn't answer the most important question: What was TMF's sweat level? ;-)

PS... ages ago I stayed at LE Parker Meridian....could never have afforded it myself, but the company I was working for put us up there. Anyway, we had been on the road for a bit before we got to the hotel so I sent out some laundry to be done. A modest amount of modest underwear and one pair of jeans. The bill was $97. And that was probably 20 years ago. But then, I'm sure Sampras could afford to have all the laundry done he needed.

Posted by Tari 03/10/2008 at 04:15 PM

Great job setting up tonight, Pete! I'm excited about this one...and I wasn't for the last couple. Thanks.

And I'd like to thank you personally for your thoughts on the mono issue.

Posted by Tim 03/10/2008 at 04:15 PM

and to be sure, there really is no reason on earth for Federer to put himself under the gun this way, other than the fact that HE wants to play Sampras, a legend, at a legendary sports arena in the US, for perhaps the best reason of al... his own personal enjoyment, memories, etc.

Posted by Samantha Elin 03/10/2008 at 04:16 PM

I think the Fed is in decline stories have to do with the fact that some in the media would like to see Roger knocked off his pedestal and to see him fail. Did you ever notice how excited people like Carillo and P-Mac get when Roger is losing. It's mean spirted and petty jealousy. Good luck to them both. Go Justine, world's#1!

Posted by Andrew 03/10/2008 at 04:17 PM

Pete: thanks for the update.

There was a helpful link (in German) posted by Or earlier today - you can scroll through MNP for the Sturm und Drang. Pulling things together, my guess is that Federer is in a good enough place to be healthwise that tournament level tennis is not an issue, but is well behind where he expected to be in planning his conditioning for the year. This is unlikely to matter tonight, but may be a problem if he goes deep at IW or Miami.

Interesting to write that "if" statement.

Posted by Samantha Elin 03/10/2008 at 04:20 PM

I just wanted to add, I think it is important for players to be honest so it doesn't confuse the public. If you are too sick, please don't take the court.

Posted by Rosangel 03/10/2008 at 04:33 PM

Enjoy the exo, everyone - it's not even on TV here, so it kind of feels as though we in the Outer Darkness on the other side of the Pond are not invited to the party:-(

Posted by DMS 03/10/2008 at 04:38 PM

cheers...here is to Sampras not being like the Washington Generals and actually giving the "dead King" Fed (and what sophistry that is/was/will be) a good match...he could use the practice.

Posted by Samantha Elin 03/10/2008 at 04:40 PM

New alert. The tennis channel is currently showing Sampras vs Federer at Wimbledon. Wow Roger looks like a kid.

Posted by Andrew Miller 03/10/2008 at 04:43 PM

Sampras is all class. I still hold that in Sampras' past glory (especially how he played in the Compaq grand slam cup vs. Pat Rafter) he would dismantle Roger Federer. Sampras was a unique beast in his prime and I cant see Roger having handled him well, simply because he wouldnt have been used to the assasin style tennis of Sampras.

By the way: just read Justin Gimelstob's piece at CNNSI.com, and found it a little bit similar to the practice of praising a CEO for what a good family person they are while minimizing the fact that that same CEO just fired ten thousand employees. Mr. Gimelstob appears to want to paint things as black and white (if you are a champion and you have a charity, therefore you deserve no tough questions whatsoever! And it also means you cant criticize a champion's style of play, rule #1 and rule #2). I take issue with Gimelstob's opinion here because, where is it written that Roddick gets a free pass for everything he does? Last time I checked, being verbally abusive towards chair umpires and, on occasion, towards opponents, was not something to praise, whether or not Roddick is a US open winner. Sorry Mr. Gimelstob.

Posted by Tokyo Tom (tt) 03/10/2008 at 04:43 PM

Pete and Fed obviously remember at the end of the day it is just a game. I imagine they will have a great time with 19k friends at the Garden - perhaps they will share a beer at Shout after their match.

Posted by Tokyo Tom (tt) 03/10/2008 at 04:47 PM

or is it stout - wonder if they have any bitter?

Posted by Jenn 03/10/2008 at 04:55 PM

This is a great piece and makes me more excited about this match (which is on at an unfortunately early hour for those of us working on the West Coast). I found Pete's honesty refreshing when he said "doesn't know if he would have" done a similar exhibition at this stage in his career (read: he most likely would not have). Roger seems to take himself less seriously, in a good way, than Pete did in his heyday, and I like the fact that he is willing to do some things that are just for fun (well, also for $$$, but he really doesn't need more money I imagine). The exhibition with Rafa on 1/2 grass, 1/2 clay is another example. That was fun for everyone, but not something that a lot of champions would have done before a really important tournament.

