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Posted on: September 14th, 2008

Pete Keeps Fans Hopping

- petepage

Several of 4,000 fans who attended Friday night's tennis exhibition in the Pit received nearly as much of a workout as the two stars, Pete Sampras and Sam Querrey.

With only 12 feet of space behind the baseline of the blue synthetic court placed on the Pit's famed hardwood floor, spectators at both ends of the court spent much of the night jumping out of the way of 120 mph serves blasted by Sampras and Querrey.

This was a night when you didn't count a player's aces. Instead, you kept track of the number of times fans, linespeople and ball boys ducked whizzing yellow balls, and sometimes didn't duck quickly enough.

Dennis Irvin, 50, who traveled to Albuquerque from Farmington with his wife Donna, 46, paid $48 each for seats at the south end of the Pit. At courtside.

"It was well worth it," said Dennis, 50, who regularly deflected bazooka shots from both players. "It was for a good cause (UNM Children's Hospital, the beneficiary of the exhibition)."

The Irvins have been Sampras fans, they said, since he won his first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open at age 19.

On Friday night they cheered him again as Sampras won, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-1.

At age 37, Sampras is 17 years older than Querrey. That didn't stop him from chasing down shots off both wings and, of course, pounding that signature fluid cannonball service deep and hard into the corners. And ultimately, into the seats.

"When the balls came close to me," Donna Irvin, said, "I just got behind (husband Dennis).

"He's got the best serve and the best forehand," Querrey said. This weekend Querrey leaves for Spain where he will play on the U.S. Davis Cup team next weekend against Spain.

"People are asking me all the time when I'm going to come out of retirement," Sampras said. "I'm very content. I've moved on. I don't want to put in all the work that it takes to be No. 1 in the world."

That's a spot that Sampras had to himself for six years.

Sampras won the match as well as best comedic honors. When a baby in the audience began to cry just as Sampras wound up to serve, Sampras, the father of two boys, 5 and 3, stopped and said, "I know that sound." When he cracked a forehand winner down the line, he pulled up the sleeve of his T-shirt and flexed his biceps. Following a double fault, he walked toward a fan and offered up his racket.

Prior to the match, Sampras and Querrey were given Lobos basketball jerseys by UNM coach Steve Alford. Loren Dils, former assistant coach for the UNM men, who has been diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, was recognized for his service to tennis in New Mexico.

The place that Sampras holds in tennis history was cause for much intimidation. The ball boys, trained by David Krauss, wore wide-eyed looks throughout. "They're incredibly excited," said Krauss. "For many of them, he's their idol."

Source: Albuquerque Journal

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