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Generation gap, even on senior circuit

Sampras, 36, has no problem against 44-year-old Pernfors

9/26/07 – Pete Sampras hits the ball while playing in a Seniors tennis event at The Palisades.

You know you’re in a beat-down when you’re reduced to lobbying the umpire to call one of your own serves out.

That’s how desperate Mikael Pernfors grew Wednesday, trying to deal with Pete Sampras. Down 5-0 in the first set, he argued that a first serve he’d hit was out, after Sampras cranked back that serve for a winner.

Predictably, Pernfors lost the argument and the match, falling 6-0, 6-2 during the opening night of the senior men’s tennis tournament at The Palisades.

Sampras might be a senior by age (36), but Pernfors (44) knows a kid when he sees one. Former world No. 1 Sampras plays with a level of power and spin Pernfors never envisioned when he played the main tour.

“Here I am, struggling to win a game and looking like an idiot,” Pernfors said, laughing at the futility.

“He can take a little bit of pace off (his normal) ball and it still doesn’t make any difference,” Pernfors said, “because this guy puts so much spin on the ball.”

Though Sampras and Pernfors are only eight years apart (Pernfors beat Sampras twice when Sampras was a teen joining the tour), this amounts to a generation gap. The younger players on this 30-and-over circuit — Sampras, Jim Courier, Todd Martin and Wayne Ferreira — are used to hitting the ball with a fury.

The difference wasn’t quite as pronounced in Ferreira’s 6-2, 6-4 victory over Swede Anders Jarryd, but the variance was there.

Sampras, who plays again Friday night and Saturday afternoon in the round-robin format, agrees with Pernfors’ conclusion that the difference in their games is almost evolutionary.

“Jim and I worked very hard at our conditioning and it’s bigger, stronger guys,” Sampras said.

It doesn’t hurt that Sampras finally gave up the outdated equipment he used on the main tour. He now uses a racquet with a bigger head and high-tech strings that keep the ball in the court. Courier said that’s allowed Sampras to hit backhands more assertively than ever before.

Source: Charlotte Observer

Filed under: Archives 2003 to 2011

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