I look forward to watching (on Tivo) and hope that Roger is fully recovered.

Posted by abc 03/10/2008 at 05:04 PM

Sometimes, you know, Pete, you surpass yourself. This one came from your heart straight. And I tell ya mate, it feels good, there's a sense of afterglow about it.

2 decent blokes out to have fun in MSG. I've one request, and I dunno how to put it, cause I've often been caustic on ya. After the match Pete, play me a rhapsody in Em.

Thanx.

Posted by abc 03/10/2008 at 05:04 PM

Sometimes, you know, Pete, you surpass yourself. This one came from your heart straight. And I tell ya mate, it feels good, there's a sense of afterglow about it.

2 decent blokes out to have fun in MSG. I've one request, and I dunno how to put it, cause I've often been caustic on ya. After the match Pete, play me a rhapsody in Em.

Thanx.

Posted by Schwab 03/10/2008 at 05:09 PM

WTA draw for Indian Wells:

http://tinyurl.com/334823

Posted by 03/10/2008 at 05:10 PM

The title and the focus of this piece is so simple but still surprising and quite wonderful. You were right on the money. A secure and comfortable champion playing another champion for no other reason but being "good sports". Rare but in this day and age, awww, no matter how cynical you are, you have to go a little gooey. Good on both of them.

Posted by 03/10/2008 at 05:12 PM

... and it's such a nice feeling that I will ignore the snarky comments that will follow about how they are pocketing some serious $$$.....

Posted by L. Rubin 03/10/2008 at 05:16 PM

Jenn,

The West Coast is not a happy place right now (for tennis fans, that is). I just reminded myself, after choking back a spasm of hatred for those self-satisfied New York brats, to look out my window. 78 degrees? 80 degrees? Take that, you soon to be freezing-your-asses-off bastards! :)

That last line (Pete reassuring Roger) epitomizes sportsmanship. Really nice to read, that was. Sampras has handled this beautifully.

--Liron

Posted by 03/10/2008 at 05:24 PM

Davenport has a good chance to get to the semis in IW.

Posted by Jenn 03/10/2008 at 05:25 PM

Hi Liron! We will be laughing at those frozen East Coasters starting Wednesday when some of us are off for a (relatively) short ride out to Indian Wells!

Posted by Tim 03/10/2008 at 05:26 PM

the men's game has changed unbelievably...watching Sampie and Rog from 2001 Wimby, barely a rally went past 5 shots, neither could return serve at all!

now you have big servers like Sam Querry and Anderson having 30 shot rallies every point.... crazy! what happened? I mean Nadal and Fed in last year's final was just a dream compared to Fed-Sampie, in terms of overall points and watchability...

Posted by Miss Kiss 03/10/2008 at 05:30 PM

"(if you are a champion and you have a charity, therefore you deserve no tough questions whatsoever! ...I take issue with Gimelstob's opinion here because, where is it written that Roddick gets a free pass for everything he does?"

I agree that Gimelstob is biased (obviously), but I didn't read it like that at all. He was countering some of Werthiem's points, saying that there are plenty of positive things about Roddick, and asking that a person try to empathize others before judging. It's certainly possible to take all of the above into consideration and still have a problem with Roddick, but that's not MY point...I simply appreciate another side to the story, flawed or not. And it's nice to have two writers with differing opinions on the same site.

Posted by Schwab 03/10/2008 at 05:30 PM

To no name poster at 5:24 PM,
Looking at the draw quickly and saw where Lindsay should make it to the QF at worst. There is no one that can give LD problems in her first 3 matches.

Posted by Tari 03/10/2008 at 05:30 PM

Ah...and there's the first "Sampras would have beaten Federer..."
And yet, we only have one match on tour for evidence. Where Pete was a bit past his peak, and Roger was nowhere near his. And Roger won. :)

Did you watch this match, Andrew Miller?

Posted by Tari 03/10/2008 at 05:39 PM

Andrew Miller: Skip that. :) I've decided I don't want in on this discussion. Sorry. :)

Posted by Ryan 03/10/2008 at 05:41 PM

Wow, Lindsay really does have a GREAT draw at IW.

Why isn't Justine playing?

