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Posted on: February 16th, 2009

Pete Sampras still going

- petepage

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pete Sampras had nearly everything he needed in retirement.

Sampras earned a fortune that will long outlive him, built a staggering legacy with 14 individual Grand Slam titles, and finished a record six consecutive years as the world’s No. 1.

The only thing Sampras lacked in retirement was tennis.

Sampras satisfied that itch by joining the Outback Champions Series and yesterday he dethroned the legendary John McEnroe to capture the Champions Cup Boston title in straight sets at Agganis Arena.

“Tennis keeps me going, it keeps me sharp and keeps me at home focused on something to prepare for,” said Sampras.

“I didn’t pick up a racquet for three years after I retired and I sort of let my body get away. I put on some weight and that didn’t sit well with me. Just playing for three or four months is good for me. I don’t want to do anything more than that because it’s still fun and enjoyable.”

Sampras, who grew up watching McEnroe during his fantastic run in the late 1970s and early ’80s, knows a match between the two in their prime years would have made for compelling theater.

“I really looked up to John, he was my first memory in tennis,” Sampras said. “John was a talented player and when you look at the history of the game, he might just be the most unique player because of his style of play and stroke production.

“It was different but effective, and that serve even to this day is hard to pick up.”

And on the eve of his 50th birthday, McEnroe gave the seven-time Wimbledon champion a serious run for his money.

McEnroe beat Sampras to win this event last year and he came within a few missed serves of repeating.

Sampras, for one, was impressed.

“He’s still in great shape, he has those hands and he’s smart and he’s experienced and he knows which way to go,” Sampras said.

The opening segment was a marathon session that saw Sampras dig out from early deficits in both the set and tiebreaker to take a 1-0 lead. McEnroe won the first three games with an effective serve-and-volley game that kept Sampras on his heels.

After falling behind 4-1, Sampras won three straight games to tie the set, 4-4.

The two players held service in the next four games to send the set into a 10-point tiebreaker. McEnroe again took a 4-1 lead before Sampras worked his way back. He eventually took the tiebreaker, 12-10.

Warmed up at last, Sampras’ legendary power game was in full swing during the second set, continually keeping McEnroe on the defensive.

Both men held service in the first two games, but Sampras began to establish his control of the match with a love service game that gave him a 2-1 lead.

McEnroe held serve to tie the set, 2-2, but he was starting to dig deep just to keep pace. Sampras then put the brilliant lefty away over the next two games, serving three aces to take a 3-2 lead and then breaking McEnroe after a lengthy battle in the sixth game.

That break gave Sampras enough breathing room to eventually take the title, 7-6, 6-4, proving that not even time away can keep him from remaining a winner.

Source: Boston Herald

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