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Tennis ace Sampras to play Columbus, Georgia

March match a tune-up for facing down Federer

Tennis legend Pete Sampras wanted one more tune-up match before a March exhibition against world No. 1 Roger Federer at New York’s Madison Square Garden, so sports promotor John McDonald checked into potential sites on his behalf.

A colleague recommended Columbus.

The one in Georgia, not Ohio.

“He said, ‘What about Columbus?’ and I said, ‘What about it?’ ” joked McDonald, the president and owner of Prism Sports & Entertainment. “I did a little research and found out the local participation there is in tennis.”

He’s counting on all of those participators to translate into spectators when Sampras and Todd Martin participate in an exhibition match at the Columbus Civic Center on March 8.

The event, billed as “Serving Up Aces,” will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets, which will sell for $25 and up, go on sale Jan. 25 at the Civic Center box office and at local Publix supermarkets. They may also be purchased online at or by phone, 706-494-8330.

“I don’t remember anything like this happening to Columbus,” Civic Center director Dale Hester said. “It tickled me to death. That’s a great thing to have here in Columbus.”

Sampras, a newly minted member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, owns a record 14 Grand Slam singles titles and earned more than $43 million in prize money during a 15-year career that ended in 2002. He also acquired the nickname “The King of Swing” with a resume that includes seven Wimbledon, five U.S. Open and two Australian Open titles.

Martin, the 1999 U.S. Open finalist and a member of the United States’ victorious 1995 Davis Cup team, finished among the world’s top 100 players 12 consecutive years before retiring in 2004.

The duo will play an exhibition in Jacksonville, Fla., on March 6. Their stop in Columbus will provide Sampras with one final warm-up before his March 10 exhibition against Federer. The two played a three-match exhibition tour of Asia last year. While Federer won two of the three exhibitions, he still needs two more Grand Slam victories to match Sampras’ record.

McDonald said the selection of Columbus as a site for a Sampras-Martin exhibition had a lot to do with what he learned about Columbus Regional Tennis Association and some conversations he had with its executive director, Judy Pearce.

“I started looking at some of the stuff they’ve done,” McDonald said.

Pearce said confirmation of the Sampras-Martin match has created considerable buzz in the local tennis community.

“It’s big news,” she said. “When he (McDonald) called me, I was like ‘Pete Sampras? In Columbus?’ We have close to 2,300 members in CORTA and he (McDonald) was excited about that. It makes us proud as an organization.

“It will be real inspiring to our junior players and our adults too.”

Sampras won’t be the first tennis hall of famer to pass through town, however. Back in 1973, a budding women’s star named Chris Evert counted a Virginia Slims event win in Columbus among her 12 tournament victories that year.

Source: Ledger Enquirer

Filed under: Archives 2003 to 2011

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