Well, if Roger Federer was trying to fan the flames on the mind-numbing Greatest of All Time debate this off season, consider it mission accomplished. The World No. 1 lost last night to Pete Sampras 7-6(8), 6-4 in the final match of their three city Asian exhibition series.
Federer had won the first two meetings in Seoul and Kuala Lumpur, but the 36-year-old Sampras won the finale in Macau.
“Sort of surprised,” Federer joked afterward.
Surprised, stunned, shocked at the result. Use whatever superlative you want, but honestly, who cares.
Sure, the series was interesting to watch, fun to speculate the “what ifs”, but as I’ve said before, the only thing this it proves (or proved) is that both Federer and Sampras like the cash. If you want to argue Pete’s serve could get him into the Top 20, fine I’ll listen to that, that’s about it.
While Sampras clearly can still bring the heat on his serves, Federer appeared content hitting second serves to keep things interesting and competitive.
And while Sampras labored with his movement, especially laterally, Federer appeared to be a full step if not two steps slower than he was just a week earlier in Shanghai.
I could go on, but I won’t. Said Sampras, “Let’s not get carried away.” I agree.
Remember folks these matches are just for entertainment. A choreographed, made for TV event. Hollywood, yes. Reality, no. I can’t even put them into an exo level like Kooyang, which is essentially a tournament comprised of televised practice sets.
Unfortunately, though, many misguided people will take the latest result as gospel and run with it.
In saying that, Federer has to be some sort of glutton for punishment. He really does. By losing last night he’s now opened himself up to even more vomit-inducing press questions in the coming months on the Great Debate.
I can just hear them now…
“Roger, in your last match of 2007 you lost to an out-of-shape 36-year-old Pete Sampras, how will that affect your confidence as you try to defend your Australian Open?”
“Roger, you said after the second exo match that Pete was a Top 5 player. Now that you‘ve lost to him where would he rank?”
“Roger, is Pete tougher to play than Rafael Nadal, or David Nalbandian?”
“Roger, you beat Pete in five sets at Wimbledon. He beat you in straight sets in China. Is he better now? Can you explain?”
“Roger, did you give Pete any advice on his hair style?”
And those would be the tip of the iceberg. If you are Fed, you are getting as far away as humanaly possible from journalists the next month.
So just what was the motivation behind Federer deciding to lose the finale, and lose in straight sets? Simple. It’s good for business.
By letting Pete win the finale the stage has been set for a sequel, a rematch series next fall. Had Roger blown out Pete, no rematch would be needed. But with Pete winning their last meeting in “convincing” fashion, and with the prospect of Roger being even or ahead of Pete in the Slam tally, a Part Two would be even more of a draw.
And that’s not lost on Roger nor on IMG, which manages Federer and Sampras.
“I hope we can do it again in the future,” Fed said. “I’d like to get him back.” And get some more cash.
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