Monfils beat Sampras 7:6(4), 6:4 in San Jose 2011 exhibition
Pete Sampras, Gael Monfils leave them laughing in SAP Open exhibition
Feb 8, 2011 - For the lighter side of tennis, Monday night at HP Pavilion was the place to be.
Push-ups, sit-ups, between-point wind sprints, photo breaks ... the exhibition match between retired 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras, 39, and up-and-coming French showman Gael Monfils, 24, had a little bit of everything.
When it ended, there was even some smack talk.
Peeking ahead to an exhibition match against longtime rival Andre Agassi (also retired) at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 28, Sampras told the crowd of 4,911, "I'm looking forward to playing Andre. I'm always looking forward to kicking his little (behind)."
It was the last laugh in a match filled with them.
On the opening night of the SAP Open, Sampras and Monfils ran around the court for a little more than an hour before the Frenchman emerged with a 7-6 (4), 6-4 victory.
"It's not easy to come up here sort of cold turkey and try to play him," Sampras said. "But all in all, I was very happy with the way I played and didn't embarrass myself. I had a few chances there to maybe squeak out a set. But I'm almost 40 now, and he's in the prime of his life."
Sampras, who won two SAP Open titles during his legendary career, has been no stranger to the tournament post-retirement. The exhibition Monday marked the fourth consecutive year in which Sampras kicked off the SAP Open by playing an opening-night exhibition.
Last year, Fernando Verdasco went on to win the tournament after playing Sampras in the Monday exhibition.
For Monfils, the second seed this week behind Verdasco, the match Monday was an honor.
"To play against you, Pete, was a dream come true," he said during an on-court interview.
While there were some superb shots in the match, a few of the memorable moments had little to do with tennis.
At one point, Sampras, perhaps underlining the fact he is approaching 40, took a seat behind the baseline as if to take a break. Monfils' response: He dropped to the ground and did five push-ups, then sprinted up the court and dropped again, this time doing five sit-ups.
The crowd erupted in laughter.
At another point, Monfils approached a group of photographers next to the court and asked one of them for his camera. Monfils took the camera on the court and snapped a shot of Sampras.
Showmanship aside, Sampras was impressed with Monfils' game.
"I played against a lot of good movers in my day," Sampras said. "But he was one of the best I've ever played. It was incredible. He slides like 8-feet long. He's got a great future."
Sampras, meanwhile, wants to keep playing, with one exception: "Next year, I hope I can play (John) McEnroe or Agassi," he said, "someone a little more my age."
Source: Mercury News