TENNIS: Sampras, McEnroe ready to entertain
By Jay Jenkins / email@example.com | 978-7250
July 20, 2007
Pete Sampras knows one of the driving reasons that will attract Central Virginia residents to the John Paul Jones Arena tonight.
En route to 14 winning majors and landing a spot in the sport’s Hall of Fame, Sampras used his trusty Wilson Pro Staff racquet to blaze serve after serve by countless opponents.
That same serve, minus a few miles per hour thanks to Father Time, will be on display tonight at JPJ as the Hall of Famer joins legendary star John McEnroe to highlight an event coined “Serving up Aces.” Tickets remain available for the event, which starts at 7 p.m.
“It is about having fun and it is obviously about playing well,” Sampras told WINA, “and people come out and want to see me serve hard and play the tennis that I used to be able to play.”
Luckily, Sampras, admittedly reserved, has the theatrics of McEnroe to fall back to help delight the crowd. A star in his own right, McEnroe gained fame for numerous outbursts in the direction of chair umpires.
“John definitely brings a lot to the table. He’s a charismatic, funny guy out there and I am a little bit stoic,” Sampras chuckled.
McEnroe, who has remained active playing team tennis for the New York Sportimes since 2001, displayed his candid personality in a recent match.
A net umpire ruled that McEnroe’s racquet connected with a volley. McEnroe knew he whiffed.
“That’s baloney,” McEnroe blurted. “How do you make that call?”
Despite recently turning 48, McEnroe has repeatedly said he enjoys playing competitive tennis.
“I like to compete,” he said. “It beats working for a living.”
Sampras and McEnroe have played two exhibitions already this summer and will play two other dates this weekend after the stop at JPJ.
“We approached a bunch of different cities to see which cities are into it and here we are,” Sampras said. “We have one in Charlottesville, one in Raleigh, [N.C.], and one in Little Rock, [Ark.].
“We are really going to have some fun with it.”
Don’t be fooled by Sampras’ comments - he still wants to win the match, which will be played using a best-of-three set format. Thus far this summer, Sampras is 2-0 against McEnroe.
“He can still do a lot of things that he used to be able to do,” Sampras said. “He moves quite well, he still has that wicked serve and does a lot of good things.”
Those in attendance will also be treated to a pair of “bonus” matches.
The event kicks off with a match between Christopher Raupp and Jon Fried, who have claimed numerous Special Olympic titles.
Raupp, who is from Charlottesville, has won gold medals at the state level. Fried, of Crozet, won three gold medals at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in 1995.
A celebrity doubles match is also scheduled to finish out the evening’s card. Boyd Tinsley, a local resident and violinist in the Dave Matthews Band, and CBS-19 reporter and anchor Autria Godfrey will join McEnroe and Sampras in a four-game match.
Tinsley and Boar’s Head tennis pro Ron Manilla also helped recruit eight local kids from the Tinsley’s foundation to serve as ball kids for the matches.