Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Glitz, Mystery, and Two Nice Guys
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Glitz, Mystery, and Two Nice Guys 03/11/2008 - 1:52 PM

FedpeteSo, well, what was that all about?

Nostalgia, private air travel, Puerto Rican rum, fabled New York hair—Donald Trump’s and Anna Wintour’s, of course. Significant diamond rings, upturned collars, high heels, white wine, money trying hard to turn into excitement. Tennis immortality, severely bending second serves, the supremacy of youth, mutual respect, two nice guys who were never meant to be performers, a lot of guaranteed cash, a lot of service winners, a very good third set, the eternal need for Star Wars. A touchingly disappointed loser.

Above all, for myself and other connoisseurs of the Greatest of All Time debate, this was about the mystery of the exhibition. Just what do these matches mean; how real is the tennis; what, if anything can we take away from them? They’re infinitely more head-scratching than any tournament match, where you know exactly what the goal of every shot is. Sitting in the low-lying press section at the far end of a dark and quietly crowded Madison Square Garden, my reaction after watching the first three games Monday night was that Pete Sampras' win over Roger Federer in their last exo was clearly a gift. Federer looked far superior to Sampras at the Garden, much quicker and sharper. None of that should be surprising, but it was more obvious than it had been to me on TV. In the first game, Federer stepped around to casually hit a passing shot that landed 5 feet inside either baseline. Sampras was nowhere near it.

Part of this was Sampras’ obvious rust and nerves. He was pulling up on his returns and stoning a lot of makeable volleys. It was service winner or bust for him early; his slice approaches hung up, his topspin backhand was totally disjointed. I got the sense that Federer, who was taking about four seconds between serves, was working hard to keep his opponent in it.

Sampras loosened up a bit in the second, made a few returns, hit a few penetrating forehands, and spun in that famous slice serve on the line into the deuce court when he needed it. Still, I was more impressed with Federer’s ability to keep it close without being obvious about it. Sampras served at 4-5, 30-30 and came to net, where he gave Federer a clean look at a backhand pass up the line. Instead, Federer went for an impossible soft slice angle crosscourt. It floated, hung in the air, and caught the top of the tape—a masterpiece of the exhibition miss. To make it would have given Federer match point about an hour after the whole thing had begun. That was clearly too early, so he missed it creatively.

Then something funny happened. Federer lost control in the third set. Down 0-2, Sampras finally found a semblance of a groove. He had both serves working, his approaches were landing deeper, and he had figured out the footwork needed to volley again. Now, when Federer hit a testy low return, he was doing what it took to get in position for it (the last things to come back are always the quick reaction shots around the net). A couple forehand misses later and Federer had been broken, and then broken again. Serving at 4-2 and game point, Sampras carved a nice backhand volley short and wide; Federer scrambled to pick it up, but Sampras was waiting for the easy volley into the open court. When he walked to the sidelines, the old swagger was back.

It couldn’t last forever. Down 3-5, Federer made enough returns to sneak through a deuce game, and the race was on for the tiebreaker, which seemed destined to go to extra innings, as these things so often do (in the battle of the surfaces last year, Federer lost to Nadal 12-10 in a third-set tiebreaker). Two things about the breaker: (1) Like the rest of the match, it was all about the serve (seven of 14 points were won on aces or service winners); (2) on the last point, Sampras had time to run around and hit a forehand, but he chose the backhand and sent it wide.

Back to Sampras’ five-game run in the third: How “real” was it? I’ll turn to two of Federer’s comments from the presser afterward. When Pete Bodo asked him how hard it was to play a guy like Sampras, who doesn’t give you time to rally, Federer said that it was tough to get a rhythm (“riddim”) against him, which means that when Sampras starts to put together a few shots, it’s even harder to raise your game and find that rhythm on the spot. But when Richard Dietsch of Sports Illustrated asked Federer to assess the quality of play, he said that he and Sampras had, more than anything, “wanted to play a good match.”

