The Ultimate Battle, Sampras vs. Federer may happen, but let's set rules.
The ultimate battle
Sampras vs. Federer may happen, but let's set rules
Posted: Wednesday February 7, 2007 10:34AM;
Jon Wertheim - SI
Everyone contemplates how another Pete Sampras vs. Roger Federer match would run (including Sampras) except Federer! Everyone's intrigued, Sampras thinks he would hold his own. But when we talk about it, we discuss it as if Sampras were dead and the match is beyond the realm of possibility! He's only 35! Theoretically, this hypothetical can be made a reality very easily, no? Why hasn't anyone suggested they play an exhibition?
-- Brad Uy, Honolulu, Hawaii
Good question and I think this match will, in fact, happen quite soon. The problem, if that's the right word, is that neither Fed nor Sampras are money-hogs, and if you start to look at this from their perspective, it becomes less appealing. If Federer wins, so what? He's beaten a man a decade his senior, who's been in repose since 2002, whose feet were recently impaled when he stepped on his son's train.
If Federer loses, it's worse. The WTA is getting hammered regarding Serena Williams' current success, indicting the quality of the rest of the field. Imagine: "Geez, this Federer cat is supposed to the best of all-time, and he can't even beat a guy who hasn't played an ATP match since '02?"
Meanwhile, if Sampras loses and looks silly doing so, it's still more dirt on the grave of his claims to being the G.O.A.T. If he wins, he's thrilled but he might face questions about surface, a premature retirement, etc.
The way I see this working: Pick a fast surface, maybe even grass. Announce the proceeds will go to charity. Make transparently clear in the build-up and in the match itself that it's an exhibition, more a duet than a duel. Maybe as a fun twist, Pete gets to play with Federer's new racket and Federer has to play with Pete's old-school Wilson. Federer wins but there are enough good points that the G.O.A.T. debate intensifies. Good for both guys. Good for tennis. Good for UNICEF