If there's anything to add to the Sampras-Fed debate, I think it's that we should broadly reevaluate Pete's playing style (or at least the classification thereof). Y'know, Pete DID play baseline rallies. People talk as if he rushed balls-to-the-wall to the net on every single shot...

Posted by Sam 03/10/2008 at 05:57 PM

Pete: Wonderful post about two great champions who have a great deal of respect for one another.

Posted by Syd 03/10/2008 at 06:05 PM

Nice post Pete. Enjoyed it. I feel for Roger (as I'd feel for any player) being hit like this. Mono apparently can take a lot out of one, and it could be months before he's up to snuff again.

Posted by Or 03/10/2008 at 06:10 PM

Guys, I'm utterly and completely f***ed.

I'm at my parents house, fully expected to have full use of my dad laptop to follow the match, only the laptop is in my dad's locked office, I have no idea where he put the keys (and I've been looking all over), he's sound asleep, I'm using my sister's computer but she's likely to get back home at any moment now and, um, no - she's not going to let me use it at 2 AM.

I'm not going to be able to see the match, I just can't freaking believe it. How am I to sleep?

Posted by la boheme 03/10/2008 at 06:11 PM

Thanks for a great piece, Pete. It makes you wonder about how much Fed will be missed when he does step down (hopefully, a long time from now) - there's not a player in sight with his skills, smarts, good sportsmanship and love of the game.

Posted by tennisnut 03/10/2008 at 06:21 PM

Miss Kiss

I might add also that Gimelstob and Roddick are good friends, so much for jounalistic objectivity.

Posted by FreudianSlip 03/10/2008 at 06:23 PM

Merci, Mr. Bodo, I agree with the poster upthread who said this one seems to have come from the heart. Good to know Roger commands and gets the respect he deserves. And Pete, what a generous soul he is, it's his record at stake, that he can speak so highly of Roger speaks volumes about his sportsmanship. I take my proverbial hat off to both men, who represent the beautiful game with so much grace.

*End of Rant*

On this sappy note, fella Rog/Pete fans, Siggy is gonna hit the rush hour traffic and drive like Mario to get home in time to catch the match! *See* you all then! ;)

Posted by 03/10/2008 at 06:40 PM

Pete, your post made my day! These two guys are the best of the best ... makes me proud to be a tennis fan. Will be watching on TTC tonite.

The match should be uplifting for all who attend ... especially after being exposed to the Spitzer mess all day. Can't wait to read all the reports fron you guys in New York.

Posted by highpockets aka "Madame 'Pockets" 03/10/2008 at 06:45 PM

that was me at 6:40.

Posted by crazyone 03/10/2008 at 06:48 PM

I had a long day of classes and am disgusted by the entire Spitzer thing but your post cheered me up immensely. Federer is my unquestioned favorite but I always loved Pistol Pete too, and I think I was one of the few people my age cheering for him against Agassi in the 02 Open Final.

Posted by KP 03/10/2008 at 06:55 PM

Tim, the 'game' didn't change as much, as the surface. 2001 Wimbledon used a different type of grass than you saw nadal & fed play on last year.

Plus, surface or not, it guys todays came in on everything, they'd be missing a lot of returns as well. It's a comepletly different mindset, you can't get away with the chip returns that so many get away with today. And many of the 'missed' returns you see in the 2001 match technically don't count as missed returns, but as 'net points won' for the server. Many are unaware of how a 'net point' is counted, if you make it to the service line (ballpark area) before the returner makes a return it counts as a net point. Also they are hitting a lot of service winners as well(again, many are unaware of what a service winner is, but it does count in the winner stat)

If you think Fed & Pete are missing a lot of returns in that match, you would be pretty shocked to see any grasscourt tennis pre 2001(Edberg-Becker, Borg-McEnroe, Cash-Lendl, the 2001 W final between Rafter-Ivanisevic)

Pretty much everyone S&Ved on grass pre 2002(even predominately baseline players) except Agassi(which sorta explains why so many were in awe of his grasscourt performances in the 90s, his '92 W title still is quite unbelievable imo)

And the reason Querrey & Anderson have 30 ball rallies, is that both are really, really, bad at net. And pretty bad in transition games as well. Blame Bolliterri & academy style tennis for that.


Posted by Moderator 03/10/2008 at 06:55 PM

Anyone wondering why turtle's recent post was deleted - this is one of TW's abusive trolls, also known as tyler durden and having used other names in the past. This person changes I.P. addresses so sometimes gets through the ban, but long ago forfeited the "right" to comment here (no such thing exists if you keep ignoring the rules). Will therefore continue to be a delete-on-sight visitor whatever is said.