I would say both of these comments were truthful and telling: They had worked together to put on a show more than a match, which meant something more entertaining than 6-4, 6-3 (or 6-2, 6-0), but that Federer had had to work for real to dig himself out of a 2-5 hole he didn’t anticipate. I was impressed by both guys: Sampras for finding some semblance of his old mojo within 2 hours, and Federer for his mastery of the tricky, ambiguous game of “exo-ball.” It’s an art unto itself, and a mystery that I’m frankly tired of trying to analyze. Bring back real tennis!

Before we leave the world of spectacle, though, one more word about these players. Neither are natural hams, but at the same time neither bothered to hide their feelings last night. Both admitted multiple times to being nervous. Federer smiled easily, even as he was throwing up a service toss at a critical stage in the third set. When it was finally over, Sampras stood to be interviewed with deflation and disappointment etched on his face. He had gotten a taste of the old excitement, and he thought for a second he was going to win. The look in his eyes when he didn’t was the realest thing I saw all night.

The press conference afterward was a zoo. Hundreds of booze-swlling NetJets clients formed a massive, buzzing, semicircle around the players and reporters. Four tennis legends—Lendl, Emerson, Trabert, Smith—were trotted out, pointlessly, to begin. When they left, Pete and Roger appeared, each looking surprisingly young and casual, like two college kids in jeans and sneakers (Sampras looks younger off-court for some reason). They walked across the stage, past the four chairs. I expected them to take the first and third seats, with at least one in between (these are jocks, after all; they save the close contact for the court). But they both went down to the end and sat right next to each other. The two best players in history looked like brothers there, hunched forward and smiling modestly in front of all these drunken non-fans of their sport.

This was the secret to tennis immortality, apparently. Underneath the night’s spectacle and show, the sport’s very best players remain normal guys—gentlemen, as they used to say in the game's amatuer days. That’s probably not going to get tennis back to the Garden anytime soon, but it's a fact worth celebrating nonetheless.


Posted by Yummy Prince Fed Rules 03/11/2008 at 02:11 PM

First. Cannot believe that no one has posted here as yet. Like you Steve I saw respect, admiration, humility, a little bit of angst on both sides of the net and both guys just seemed genuinely happy to be out there under the lights playing a game that they love very much. I was at home laughing up a storm as I saw them trying to out do each other with the jumping overheads. It was all in good fun and my son who is now becoming a fan of the sport has decided to go out and buy a racquet and join his mom on the tennis court.

A lot of folks elsewhere are saying that Pete gifted Fed the match. That could be said because of the commentary that was being by JMac who is so competitive I wonder if he would beat his own mother if it meant him winning a title.

Posted by lpb 03/11/2008 at 02:31 PM

Steve, Enjoyed reading this, especially the bit on the post-exo presser.

Posted by tennis kad 03/11/2008 at 02:44 PM

"Bring back real tennis" indeed! I'm sick of wondering whether or not the players are actually trying. And if they're not trying, how entertaining could it possibly be? The whole point of sports is that you shouldn't have to willfully suspend your disbelief. Make believe is fine for theater, which gets its drama from portraying situations that the audience can relate to. But sports get their drama from athletes trying their hardest to win. No effort, no drama. No drama, what a waste of time.

The glitz was embarrassing, awkward, and painful, especially Fed being interviewed in between the first and second sets. I think that was the first time I had ever seen him caught off guard. You'd think that in all their preparation, they might have warned him.

One thing that kind of amused me was when Ted Robinson started talking up Lendl's role in this event, Johnny Mac was quick to say something to the effect of, "Ted, you promised you wouldn't praise Lendl. Ever." But then even the hard-nosed Johnny Mac lightened up and said (again paraphrasing) "Lendl belongs here. He should come out and be a part of the sport again." Never thought I'd hear him say that. Guess he was inspired by Fed and Pete (who are sort of anachronistic rivals) to reach out to his own former rival.

Posted by SwissMaestro 03/11/2008 at 02:46 PM

what about the point Federer asked the chair umpire to be given to Sampras????

Posted by Exonomore 03/11/2008 at 02:46 PM

Thanks, Steve, for a wonderful piece.

