Tennis Prose



The Sampras-Agassi Fiasco in Costa Rica

By Scoop Malinowski

Unbeknownst to many, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were supposed to play an exhibition match against each other on Saturday night in Costa Rica. But the latest edition of the storied rivalry was canceled because of rain.

The pair of American tennis legends arrived in Costa Rica on Friday and reportedly played some tennis with local children in the morning at Alejandro Morera Soto Stadium in Alajuela, which is about 20 miles from San Jose.

The event was organized by Addictive Entertainment Group and doors were to open at 2:30 in the afternoon with the main event to start at 6. Ashley Harkleroad and Anna Kournikova were also on hand to play a co-feature exhibition match. Unfortunately, rains prevented the show from taking place. Frustrated fans – some of whom arrived at 2:30 in the afternoon – found closed doors which never opened. No announcements were made to anyone until AEG’s Andres Navarette spoke at a press conference at 8 in a covered area inside the rain-soaked stadium. He said he hoped to reschedule for Sunday morning but Sampras and Agassi had airline flights scheduled for early afternoon and their flights “cannot be changed.”

Navarette said he hopes to reschedule the event a few days before or after the next Sampras-Agassi Tour event which is supposed to be in Panama on December 5.

What a total mishap that Agassi, Sampras, Kournikova and Harkleroad travel all the way to Costa Rica and get rained out. There have been some Mickey Mouse operations in professional sports, as Wayne Gretzky once told us, but in tennis?

At least John McEnroe wasn’t on hand for this debacle.

There were no official statements by Agassi or Sampras who apparently did not attend the press conference.


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  • M · September 22, 2010 at 4:41 am

    Oh, my goodness!
    Well, as an Andre fan, I say with relief that at least there was no sniping …

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 22, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Well, we can’t be sure of that. What happened behind closed doors of the Morero Stadium between these two rivals is unknown. Sniping seems to come naturally when these two personalities clash, particularly with instigation from Double A’s side.

  • Richard Pagliaro · September 22, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Tennis Channel replayed the Australian Open final last night and was watching it again. I would still take Sampras’ serve over just about anyone know (obviously Isner has a scary serve), when he was on, the guy’s second serve was basically a first serve.
    I can understand why AA would get frustrated against him. AA would be putting together some penetrating combinations from the baseline, Sampras would miss a few shots, maybe frame a couple but then find the groove and could cruise through service games so easily.
    It’s like a football team controlling the clock for an entire quarter, grinding first down after first down to score on a long drive and then the other team going deep and matching that TD drive in 20 seconds.

  • Sid Bachrach · September 22, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Richard, Who do you favor in his prime: Sampras or Hewitt?
    At the US Open in 2001 and again at Indian Wells in 2002, Lleyton had little trouble with Pete and Pete was very frustrated. Leyon was lightening fast back then and could track down just about everything Pete threw at him. Is this a matter of Lleyton getting into his brilliant but short prime and Pete being at the end of the line, having lost a step? Or was Lleyton’s style of play just a big problem for Pete? Sometimes styles make for strange matchups. Lleyton had little luck with Federer but defeated Pete in the two biggest tournaments where they faced off.

  • Richard Pagliaro · September 22, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    I definitely agree styles make matches just like the make fights and hewitt’s style really tailor-made for Sampras at the stage.
    Still, I favor Sampras in his prime. I just think more weapons, more athleticism, holds serve more convincingly, more explosive. I look at it like that’s a match, in his prime, that’s in his hands.
    Hewitt was a hard-core competitor, super quick and with that long reach he would put a lot of balls back and make Sampras play. People forget: Sampras could be explosive from the baseline. Remember the first year he won the Open? IF you ever get a chance go back and watch the match he won over Lendl in that Open. He wasa hitting topspin backhands that were fantastic – going toe-to-toe with Lendl at times.
    You’re right: Hewitt gave him all sorts of problems. Still, I favor Sampras in his prime there.

  • Sid Bachrach · September 24, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Richard, I found two other interesting Sampras-Hewitt matches on youtube. The first was in Miami in 2001. Pete just overpowers Lleyton and Lleyton can do little with Pete’s serve. The serves are so devastating and well placed that as quick as Lleyton is, his quickness does him zero good on Pete’s serve. The second match was at Queens Club in 2000 and it was then called the Stella Artois. It is beautifully filmed and better than the quality of film you generally see on youtube. It is a grass court and Lleyton is on fire. He was so fast at the time that he is flagging down everything Pete throws at him and incredibly, Lleyton outplays Pete on a grass surface. The quality of that match is very high. Both players are playing at a high level. Pete would have been around 29 at the time and probably has lost at least a half step and that is what gives Lleyton the edge. I’m guessing that if Pete and Lleyton played regularly when both men were in their primes, Pete would win about 6 or 7 of every ten matches they played.
    Seeing Lleyton now that he is at the end of the road and in his post surgery condition, it is easy to forget just great he was. I think Lleyton’s big problem was that he played in the era of Roger Federer. Federer has been so magical a player that other great players in the same era just get forgotten.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 24, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Hewitt was the best for two years, he was the very best and he was a marvel to watch, so quick, so smart, so consistent so mentally tough. He is definitely overshadowed by his successors. But he was a middleweight who conquered all the heavyweights, he had a heavyweight heart and intensity.

  • Dobey · September 24, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Another match up that I would love to have seen in both men’s prime is Andy Murray versus Pete Sampras. Murray gives nothing away to Pete in height or length so it is an equal match physically. Murray does not win those easy games on his serve the way Pete did in Pete’s glorious prime. But Murray is such a brilliant counterpuncher that he can just drive guys crazy. He retrieves just about everything and the fact that he can handle DelPotro while DelPotro gives both Rafa and Roger fits tends to suggest that Andy could have held his own with Pete. One weakness with Andy is that he loses to guys he should be consistently defeating. Wawrinka at the US Open and Querey and Fish this summer are matches Murray should be winning. With the great talent that he has, Murray should only be losing matches to guys on his level, Novak, Federer and Rafa. I can’t imagine Pete in his prime getting defeated by Fish or Wawrinka or Querey.
    But what a great match it would be.



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