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Sampras headlines Hall of Fame induction ceremonies

Source: The Providence Journal

May 20, 2007 – Five years after he retired from the men’s pro tennis tour, Pete Sampras remains a marquee attraction.

His July 14 induction ceremony to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, which will precede the semifinals of the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, sold out in the weeks between the September announcement that he was on the ballot and the December count of the vote.

The July 15 Hall of Fame Classic, a 10 a.m. separate admission exhibition featuring Sampras and former pro Todd Martin in singles and Hall of Famers Rod Laver and Stan Smith in doubles, is sold out.

“It’s pretty amazing the marketing power of Pete Sampras,” said Mark Stenning, chief executive of the Hall of Fame.

Sampras drew large crowds to the Champions Cup Boston event this month, his return to competitive tennis for the first time since he left after beating Andre Agassi in the final of the 2002 U.S. Open.

He is in Greece this weekend for the Athens Champions Cup, an event that Hall of Famer Jim Courier, the tour founder, put together after Sampras agreed to join. Sampras took his family with him for his first visit to his ancestral homeland.

The Champions circuit is coming to Newport Aug. 22-26 in the form of the Gibson Guitar Champions Cup. Courier, John McEnroe, Mats Wilander, Pat Cash and Wayne Ferreira have entered, leaving Stenning three spots to fill. Michael Chang is a possibility but is nursing an injury. Sampras has given no indication that he would return to the Newpoprt Casino a month after he enters the Hall of Fame, but Stenning and others are wondering if he will reconsider after spending a weekend experiencing the intimate atmosphere of the Horseshoe Piazza and Bill Talbert Stadium and absorbing more than a century’s worth of tennis history in the Hall of Fame museum.

“The answer is it remains to be seen,” Stenning said.

Sampras’ first visit to Newport is shaping up as the highlight of Newport Tennis Week 2007. He has asked his coach, Paul Annacone, a Newport participant when he was on the ATP tour, to present him for induction. Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario of Spain, Sven Davidson of Sweden and Massacusetts-based photographer Russ Adams will also be inducted. Hall of Famer Bud Collins will present Adams, an icon among the visual chroniclers of the game.

Mardy Fish is the only Top 30 player entered in the July 9-15 Hall of Fame tournament so far. James Blake, a regular who did not play in 2006, and Robby Ginepri, who also has played Newport several times, are skipping the tournament this summer.

“Robby is playing an exhibition, and James is in the stratosphere now,” Stenning said.

Despite the absence of more familiar names from the draw, only 50 seats remain available for the finals on Sunday, July 15. Check or call the tournament office at (401) 849-6053 for details.

Filed under: Archives 2003 to 2011

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