Posted by nikdom 03/11/2008 at 02:50 PM

I thought Roger let Pete get into the match in the 2nd set. Then he was up 2-0 in the third and probably took a mental walk there in the 3rd game, cos Pete came right back in it and like you said, he found a groove.

I thought Roger did pretty well to come back from that hole. I think they may have agreed to let the match go into a 3rd set before hand, but then all bets are off in the third - sort of like having it both ways.

In the end, it was just all for fun. I could tell with Roger smiling down 5-4 in the tiebreaker.

Posted by Nick 03/11/2008 at 02:51 PM

Maybe someone here can explain to me how this match said anything good about Federer's tennis these days? The third set story was all over the faces of these two - neither of them expected Sampras to be one game away from winning this. Federer was clearly getting agitated from shanking so many balls. Sampras could taste it. But the third set had an All-Bets-Are-Off look of 2 guys playing to win.

And that's my problem with Federer - who obviously expected to come into this match as the reigning Australian Open Champ. Say what you want about Sampras, his achievements, his place in history, his serve, etc. He's still a guy that's 36 years old and hasn't played an ATP tour match in almost six years - and was coming to this off a loss on the "Champions" Tour. And Federer has to rally in a third set to get to a tiebreak. Roger never looked like he should have looked last night, and should never have had to work this hard to win a match this meaningless. As a result, I wonder what kind of talk is happening today in the locker room at The Pacific Life Open?

Posted by SwissMaestro 03/11/2008 at 02:53 PM

Roger was actually trying to make Pete fin his groove, would he have taken the match seriously it could have been over in 50 minutes.

Posted by Libby 03/11/2008 at 02:56 PM

This cleared up a lot of my confusion from watching that -- um, match? -- last night, so thank you. Exhibitions are indeed a world unto themselves.

I agree: bring back real tennis indeed! All this fuss over that THING last night, and I'd have traded all of it, even the Star Wars themes, for some coverage of last week's Dubai tournament. Sigh.

Posted by SwissMaestro 03/11/2008 at 02:56 PM

all the shots in which Federer could have gone for clean, clear winners he hit to the middle just to keep the ball in play. I felt bad when Sampras missed that high kicking second serve from Federer. Roger took it down a couple of notches and he was not even in "full flight"...

Posted by dragonfly 03/11/2008 at 02:59 PM

Thanks for this timely post, Steve. You were right on the money with your observations. Federer did hold back quite subtlely in the second set and midway through the third something just went askew with his service game. Glad he fought to get back in, unlike his match with Murray in Dubai which he gave up at about the same time in the 3rd set.

YPF, JMac never said Pete was letting Roger win. It was actually the other way around, he mentioned how trickly it is to step down a bit to let the other guy in on the game and keep your own momentum going (something to that effect), and that he was worried the 3rd set was moving away from the "script". USTA has the video available for the next 5 days or so, if anybody wants to check.

Posted by SwissMaestro 03/11/2008 at 03:02 PM

They were also talking about another EXO in London. I hope it will be on grass that time around.

Posted by Diwakar 03/11/2008 at 03:11 PM

Nice post.

Somebody should pay these guys ridiculous amount of money if one wins over the other in straight sets and exponentially lower (but still enough money) for winning in three sets (in a best of three match) For example: 3 million to win straight/2 sets and 1 million to win in 3 and the loser gets nothing :)
...then see how they play....and end anymore speculations :)

Posted by Fleaman 03/11/2008 at 03:12 PM

Nice post, Steve, and yes, let the season begin for real, finally. With the top 3 arranged as closely as they currently are in the rankings and Roddick on a roll it should be good.

Yummy Prince Fed Rules: very funny JMac comment, and all too true. During the pregame show JMac brought out PMac as the DC captain, in front of the actual cup to celebrate the American win in Portland and then managed to make that moment all about himself. PMac gladly obliged and praised his brother some more.

Posted by SwissMaestro 03/11/2008 at 03:13 PM

I think Sampras would refuse tha proposal right away. He really does not need to be embarrased and Federer would not do that to Pete, EVER! unless I am a it crazy, other players though would do anything for a buck but not these two. There's a lot more to loose than to win..