Today's comment was tennis-related, but Moderators cannot, in fairness to everyone who comments here, allow someone to visit the site and one day be vilely rude, racist and obscene towards other visitors (in this case, it's happened many times) and the next time slip through and act normally, and expect to be allowed to stick around as though nothing had happened. So, expect this person's posts to keep on disappearing if they get through, and please don't respond to them.

Posted by Sher 03/10/2008 at 06:58 PM

[Think of great tennis players and ask yourself: what have they done outside the playing field that, first and foremost, shows them to be good sports? Not worthy champions, not responsible individuals, not even kind or decent or responsive people, but something that is in some ways smaller, but also sweeter and often less subject to praise or payback - good sports.]

I thought Rafa's suggestion to play doubles with Federer was pretty fun. It can't happen this year for obvious Olympic reasons, but I still think it would be great to see what singles #1 and #2 players could do together on a doubles court.

Posted by Tim 03/10/2008 at 07:02 PM

yeah KP i basically agree on all counts, those 90s WImby matches were brutal, not a hint of a rally, its amazing how different the style is today, simply amazing... i hate to say but Im finding much of this Fed Sampras match boring, they just dont have any engaging points..its great drama and theatre, only glimpses of great tennis...

Posted by KP 03/10/2008 at 07:05 PM

Going back to what Sampras said "if someone asked me to play Mac when I was #1, not sure I'd say yes"

Yes, Fed is more laidback than Sampras. But an important fact about Sampras in the 90s, is that there was no GOAT type player that had just retired that the entire world wanted to see him play in an exo, like the situation.

And Mac certainly was no GOAT type, plus Sampras did play him on tour many times before he retired & beat him badly, so where is the demand for a super-exo? Ditto Lendl, no one wanted to see Pete play him.

Borg was the previous guy that was on Pete's level, & everyone knew that would kinda be a joke as far as exos go, there is a big age difference, & wood racquet tennis was on a different planet than Sampras tennis of the 90s. And Borg was pretty bad when he tried to come back in the early 90s, Pete would have had to go really easy on him to even make an exo semi-interesting.

So this exo today is pretty unique, in that both are close in age, & that Sampras isn't from an 'old fart' era, he's from the 'serve 130 on the line era', so he can at least be respectable & give fans a match.

The last time an exo caught the attention of the tennisworld like this was when Laver played Connors in '75(the infamous 'get me laver' line that Connors said after winning the USO in '74 sparked this)

Posted by Sher 03/10/2008 at 07:06 PM

And now that I've finished reading...nice post, Pete! Very good account and the warmth between these two champs definitely comes across. I also liked your response at 4:00 because I also tend to take these guys at their word until shown otherwise.

Now I'll see if I can tune in to the match...

Posted by Miss Kiss 03/10/2008 at 07:12 PM

"I might add also that Gimelstob and Roddick are good friends, so much for jounalistic objectivity."

I know that, but their being friends shouldn't automatically render any opinion on the other void. Nobody on this blog could have a discussion if we weren't allowed to defend our friends' position sometimes.

Personally, I don't think boorish behavior should be excused on account of charity work. But neither does the behavior invalidate the work. Whether one likes Roddick's personality or not, he's not all bad nor all good. That's why I liked the point/counterpoint the two columns represented.

Posted by marieJ 03/10/2008 at 07:21 PM

Hi all, just droping quickly befor leaving to bed...

fed has a phenomenal physical condition to get rid of mono so fast, it's kind of an alien to me in that aspect : nothing goes wrong with him unless he hurts badly himself, something unlikely considering how cautious he seems to be. superman fed ? in a sense yes ;)

i don't expect him to win over sampras tonight... and i won't expect him to win big at IW or miami.
when your inmune system has been down it's not that easy to push your body to all the way during the next months, consistency will be the main issue for fed everytime he will run into someone who will push him more than he's used to... guys in early rounds will come out hungry and believing more in their chances, it could become tough for roger. but after IW we will have a better idea of where is fed... in term of fitness he says he's ok but what does that mean ? ok to beat blake or davy or ok to beat djoko, rafa at their best ? how do you say "langue de bois", btw ?

last and not least, i don't expect rafa to win IW or miami, he will try his best, a couple of semis would be perfect for me, a final would go beyond my expectations, a tittle will thrill me to no end ;)
and i'm not sure he will push hard on him right before the clay season with the DC in the middle of it...

enjoy the exo !

snoo make a foo foo foo*** report darling !!!

