: Sampras Wins Opener in Greece
Champions Cup – Athens
Olympic Tennis Centre
Outdoor – Hard Court
Round Robin Results From Thursday, May 17
Pete Sampras, United States, def. Wayne Ferreira, South Africa, 6-3, 7-6 (1)
Jim Courier, United States, def. Pat Cash, Australia, 6-4, 5-7, 10-7 (Match Tie-Break)
Todd Martin, United States, def. Richard Krajicek, Netherlands, 6-2, 6-3
Magnus Larsson, Sweden, def. Anders Jarryd, Sweden, 7-6 (3), 6-4
SAMPRAS WINS OPENER IN FIRST VISIT TO GREECE
opened up play at the Champions Cup – Athens Thursday night, serving up 21 aces in a 6-3, 7-6 (1) round-robin win over Wayne Ferreira of South Africa at the Athens Olympic Tennis Center. Sampras, a Greek-American visiting Greece for the first time, will face Pat Cash in his second of three round-robin matches Friday. The Champions Cup Athens marks the second tournament for Sampras since he won the 2002 US Open. Sampras returned to tournament play two weeks ago at the Champions Cup Boston in Massachusetts, defeating Todd Martin in the championship match. The Champions Cup Athens, organized by InsideOut Sports & Entertainment and local Greek officials under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Sports and the General Secretariat of Sports, marks the first ever Champions Series event held outside of the United States.
Other winners in Thursday’s round robin play included Champions Series co-founder Jim Courier, Todd Martin and Magnus Larsson.
Earlier in the day, Sampras and Courier participated in a game of street tennis in the shadow of the Acropolis. Sampras and Courier stunned locals and foreign tourists who just happen to be visiting the Acropolis and had the opportunity to meet and have pictures taken with both tennis legends.
“This scene here thrilling,” said Sampras. “This is the first time I have stepped foot on my parents’ homeland and I found myself playing tennis at the foot of the Acropolis with 2,500 years of history. You can only imaging how I am feeling. This is a great moment for me and something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”
Since arriving Monday evening, Sampras has been the recipient of the constant and never-ending expression of Greeks’ love and admiration, sports fans or not. “I feel on top of the world and like I have been living in Greece for years on end,” he said. “I have played everywhere and I always remember Greeks standing by my side. All over the world, and particularly in Melbourne, their support has always been tremendous; besides, Greeks have this gift of sticking together, supporting one another and making you feel wonderful. No matter when, no matter where, you always realize how proud they are of Greek athletes and athletes of Greek origin”.
Sampras also did not hide his enthusiasm about the excellent facilities of the AOSC Olympic Tennis Centre. “The tennis courts and all the rest of the premises are of the highest level; besides they hosted the Athens 2004 Olympic Games,” he said. “I believe that there is a serious chance of holding a great ATP tournament here sometime in the future.”
Courier also said how moved he was as the experience of hitting tennis balls under one of the world’s most recognizable monuments. “I feel very lucky, I would even say blessed,” he said. “I lived an exciting experience that will not be erased from my memory. Not many athletes have the privilege of playing in the shadow cast by the Acropolis.”
Champions Cup Athens features an eight-man round-robin format with the winner of each four-player division meeting in the title match and the second-place finishers from each division playing in the third-place match. To be eligible to compete in the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a Grand Slam singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. The Champions Series features seven events in 2007. Ferreira won the first event of the series in Naples, Fla., in March, defeating Aaron Krickstein in the final, while Sampras won the second title in Boston in May. Newport, R.I., will host the fourth event of the Champions Series in August, while tournaments in Charlotte, Dallas and Houston in the fall round out the 2007 calendar. More information on the Outback Champions Series can be found at www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com
QUOTES FROM THE PLAYERS
“I feel just a little bit tired due to the jetlag. It was nice to compete even though Wayne gave me a lot of trouble. As a matter of fact, back in our days, I think Wayne had a winning record against me. I am excited that I finally managed to play in my homeland. So, to finally make it here, it actually feels great. I might even have the chance to visit my mother’s village on Saturday, which will be interesting. It’s two and a half hours away from Athens, so I might get a helicopter to get there. Regarding the quality of tonight’s game, I think that we both played pretty well. The level was very high and we both had pretty quick serves. Wayne played quite well and the second set could have gone either way. The atmosphere is quite nice and the fans seemed to enjoy it. I enjoyed playing here; that was fun. As far as the court is concerned, it is a bit on the quick side. If you serve well, you are going to win a lot of points. I don’t think that the Greek gods will allow it to rain tomorrow, as it’s supposed to.
“I think that this arena, in particular, is outstanding. It’s very nice that people are so close to the court. You have great facilities, you have a second arena…You have what it takes in order to host a great tournament. The temperature is not that high even during the day. During the Australian Open and the US Open it is very hot. We are used to it, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Due to technology, tennis is becoming more one-dimensional. It has definitely changed a lot since our era. For me, technology is making the sport less fun to watch. Tennis has changed incredibly in the last 4-5 years. Today there is no strategy and I honestly think that it has become worse. Perhaps one solution would be if everyone starts playing once again with wooden racquets. Maybe we should think about it. It would be interesting, because it would bring everybody to the same level.”
“It was a tough match. We had faced each other before this year and we had split the wins; Pat won in Naples (Florida) and I won the one in Boston. We are familiar with each other’s game. I think we both knew from the beginning that serving the ball well would be the deciding factor. And as it turned out, it was. I served better in the first set and got the edge; Pat hit the corners and served some aces to win the second. Again, in the tie-breaker I think my serve proved a little bit more effective; I got a couple of easy points and won it down the stretch.”
“I think that some good tennis was played today. One or two points made the difference. I missed an easy forehand volley and then double faulted. But, it was a nice match with good rallies and a lot of running. Some days you do not play so well and win and sometimes you play well and you lose. That happened with me today. Details decided the winner; that’s always the case. It doesn’t matter if it is for a Wimbledon match or the Champions League Final: you’ve got to take advantage of the shots and get the points. By the way, I would like to be at the OAKA for the Champions League Final, but I already have booked to a hotel in Mykonos to enjoy some days of holiday with my family. When I first moved to London I lived near Chelsea’s football field, so I became I fan. But, Chelsea was knocked-out by Liverpool for the second consecutive year!”
“In the beginning of the match I felt good, and when Richard started to serve hard I had three great returns. From that point on, I knew how to play, I felt confident both against Richard and on the surface. I’ve had some good first serves when it mattered the most and at each break point I managed to get good returns. It’s a very quick court. I mean, it’s in great shape since it hasn’t been resurfaced. To be honest, it’s a bit too quick and we would have performed better if it was a bit slower.”
“I felt nice in the beginning, but the truth is I was struggling with my serve unlike Todd and actually lost games on my serve. Since I gave up on the early break, I was under constant pressure. Todd served better, got the game to 5-2 and then the set over. He punished every little mistake I made. Hopefully my children won’t cry, like they did in Qatar where they were devastated. Athens could host a big tournament in the future, but you should consider that sometimes a huge city, no matter how great it is, can be a distraction. There is always so much to do. I mean, you’d have to get Federer and Nadal here in order for the event to turn into a big success.”
“I feel very fortunate to have won the first match of the Athens Champions Cup 2007. It was a nice match. In the beginning, Anders Jarryd played better, but then I improved my game and won. Last year I participated in an Outback Series tournament twice, while this is my first time for this year.”
“I enjoyed the first match of Athens Champions Cup, despite the fact that I did not win. Larsson gave me quite a hard time, although I made a good start. Then, I got a little bit disappointed and ended up losing the match.