Posted by rico 03/11/2008 at 03:19 PM

I was totally impressed with federer's performance last night anybody who watch's fed play knows he was showing due respect for sampras, especially in the second set. It was the right thing to do. Pete deserved that treatment, even johnny mac mentioned the same thing.

Posted by Ronaldo 03/11/2008 at 04:13 PM

"Federer has to rally in a third set to get to a tiebreak. Roger never looked like he should have looked last night, and should never have had to work this hard to win a match this meaningless."


You obviously were not at the match - I was. It was very clear that Federer could have won 0 and 2 if he wanted to. He was feeding Sampras the ball right back down the center. Sampras tried to hit winners - Fed tried to keep the ball in play.He didn't break a sweat and was able to make it appear competitive - a tough thing to do.

I've played semi-pro events and I know when someone is handing points away - get a grip!!

Posted by tennis grammy 03/11/2008 at 04:31 PM

nice post, steve. i especially liked your line about two nice guys never meant to be performers. as i sat in the garden last night watching the match, i thought the same thing. they really tried very hard to make it a fun match, but they just do not have the personalities for it. for a really fun exhibition you need the likes of a roddick or an agassi personality to really make it fun.

Posted by Sam 03/11/2008 at 05:07 PM

"This was the secret to tennis immortality, apparently. Underneath the night’s spectacle and show, the sport’s very best players remain normal guys—gentlemen, as they used to say in the game's amatuer days. "

Steve: Nice post, especially the passage above. Also, it was good to see you again at the post-exo gathering.

Posted by Red Tennis 03/11/2008 at 05:13 PM

Great summary of what went on last night..very insightful.

I was at the match and it was an interesting comination of stardom and tennis, ultimately it was a really fun night, with the two world class gentelman of athletes. Definetly Federer could have one in 50 minutes, but they put on a show. I think it shows Federers ability to "throw points" meaning not giving winners shots when he could have, and yet still have it look realistic and compettative. THere were a hanful of points where I was on the endge of my seets and there was some real tennis going on. Ceetainly the plan was not to have Pete leading 5-2, but thats what makes tennis so great, you never know what wll happen. Ultimately Fed showed he was in control the whole time, and both players gave the crowd a real memorable night!!

Posted by darthhelmethead(lurker in reform) 03/11/2008 at 06:41 PM

I think that last night's match, if nothing else, was fun. It was obvious Fed wasn't going all out when he started to hit half volley approach shots, but it looked like Sampras was trying his best. There were exciting points, shifts in momentum, and a crowd on the edges of their seats (all things that a great match needs). Roger and Pete succeeded on putting on a show to the fan's and my delight, which was their ultimate goal.

I don't think that Fed meant to go down in the third set. He seemed to lose his concentration as Pete found a new gear. The final games of the match were about as real as that exhibition could be.

Posted by darthhelmethead(lurker in reform) 03/11/2008 at 06:43 PM

It was also nice to see Sampras become a crowd favorite. His era was slightly before my time as a hardcore fan, but I doubt a crowd has ever embraced Pete to such a degree.

Posted by geikou 03/11/2008 at 07:23 PM

"Maybe someone here can explain to me how this match said anything good about Federer's tennis these days?
Roger never looked like he should have looked last night, and should never have had to work this hard to win a match this meaningless."

Didn't Pete play Tommy Haas in San Jose a few weeks back and completely blow him out of the water? Pete may be 36, but he's still Pistol Pete. I thought Roger looked like he was playing very well yesterday (minus his abrupt lapse in the third set) and not only showed no signs of his illness but also no real signs of his lack of training and match play thus far. And yes, perhaps his shot selection could have been better as well. ^_~ You can bet that if this match had actually mattered that Roger would not have been smiling out there and playing to make a match of it.

Posted by Sher 03/11/2008 at 07:25 PM

Steve, last article felt like you were under a deadline, but here you've got your touch back again. Wonderful writing, and I think it captures the night very well. Thanks!

