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Pistol Pete Back in the Saddle

August 1, 2000

Toronto, Canada - On the first day of the Tennis Masters Series in Toronto, a small plane repeatedly circled overhead as Pete Sampras and Michael Llodra played their match. Asked at his press conference afterwards if it had bothered him, Sampras said it felt like playing the [US] Open again, but he was glad when the plane finally went away. Perhaps the pilot was keen to have an aerial view of the Grand Slam legend.

It was Sampras’ first hard court match since April and first tournament since Wimbledon. He needed three sets to get past Llodra, 5–7, 6–2, 7–6 (4). With no sign of the tendonitis which plagued him at Wimbledon, he was nevertheless stretched by the 20 year old Frenchman, who is ranked 142 in the world. This was the second time the two had met, Sampras also having won their match at the pre-Wimbledon Queen’s Club Championships. Heavy rain had delayed the start by three hours and Sampras started slowly, letting the first set slip. Then Pete picked up his rhythm to take the second easily and run away with the tiebreaker in the deciding set. Llodra was left with the small consolation of having out-aced the great man, 13 to 11.

Perhaps because of that shaky start, Sampras was asked at his press conference whether he was fully recovered from his recent triumph at Wimbledon, where he landed not only his Seventh Men’s Singles Title but became the first man ever to win 13 Grand Slam events. He replied:

“It was definitely the toughest major I have had, and it took a lot out of me emotionally, it really did, at the end. Dealing with my shin [tendonitis], it wasn’t easy. It’s a tough tennis year when you’re playing a lot - you don’t have much time to recover after majors. I didn’t touch a racket for two weeks after Wimbledon. I needed that time off to emotionally and physically recover. But it felt good to go out there and compete again today. It’s the time of year that I love to play.”

“It’s not easy to play Pete Sampras, especially after him just winning Wimbledon,” declared Llodra.

Hopefully he took some comfort from Sampras’ assessment of his game.

“I thought he played great. I give him credit. He worked very hard on my service games and served great. He’s got a huge serve, first and second. I feel like I can hopefully grow from this win and play a little bit better tomorrow.”

The man who will find out will be Karim Alami of Morocco.

Source: Associated Press/

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