So Pete Sampras can win on clay after all! Okay, it was a little Boston senior event and he beat a bunch of guys – John McEnroe, Todd Martin, Tim Mayotte, Petr Korda – who don’t exactly strike fear into people on the dirt. But give the guy some credit, a year after looking real bad against Robby Ginepri he takes the Boston title in this his senior debut.
What’s most interesting about the win is what he had to say and what others said along the way. Here’s a sample:
“I hit the ball better today than I did in my prime because of the bigger racket,” Sampras said. “I think I can still play at a pretty high level. I can probably compete against anyone in the world today just one match, two sets.” – Pete after his win over Mac.
“I’m not going to play Wimbledon again. I’m curious how I’d do, especially with all the guys staying back. I always licked my chops when I saw baseliners…A lot of things come into play. It’s a lot of work. It’s a daily grind. I wouldn’t play Wimbledon just to play. I’d play to win. There’s got to be a reason to come back, and there isn’t a reason. To come back for one event is crazy.” – Pete.
“If he served the way he served tonight, not many guys on the tour (could return). They swing at the serve. They don’t block the serve. On grass he could beat many guys in the draw, badly.” – Petr Korda, after losing to Pete.
“I could see him get to the quarterfinals and then lose because he was tired or strained something. I told him if he went there and lost in the first few rounds, it wouldn’t take away from his place in history.” – Johnny Mac
I didn’t see any of the tennis in Boston but from the sound of it Pete’s playing pretty well. When Mac and Korda are raving about Pete’s game you have to believe them. And even though Pete says “I’m not going to play Wimbledon again” he did say that he was “curious”, which, translation, means he’s thinking about it. Pete then says that with the newer racquets he’s hitting the ball better now than ever, and when you throw in the fact that Wimbledon requires the least in the way of fitness and rewards those with the biggest serves, I think the door may have swung slightly open for a possible return at Wimbledon this year.
Thing is, and we’ve seen it time and time again in sports, when retired elite athletes think that they can comeback and compete again at the highest level, just like Pete has said, guess what? They usually do and give in to their curiosity.
I think Pete once said he wasn’t interested in playing senior tennis, now he is. I think he once said he would never play Team Tennis, then he did and he’s playing again this year. So could he flip-flop on his statement and play Wimbledon again? Why not. My guess is if he wins his next senior stop in Greece next month and even more players put it in his head that he could still do damage on the regular tour, I wouldn’t put it passed him to make one last appearance at SW19.
Plus, as McEnroe said, it wouldn’t take anything away from his history if he lost early again at Wimbledon. And he’s right. The reality of it is Pete couldn’t do any worse than losing to George Bastl, right? Unless of course Bastl qualifies and beats Pete again. (Could you imagine!) Well, on second thought, that could be reason enough not the play!
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