Posted by Sher 03/11/2008 at 07:35 PM

Wow, Karen, that's cool about your son! :D

Posted by Joe 03/11/2008 at 07:37 PM

I don't know if anyone else caught this watching on the USTA website after the 3rd game in the second set but you could hear John McEnroe saying that it was "painfully obvious" that Federer wasn't giving 100% and that if Fed had wanted it would of been 3-0 instead of 2-1.

Posted by SDSid 03/11/2008 at 08:22 PM

"Bring back real tennis!" ??!? What was played last night? Fake tennis? Last I checked, the rules being used were the same. What I think, Steve, you're really pining for is real *competition*. If you want competitive tennis, then don't watch exhibitions; they're obviously not for you. But for the rest of the 19,000 (plus me) spectators of last night's match, we found the match entertaining, which, if you think about, is the goal of any entertainment event. And the last I checked, sports and games are solely for entertainment. It's the elitist attitude of people like Mr. Tignor that make certain sports overly insular (which tennis is, or was, in danger of becoming).

Let me guess, you're the type of person that would beat your 5-year old daughter 6-0, 6-0 because that's "real tennis"?

Posted by Alison Campbell 03/11/2008 at 08:54 PM

Roger is just getting over mono for heavens' sake!
Give the poor guy a break!Once he feels better, all bets are off!
A very devoted fan (and her husband).
Alison and Chris

Posted by oldskool 03/11/2008 at 08:58 PM

I was there. Fifty feet from the court and 100 feet from Tiger. Roger and Pete were true gentleman. Both were class acts. I laughed, roared and cheered for their tennis skill and athleticism. I had a great time which was their intent. Mission accomplished- well done!

Posted by Rob 03/11/2008 at 10:25 PM

I was there at the San Jose Pete vs Haas exo...the match that was played later in the night put the Pete-Haas match in perspective...Donald Young played Steve Darcis (I think) and both of them were hitting MUCH better groundies than Pete's!!!! Haas was pulling soo much back it was obvious from his complete lack of rhythm when you let your forehand rip but you don't want to...Haas kept feeding Pete at the net...It was very very disappointing for me because Pete lost some respect in my eyes...I bet all of my wealth that Pete cannot be Donald Young or Steve Darcis in a real match...if Todd Martin can give Pete a tough time , think for yourself!

Posted by MWC 03/12/2008 at 01:21 AM

I long for the days of the Jimmy Connors Winner takes all challenge matches...then we'd have some real competition.

Posted by Irving 03/12/2008 at 01:31 AM

Diwakar: Do you REALLY think these guys are doing it for the money? Check out who's #1 and #2 on the all time ATP prize money list...

Posted by evan 03/12/2008 at 01:52 AM

i agree with you steve about federer giving sampras the second set and loosening his grip a little too much on the third set before finally putting his foot down.

this was actually my first time ever watching a professional match in person, took a 6 hour train ride monday morning from oswego NY to watch, and honestly, i just wanted to be entertained, so i really appreciate federer taking this into account when he gave sampras the second set. i definitely respect him for that.

Posted by 03/12/2008 at 06:36 AM

"Sampras looks younger off-court for some reason."

That would be due to the fact that his on court attire is much too large for him....actually, when he's out there, he looks like somebody's father (hee hee).

Posted by frances 03/12/2008 at 10:20 AM

Um...I actually kind of got into the match in the third set...I know. Sucker. Whatever.

Posted by GVGirl 03/12/2008 at 11:57 AM

Nice analysis. I took the match for what it was worth as an MSG Spectacle! :) it was good fun.

Posted by Golden Bear 03/12/2008 at 12:30 PM

Great match for artistic and sentimental reasons.......But.....
am I the only one on the planet who found the court to
look condensed during most of the match? The court appeared
to look 2/3 its normal size due to the camera angle. Very annoying
and please let me know if its just me.

Posted by 03/12/2008 at 12:37 PM

it was a nice match , both players are the best in his era , but pete had more hard players versus in his era that federer does now ...i wonder if federer would do the same with the oponents that pete had in his time....

