BEIJING – Fourteen-time Grand Slam winner Peter Sampras will play former World No 1 Marat Safin on Sept 30 to open the new tennis stadium before the China Open.
“I’m looking forward to playing against my old friend Peter in the new stadium at the China Open. I believe it will be a very tough match and hope the fans will enjoy it,” said Safin, who retired in 2009 at the age of 29.
Safin defeated Sampras in the final of the 2000 US Open in straight sets to claim his first major title. He was also crowned the 2005 Australian Open champion.
The Russian enjoys a huge fan base in Beijing. The China Open held an emotional farewell ceremony after the 2004 champion lost to Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals in 2009. Thus, the “czar’s” return to China Open is expected to draw great attention from his Chinese fans.
Meanwhile, it will also mark Sampras’ third trip to China after playing in the Champions Tour in Chengdu the past two years. The American, who still holds a record 286-week reign as world No 1, will appear in Wuhan, the hometown of Li Na, shortly after playing in Beijing to attend the Li Na & Friends exhibition matches from Dec 17-18.
In Beijing, after a three-set singles clash, Sampras and Safin will each pair with a Chinese player for a mixed doubles match.
The new center court at the National Tennis Center, the Olympic venue, will be completed in August and will boast an Asia-leading seating capacity of 15,000.
The China Open organizing committee started collecting names for the new stadium since April and has gathered thousands of proposals.
“The Diamond Stadium”, which is supported by Li and world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki, seems to be the most popular so far. But the organizers have not revealed the exact date of the announcement of the final name.
The former center court was called “The Lotus Stadium”.