Sampras honoured after U.S. Open rematch against Safin
Safin defeated Sampras 6:4, 3:6, 10:6 to win the "Millenium Challenge" exhibition match
In a rematch between the 2000 US Open finalists on opening night at the LA Tennis Open presented by Farmers Insurance, Russian Marat Safin once again got the better of American Pete Sampras, prevailing in the Match Tie-break 6-4, 3-6, 10-6 to win the “Millennium Challenge” exhibition match.
Despite the defeat, Sampras still managed to finish the night a winner, receiving his award as the 2009 LA Tennis Open Tournament Honoree following the exhibition. The two-time Los Angeles champion celebrated the honour on court with his parents, siblings, wife and children.
“I don’t play in LA too often, and even though I lived in Florida for a few years, when I was playing I always felt like my roots were here,” the 37-year-old Sampras said afterwards. “It’s nice to be back, nice to play in front of the LA fans. I wish I would’ve played a little bit better, but I don’t do this very often so I can’t expect miracles out there, but it was fun to play. The crowd was great, packed it in tonight, so it was a nice night.”
Safin had captured his first of two Grand Slam titles by defeating Sampras at Flushing Meadows, and reflected on the 2000 victory ahead of the exhibition match: “It's really a warm feeling [to] have an achievement like beating Sampras in the final of US Open. It was my first breakthrough actually, and it gave me the chance of becoming No. 1 in the world.”
Following his win over Sampras in the “Millennium Challenge”, the 29 year old teamed up with fellow Russian Igor Kunitsyn to defeat Marcos Baghdatis and Dudi Sela 6-7(6), 6-2, 11-9 in first-round doubles action. Safin and Kunitsyn fended off one match point in the decisive Tie-break to clinch the win in one hour and 39 minutes.
Safin is making his final appearance in Los Angeles, with plans to retire at the conclusion of the 2009 ATP World Tour season. The No. 8 seed in the singles draw, Safin will play his first-round match Tuesday evening against last week’s Indianapolis champion Robby Ginepri. The American leads the head-to-head series 2-0, but this will mark their first meeting since 2005.