Posted by 03/12/2008 at 12:37 PM

it was a nice match , both players are the best in his era , but pete had more hard players versus in his era that federer does now ...i wonder if federer would do the same with the oponents that pete had in his time....

Posted by 03/12/2008 at 12:39 PM

it was a nice match , both players are the best in his era , but pete had more hard players versus in his era that federer does now ...i wonder if federer would win the same grand slam with the same oponents that pete had in his time....

Posted by Moose33 03/12/2008 at 12:45 PM

I think there is one point people are missing here and how much Federer helped Sampras into the match. While I agree Federer could have cruised to a straight set win, that obviously isnt the point of the exhibition. Alot of people paid alot of money to see these guys play and I think the players did an excellent job in entertaining not only the 19,000 people there but everyone watching on tv.

Having said that, it's very difficult for Federer to keep Sampras in the game while assuring that he will win in the end. For one, Federer has no control of how Sampras is serving. Pete still has one of the best first AND second serves in the game and could be nearly impossible to break if he is serving well which he started to do in the second and first half of the third set. His serve trailed off just in time (at 3-5 in the third) for Federer to take advantage of a couple second serves to get back into the set and the rest is history.

I was lucky enough to be there and thought it was alot of fun (especially Federer coming out to Star Wars in all black).

Posted by 03/12/2008 at 12:48 PM

I was there in person too, and the whole match seemed scripted in a way - Federer takes the first set, Sampras fights to win the close second, and Federer takes the third. I didn't think that the match would end with Federer taking straights sets given the amount of money that people had to pay (though I'm not sure how much was charged for the exos in Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, and Macau). Still, there was definitely a sense that Federer slowed down a bit in the second set to let Pete find his range - case in point that slice floater miss mentioned in the article (and also a slice crosscourt that Sampras easily read and countered with a ridiculous dropshot). The third set, which began around 10, began as I had expected with an easy hold and break by Federer to go up 2-0. I suspect many in audience believed that Federer would just coast on Sampras' serve and serve out the match since many actually left after 2-1 in the third. What I didn't expect (and likely not on the script) was Sampras going up 5-2. Sampras was playing great up until that point in the third set - getting jumps on Federer's serves and hitting monstrous forehands and sharp volleys. The screens in MSG, which had been blaring "Let's Go Pete" all night, suddenly showed "Let's Go Roger." What I noticed then was Sampras' version of Federer's slice floater miss: Sampras slowed down to let Federer back in the third. Sampras could've gone for any one of those four aces in the ninth game, but that would not be good for the exo.

Clearly, Federer could've won in straight sets but allowed the match to go further for the sake of entertainment. I actually thought Sampras was trying to see how he would do in today's game with his current level of play and his own equipment (did you all notice that he was using his old Wilson rather than Federer's NCode that he had been using since his first exhibition with Ginepri?). But at the same time, I thought he pulled back in the third when he realized that Federer was the better player. Sampras probably also realized, and we all knew, that a loss by Federer would only create more negative buzz for Federer for the rest of the season, which is not what the exhibitions were supposed to do.

In the end, the match was very entertaining with both players coming up with ridiculous shots, and the audience got to see the two greats play and a glimpse of what if they played together in the same era. Tennis got a great boost, and hopefully the match will resonate in the mind of the next greatest player of all time.

Posted by VE 03/12/2008 at 01:52 PM

I'm with Steve, I miss real tennis, real competition. In the arena, it seemed pretty obvious to me that Federer played well enough in the first set to prove that he was indeed, back. In the second, Fed struggled to keep it close and then in the third Fed remembered "oh yeah, I am TMF" got himself down and then just blew away Sampras.

I'd love to see more tennis in the Garden, but not this way. Maybe someone will stage a Manhattan version of the Hopman Cup or something of that ilk....

