Posted by: yankeegirlguy | March 10, 2008

My Favorite Athlete of All-Time

For the first time in about six years I was able to watch my favorite athlete participate in the sport he dominated for over a decade. A quiet and unassuming killer, he was the definition of cool under pressure, and the greatest champion his sport has ever seen.

Of course I am talking about the one and only Pete Sampras. Pete the Greek was a staple of my childhood. It seems like every Wimbledon Final in the 90’s I spent with my dad and my grandfather, cheering on our hero. He never lost one of those matches. I also remember one of the most nerve wracking sports events of my life being the 2002 US Open Finals. In his epic match with Andre Agassi I could barely watch, as he expended every ounce of energy to close his career with an improbable 14th Major. (He was actually seeded 17th for the Open and hadn’t won a major since Wimbledon in 2000)

Tonight’s Sampras match wasn’t for a Major, a tournament title, and wasn’t even an ATP tournament match. Instead it was an exhibition competition with the #1 player in the world, Roger Federer. Now going into this fun little event I was just hoping to see my hero play competitive, and maybe slam a few aces. I looked forward to seeing him do his little rituals, like picking up 5 balls before his serve and hitting four away, to serve with the ball he liked the best. I didn’t expect Pete to win the match or even a set….

Federer showed up wearing his modern all-black getup, while Sampras, in his old-school all-white outfit, and it felt like good versus evil, new school versus old school. For the first hour of the match Roger Federer showed why he is the best player in the world, and was really beating Sampras bad, with Pete showing his age of 36. But amazingly Pete came back to win the second set, and then strung together a stretch where he won 18 of 22 points in the 3rd set to go up 5-2 in the third set. Federer eventually came back to win a thrillingly close match, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (6), but to me the loss doesn’t even matter.

Sampras still has the best serve in the world. He still uses his serve and volley effectively to this day, an art no longer used by young players anymore. He made Federer uncomfortable out there, even though it was obvious Pete’s lateral movement was a shadow of what it used to be (as well as his hairline), and no match to that of 26 year old Federer.  Sampras made Federer work in a way I wish my favorite current player, Andy Roddick could, but he never does.

There is no doubt in my mind that 1996 Pete Sampras would beat 2008 Roger Federer in Wimbledon 9 out of 10 times.  Tonight reminded me of the greatness of my hero, and how fun it was to root for such a humble and dominating champion.

 

200px-pete_sampras2006.jpg

Sorry you are about to lose this point, courtesy of Pistol Pete.

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Responses

  1. You would write a blog about this. I also tuned in and was cheering for my man Roger all the way. I’d like to see Agassi take on Sampras in a match. Have you heard of Andre Agassi? He won all four grand slams. Did Swampass do that?

  2. Sampras was 4-1 vs Agassi in Gran Slam finals and is the best player of all time. You loved your balding short lil player so much you never even looked at the stats. Pete dominated him. 14 Grand Slams to 8 for your “image is everything boy”.


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