Turning the clock back

Turning the clock back

Tennis greats Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras greet each other after their exhibition match. AP

The 3-6, 6-3, 10-8 win in this southern Chinese gambling enclave was the first time the two had played since Sampras won in the 2002 US Open final for his then-record 14th Grand Slam.

The fast indoor surface at The Venetian Macao arena favoured Sampras’ attacking style, but it was Agassi who came out packing more heat in his serve, showing no signs of the bad back that required four injections during his final tournament, the 2006 US Open.

But Sampras, who beat Roger Federer at the same venue in an exhibition two years ago, recovered, serving an ace and using a delicate pickup volley to secure the second set.
He continued his strong form into the super tie-breaker, overwhelming Agassi with his powerful serve.

Trailing 9-6, Agassi saved two match points - the second with a down-the-line backhand winner - but Sampras served out the match with another ace. “Thanks for the exercise,” Agassi told Sampras after the match. The two Americans captivated fans in the 1990s and early 2000s with their contrasting styles and personalities.

The reserved Sampras was known for his serve and crafty volleys; the long-haired, neon-wearing Agassi wore down opponents with accurate returns and counter-punching. Sampras led their head-to-head 20 to 14, including 4 to 1 in Grand Slam finals, the last being Sampras’ four-set victory in the 2002 US Open final.

The two former No 1s have 124 career titles and 22 Grand Slams between them - Agassi has eight and Sampras 14. Agassi is one of only six men to have won all four majors and also won Olympic gold in Atlanta in 1996.