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Sampras Makes Winning Blackrock Debut

Pete Sampras needed all of his famed power, skill and experience to scrape past home favourite Fernando Meligeni and make a winning start to his BlackRock Tour of Champions career in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Thursday.

Sampras and Meligeni came into the match with a career head-to-head of 1-1, and it was immediately clear that the American would have his work cut out in front of a partisan, capacity crowd at the WTC Golden Hall.

The American broke Meligeni in the first game before holding serve to take the set 6-3, but Meligeni hit back to break the former Word No.1 at 2-2 in the second. With an ace, Meligeni closed out the second set 6-4. In the Champions’ Tie-break Sampras started strongly and quickly took a 7-3 lead, closing out the match 6-3, 4-6, 10-6 (Champions’ Tie-break).

“I was told that people are very passionate about sports here and that there are many tennis fans in Sao Paulo,” said Sampras.

“It was pleasure to play here. They had never had the chance to see me play live before, so I’m just happy to be here. The court is fast so it was hard to adjust with only one match, but I’m sure I will be better tomorrow.”

For Meligeni, it was a special experience to play the 14-time Grand Slam champion in front of the Brazilian’s own fans.

“It is an honour to play Pete Sampras in Brazil,” he said.

“The guy is living legend, probably the best tennis player ever seen. It was a lot of fun to play in front of my home crowd once again. I could off the energy of the crowd and I think I was able to put up a good show for the fans. It is quite tough to play a guy like Pete on hard courts. His shots come fast and heavy and you don’t have much time to react. His serve is one of the best I have ever had to return and his ball placement is just incredible. I can’t say enough good things about his game.”

Chilean Marcelo Rios also opened his campaign at the BlackRock Tour of Champions even in Sao Paulo with a win. The former World No.1 showed all of his talent to dismiss Russia’s Andrei Cherkasov 6-3, 6-2 in 61 minutes. Rios, who is currently No.3 in the 2008 South African Airways Tour of Champions Rankings, could gain the lead if he wins the title in Sao Paulo.

“I think that I played well for my first match here but there is still some room for improvement. Tomorrow’s match against Jaime (Oncins) will be good fun. I’m looking forward to the opportunity of playing a Brazilian in Sao Paulo,” said Rios.

Earlier, local favourite Oncins defeated Peruvian Jaime Yzaga 6-4, 6-4, while Marc-Kevin Goellner overcame Thomas Muster 6-2, 6-4.

Source: BlackRock Tour of Champions

Filed under: Archives 2003 to 2011

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