*** foo for french fou fou fou :D

good night all !

Posted by Russ 03/10/2008 at 07:22 PM

Hi there,

I'm in Boston... does anyone know if tonight's exo will be televised other than on TTC?

Thanks,

Russ.

Posted by KP 03/10/2008 at 07:24 PM

Tim, did you like S&V tennis at all? Because in spirit the Sampras-Fed W match you are watching isn't that different from Laver, Ashe, Newcombe, Edberg, Becker, etc. And I liked watching those guys very much. I see shots(mid court play, volleys, etc) in that Sampras-Fed match that no one today bothers even trying. To me its pretty fun to watch, & great tennis.

Even though those Goran-Sampras matches were pretty numbing in the 90s, there was enough variety on tour to make for a lot interesting matchups throughout the year on different surfaces.

Nadal & Fed is nice & all, but what is the strategy? It just seems to be all about who defends better. Yeah, it produces 'crowd-pleasing' tennis, but pretty simple tennis is at its core.

I think this is a major reason why Nadal, Djokovic, Fed are so far above the rest today, since everyone basically plays the same game(a game built more on defense than offense), how can you possibly beat those guys by just playing their game? But 90% of the tour has no other option, I guess.

at least in the 90s, there were different matchups, so that's why Agassi, Sampras, etc lost so often, everyone didn't just play the same vs them.

Someone like Djokovic must be so grooved at most event, he just has to concentrate on playing 'his game' not what his opponent does, since they are just a variation on his style of play anyway.

And watching Querrey is quite sad to me, what is the point of being 6'6 if all you want to do is play like Agassi?

Posted by Tim 03/10/2008 at 07:30 PM

KP, i prefer the baseliner vs. the net rusher battles, all this serve and miss stuff honestly isnt that fun to watch IMO ... the opposite of course are matches with 40 shot rallies every point, where no one can end a point, that is tedious as well ... agassi-sampras, navratilova=evert, fed=rafa, that is hard to top for entertainment

Posted by Tim 03/10/2008 at 07:33 PM

wow McEnroe and Robinson doing the commentary, kinda cool... this is a fun night...

Posted by FreudianSlip 03/10/2008 at 07:39 PM

Hello again, am ensconsed in my favorite chair, let the match begin!

Becks, are you here yet? Tim, you go, fella Fed fan! CL, keeping track of Roger's sweat-o-meter? ;) I think I'm nervous....

Posted by crazyone 03/10/2008 at 07:43 PM

Is anyone else watching the USTA stream? Why am I being shown Querrey-Anderson?

Posted by Quadruple Bagel 03/10/2008 at 07:48 PM

Well, I'm stuck at an office that won't allow me to download the necessary plug-in for the USTA feed, and we don't get TTC here, either. Plus, it doesn't look like you can scoreboard watch at the ATP or USTA site.

I'm hoping you guys can post a lot of details until I can get home to watch it on tape.

Q-Bags

Posted by crazyone 03/10/2008 at 07:54 PM

And all of a sudden it disappears. Grrr.

Posted by Tim 03/10/2008 at 07:55 PM

ill try to post some stuff here, im under the weather and glued to the TV...

in the pre match interviews both Roger and Pete seemed quite nervous, and very upfront... they respect each other enough to know the deal and not mince words, i like that ...

the best part is a sold out madison square garden, very cool for tennis...

right now we're getting the Davis Cup shoved down our throats lol

Posted by Tom 03/10/2008 at 07:56 PM

I can't find the USTA stream. Looked all over usta.com.

Posted by tom 03/10/2008 at 07:56 PM

oh, now it's there.

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 03/10/2008 at 07:58 PM

Hi Siggy!

Well done ... you made it home in time without getting a speeding ticket, I presume?

Finally we get to see our guy playing live tennis! Can you believe it?

Fed is adorable in his interview, per usual.

Posted by Quadruple Bagel 03/10/2008 at 07:58 PM

Thanks Time

Posted by lpb 03/10/2008 at 07:59 PM

Crazyone, It just started on the USTA feed.

Posted by Beckham 03/10/2008 at 07:59 PM

Siggy: very present...the Fed looks ok...he's smiling and is nervous...I'll be on the sweat-o-metre watch with CL...

Posted by Quadruple Bagel 03/10/2008 at 08:00 PM

Now I can't spell ... sorry

Posted by Schwab 03/10/2008 at 08:00 PM

Tangi,
Good evening. Now, back to Federer/Sampras. Finish with the DC presentation with PMac.