Posted by T-Man 03/12/2008 at 03:55 PM

It was obvious that Fed toned down his play to make the game look competitive. I was quite impressed that Fed was able to win points when he wanted to especially in the 3rd set after being down 5 - 2. Anyway, that match was just an exhibition and was really for the fans. Pete is old now and couldn't move the same way he could in his prime. Fed is playing in his prime. If both had played seriously that night, Fed would have blown Pete in 2 sets.

Posted by calgal 03/12/2008 at 04:04 PM

As someone attending that game, you can't imagine the feeling I and all of the people sitting around me had that the match would be over in two sets -- given the prices paid to be there. The entertainment value was much appreciated and whatever happened to draw it out to three sets and a little suspense was nice. Everyone left happy, I hope. This Fed fan was just relieved to see that Roger was not suffering from ague and fatigue after his mono scare. Roger has put some weight back on since the Australian Open. Do I sound like a mother? I am. It was a night of fun and probably the beginning of another good year for Federer. How great to be in New York for an evening of something special. These are the nights you remember.

Has anyone dared to ask about Mirka's health? Isn't this the kissing disease he had? Does Roger only kiss trophies?

Posted by Snoo "The Mugger" Foo 03/12/2008 at 09:22 PM

"Pete Sampras' win over Roger Federer in their last exo was clearly a gift."

je. je. je.

Posted by 03/12/2008 at 09:41 PM

Welcome back Snoo. I'm just a lurker, but you've been missed.

Posted by Chloe02 03/13/2008 at 04:31 AM

Steve - great to read your post, thank you! I didn't see the match (living in a universe far, far away) but enjoyed your take on this as a honest piece of tennis entertainment between two guys who respect and probably like each other. No Clash of the Ego Titans but maybe not much "edge" either. I guess I would be with calgal - just glad to have seen the match as something to tell the grandkids that you saw two tennis legends playing live.

Posted by fedfan 03/13/2008 at 09:32 AM

Given the age difference and Sampras' obvious rust,it's hard to take this match as anything but a fun and star-dusted evening. I was struck by how gorgeous Sampy's service motion still is.

Posted by TennisMasta 03/14/2008 at 02:04 AM

I saw the match live on It was very frustrating indeed to see short points, and tons of truly unforced errors. After this match people clamoring for serve and volley would be gladly looking forward to baseline tennis. Imagine three sets of tennis without one good rally. It was simply horrendous to see the quality of tennis.

It was nice to see the two greats on the court with so much celebrity all around. But you will get this inescapable thought: even for an exhibition match couldn't this have been played better? Did their game deserve the $500K each they each received?

I simply don't understand why Pete couldn't stay back and rally a few points, and perhaps go for some big shots from the baseline. Santoro is about the same age and he competes well on the ATP tour. And he doesn't even have a serve, let alone the kind only Pete has. Even Agassi played solid until last year and he isn't much younger than Pete. You wonder if this all that Pete had to offer? And 36 is not a terribly old age. Connors was good even at 37.

I agree that Roger did very well to manage the match to be close for the fans. Still you could see that he looked like he was playing with his 10 year old son - not against a 10 year older legend.

If I were a paying fan I would have been terribly disappointed.

Posted by Diwakar 03/14/2008 at 06:28 PM

I wish they did! :)

could stop tormenting myself (like the rest of the world/tennis fanatics) with their comparisons over Pete's locked backhand over Fed's smooth... both equally effective and so on...

TennisMasta, it is more of a celebrity evening and non-tennis fanatics who paid so much for that game, some of it transferred to the players. Pete's game is serve and volley, as you very well know, and playing something that you are not best and your opponent is good not smart.


Posted by Irving 03/12/2008 @ 1:31 AM

Diwakar: Do you REALLY think these guys are doing it for the money? Check out who's #1 and #2 on the all time ATP prize money list...

Posted by VV Varaiya 03/14/2008 at 10:39 PM

The match was great fun... Sampras still has an amazing serve and volley. The King is lightening fast and beautiful backhand.

The match was a like a bottle of wine. Who cares what critics say of its purity if you like the taste?

Great experience, would do easily do it again.

Posted by Raja 04/15/2008 at 06:17 PM

Great game!! Nice stuff

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