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Posted on: October 01st, 2011

[Sept 23, 2011] - Chang beats Sampras, Courier in Champions Series event

- petepage

WASHINGTON -- Michael Chang beat Jim Courier 8-3 in the finals Friday night at the HSBC Tennis Cup.
Chang beat Pete Sampras 6-4 earlier to advance to the final, and Courier got past Andre Agassi 7-6 (4).

Sampras won the opening event of the Champions Series Tour on Thursday at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The quartet dominated the professional tour in the 1990s, combining for 27 grand slam titles - 14 by Sampras.

For the four Hall of Famers and their now four-decade-old bodies, having a savvy trainer available as they compete in the Champions Series is a necessity.

"Andre's got the bad hip. My back's always been stiff," the 40-year-old Sampras said with joking sincerity.
"The trainer, he's the most important guy on the tour."

From a distance, all resembled reasonable likenesses of the players the world grew to know, though upon closer inspection Sampras' hair was slightly thinner, Agassi's stubble a touch grayer and there was just a touch more weight on Courier and Chang.

Washington was the second leg on the 12-city tour, a venture spearheaded by Courier that his former rivals gravitated toward.

"To compete against Andre, Jim and Michael, it seemed like it would be some fun," Sampras said. "I like to work, I like to get out of the house and get into shape."

But was is it tough to get back into playing shape?
"Not this playing shape," Sampras said.

"The crowd was really into it, good vibes out there," Chang said after playing before a couple of thousand fans.

The series, which also features Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Mats Wilander has a $1 million bonus pool for the top three finishers at the end of the season.

Rallies were prevalent and true competition sparked in spots, but maintaining the role of entertainers - and staying in one piece - remained in play throughout.
"We all want to hit the ball good and we're all professional, we want to make sure these fans get a good show," Sampras said. "Its not cutthroat tennis like it used to be, but at the same time we all have a lot of pride."

Sampras teased Chang after Chang muscled in two consecutive aces. On the next point, the 1989 French Open champion smacked another free point off his serve.
"How does it feel now?" a smiling Chang barked at Sampras, who had arguably the most dominant serve in history during his reign.

Mockingly frustrated by a flurry of winners by Agassi, Courier handed his racket off to ball girl, who eventually rallied with the eight-time major champion and hit a winner of her own that somehow counted toward Courier's tally.

Agassi also called for a brief substitute, providing his ball girl with a towel between swings with Courier to wipe her brow.

Despite practically growing up together on courts near and far, the individual nature of tennis meant their younger versions were more competitors than confidants. Now they get to barnstorm the country together, making up for lost time.

"This is a whole different deal," Agassi said. "We'll be traveling together tonight, driving to Philly, spending time. It gives you a chance to get to know one another, which I think will only add to all of this."
Agassi, Connors, Courier and Sampras will compete in Philadelphia on Saturday night.

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