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Posted on: October 01st, 2011

Sampras and Safin to debut at China Open's new stadium

- petepage

BEIJING, Sep. 29 (Xinhua) -- Former tennis great Pete Sampras and Marat Safin will play the debut match at the new stadium of China Open on Friday to mark the opening of this tournament.

The new stadium, named National Tennis Stadium or "Diamond Stadium", has a retractable roof and a diamond-like structure. It is located in the Olympic Green Tennis Center, which hosted the tennis matches at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

"It is my first time being there. I have numerous expectations towards my tour in China, especially the game with my oldfangled adversary Safin," Sampras said in a news conference on Thursday, meanwhile, Safin was obviously more familiar with the city, saying Beijing has always been a very welcoming destination for him.

"I had a memorable farewell match here," added the Russian, who lost to Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals of China Open two years ago and received a touching retirement ceremony from his Chinese fans.

"The first time I came to China Open was in 2002, and I entered the final in 2003. I'm really happy to come back again," said Safin.

Sampras, who won 14 Grand Slam singles titles, also hoped that Chinese fans could enjoy the exhibition match on Friday.

The exhibition match is supported by Youth Tennis development Fund in China. Talking about the youth tennis training, Sampras regarded the coach's ability as the key element, while Safin reckoned the character of a fighter and the ambition were needed.

Since Chinese Li Na claimed the first ever Grand Slam title at French Open, tennis has been a hot spot in China, seeing more children get onto the court and play tennis. Safin was happy to see the improvement, "It's great that Chinese tennis improved a lot in recent years and become more popularized among young people."

The China Open, an ATP World Tour 500 series and WTA premier event, will formally start on Saturday.

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