Posted by Tim 03/10/2008 at 08:01 PM

actually when you think about it, Sampras has a lot more to be nervous about, he hasnt been in this kind of pressure for 6 years, not even close, and certainly his day in and day out skills on the court arent what they were... lots of pressure for him, but if he gets into the match, all the pressure is on Roger...

Posted by crazyone 03/10/2008 at 08:01 PM

Ted Robinson...your mike is on.

Posted by Beckham 03/10/2008 at 08:05 PM

Tim: pressure, smessure...the goal for tonight is NO sweating...

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 03/10/2008 at 08:06 PM

Schwab,

Good evening to you! I will look forward to your commentary this evening as always. :)

Sheesh ... this pre-match hype is endless. And I still don't think Justin Gimelstob is quite ready for prime time w/the mic yet.

Posted by Beckham 03/10/2008 at 08:07 PM

Tiger Woods is here!

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 03/10/2008 at 08:07 PM

Anyone else nervous for Roger? This is kind of exciting.

Posted by Tim 03/10/2008 at 08:07 PM

good God this is celeb heaven! Tiger in da howse....

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 03/10/2008 at 08:08 PM

Schwab,

Are you making a prediction? Or did I miss it? We can't start w/out you weighing in on this. :)

Posted by 03/10/2008 at 08:09 PM

OMG

Darth Fed!!!!!

Posted by crazyone 03/10/2008 at 08:09 PM

This is half tennis match, half Broadway show.

Posted by Beckham 03/10/2008 at 08:09 PM

OMG was that the the Darth Vader breathing....LOL

The Fed is in black....

Posted by Schwab 03/10/2008 at 08:09 PM

Tangi,
Observations will be done after the match tonight. I will be away from my computer for this match.

Posted by crazyone 03/10/2008 at 08:10 PM

Why am I getting a stupid Rolex ad again! Instead of Fed coming on stage!

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 03/10/2008 at 08:12 PM

How appropriate that Men's Vogue is one of the sponsors! LOL

Schwab,

Sorry to hear that. We'll miss you. :(

Posted by 03/10/2008 at 08:12 PM

Aww to bad they messed up Pete's entry.
what music is that? more star wars?

Posted by Beckham 03/10/2008 at 08:12 PM

where is Mirka????

Posted by raven gypsy 03/10/2008 at 08:13 PM

HA-HA Darth Fed.

Too Funny!!

Posted by Papo 03/10/2008 at 08:13 PM

That's the Superman theme for Pete ; )

Posted by WideAwake 03/10/2008 at 08:13 PM

I think Roger's supposed to be the dark force and Pete's supposed to be the good one. Or something like that. Not too big a fan of Star Wars :)

Posted by crazyone 03/10/2008 at 08:13 PM

Careful, Pistol...you don't want mono! :P

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 03/10/2008 at 08:13 PM

And the tuxedo shorts are back!

Posted by Papo 03/10/2008 at 08:14 PM

Are they going to do the Swiss anthem?

Posted by Papo 03/10/2008 at 08:14 PM

Darth Vader vs Superman

Posted by Beckham 03/10/2008 at 08:15 PM

Papo: I was going to ask the same question...

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed - Needs a doctor and a coach) 03/10/2008 at 08:15 PM

Or, this is one time when I am glad I invested that 1,000 to put in a new dish system because I would be utterly devastated if I could not get to see this match. Look in your dad's pockets and see if you find the keys.

Posted by crazyone 03/10/2008 at 08:15 PM

Is Pete chewing gum??

Posted by 03/10/2008 at 08:16 PM

Papo thx for that, I didn't recognise it at the time.
Superman theme is perfect for Pete :)

Posted by Dani 03/10/2008 at 08:16 PM

Wow it is taking forever for this to get started tonight

Posted by Dani 03/10/2008 at 08:16 PM

Wow it is taking forever for this to get started tonight

Posted by Beckham 03/10/2008 at 08:17 PM

Hmm, they went all out for this...Emerson in da house!!!

Posted by crazyone 03/10/2008 at 08:18 PM

You have to be kidding me...ads in the middle of everything? GRRRR.

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 03/10/2008 at 08:19 PM

What a nice touch to have Roy Emerson there. Cool photo op w/Pete, Roger and Roy.

And Billie Jean, too! This is cool.

Posted by Diane 03/10/2008 at 08:19 PM

Not only is Pete chewing gum, so is his wife; I think it looks awful!

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