For a few hours next week, the biggest tennis star in Central Virginia will not be named Somdev Devvarman, a Cavalier standout and the reigning NCAA singles champion.
John McEnroe and Pete Sampras, two of the greatest American tennis stars, are slated to play an exhibition match on July 20 at John Paul Jones Arena. The event will start at 7 p.m.
The exhibition, which has been coined “Serving Up Aces,” also features a doubles match with Boyd Tinsley, a member of the Dave Matthews Band, and a special “high-profile guest.”
McEnroe and Sampras, who are also slated to play exhibitions in Raleigh, N.C., and North Little Rock, Ark., asked to play in Charlottesville.
“That says a lot right there,” said Ron Manilla, the Director of Racquet Sports and Head Professional at Boar’s Head. “These are two Hall of Famers and two of the greatest players to ever play the game and people would be crazy not to come and watch this.”
McEnroe, 48, won 155 top-level titles, including seven Grand Slams, during his storied career. Many, however, remember McEnroe more for on-court outbursts and tirades toward chair umpires.
The same cannot be said for Sampras, 35, who is widely considered the sport’s consummate professional. During his career, “Pistol Pete,” as he is commonly called by his fans, won 14 Grand Slam titles, the last of which came at the U.S. Open in 2002.
Virginia men’s tennis coach Brian Boland said he has been blessed to watch each of the players in action.
“They are two of the greatest players ever and they haven’t lost some of the great talents that they will be able to display,” Boland said.
Witnessing McEnroe, Boland said, was “an absolute thrill.” Sampras, he added, is “a magician” with the tennis racquet.
“Pete Sampras is one of the most enjoyable and classiest players to ever play the game,” Boland said. “He can do things that nobody else is able to do. It is great entertainment.
“Sampras has got the huge serve, and I saw him in Boston not too long ago and he hasn’t lost that zip on his serve.”
As for the guest for the doubles match, an initial attempt to land local resident Howie Long proved unsuccessful, sources said, and attention quickly shifted to getting former Virginia running back Tiki Barber on board.
Perhaps the only way to ensure finding out the final outcome is with a ticket. That will require at least $27, the cheapest ticket for the event. Prices range up to $102.
By Jay Jenkins / firstname.lastname@example.org | 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.
07-23-2007, 10:28 PM
Tennis Legends Battle at Alltel Arena
Last Update: Jul 23, 2007 9:26 AM
Posted By: Justin Earley
Two tennis icons battled it out for an anxious crowd at Alltel arena Sunday afternoon. John McEnroe and Pete Sampras made their final stop on an exhibition tour here in the Natural State. And the crowds were not disappointed.
"Every young player wants to be just like 'em and they set an example for younger players," 16 year old John Makris said.
He and his friend Nathan Hanle love tennis and they love the legends who helped make the sport what it is. They joined throngs of others as Sampras and McEnroe showcased their incomparable skills.
"It's entertaining and you want to get out there and have fun, but it's also serious tennis. Any time you play John McEnroe it's competitive," Sampras told us.
McEnroe said, "there's a big age gap, and to me I feel like I have to play better just to stay with him. The upside is that I get to test myself, see if I have anything left in the tank."
A lot of folks who showed up expected to see some of that classic John McEnroe passion and he delivered. There was a little argument with the umpire over exactly where the ball landed. As the dispute ensued, Sampras ended up killing a little time, giving a youngster working on the court the volley of his life. Once the match resumed, Sampras went on to beat McEnroe in the head to head match. But the show wasn't over.
FOX16's Kevin Kelly and David Raath got to play a doubles match with the pros. It was entertaining and the four just played for fun. But it was a remarkable experience they won't soon forget. Raath told us, "These are the two greatest players. This would be the equivalent of playing Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson in basketball." And anchor Kevin Kelly said, "you couldn't ask for anything more. This is a dream come true."
We're told McEnroe and Sampras may do some more exhibition matches like this in the future, but that's still up in the air. Incidentally, Sampras was inducted into the tennis hall of fame earlier this month.
07-23-2007, 10:37 PM
Sampras-McEnroe exhibition matches two of sport’s icons
BY CHRIS GIVENS
Posted on Saturday, July 21, 2007
They missed each other’s prime by less than 10 years.
What a rivalry it could have been.
Pete Sampras and John McEnroe played each other in competitive matches on tour only three times, with Sampras winning all three. The two former No. 1 players are considered two of the best serve-and-volleyers tennis has seen, and both excelled at Wimbledon.
Their styles would have made for entertaining tennis.
Sunday, at Alltel Arena, the two will meet in an exhibition match. Both said in recent interviews that they are looking forward to facing each other, but both also said they wished they could have had a few more years together on the tour.
“It would have been fun,” Sampras said of a rivalry with McEnroe. “I just missed John at the end of his career, and just missed Roger [Federer ] at the beginning of his. Both are great competitors.”
While a Sampras-McEnroe rivalry never materialized, both Hall of Famers know something about having a great rival.
For Sampras, won holds the record for most Grand Slam victories with 14 and also won a record seven Wimbledon titles, it was Andre Agassi. For McEnroe, who has three Wimbledons among his seven Grand Slam titles, it was Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg.
Sampras said at first he didn’t even realize how much America loved his matches with Agassi.
“Early on you have the blinders on, and you’re not aware of the impact,” Sampras said. “As I got older I realized people are clinging on to this. When I walked out there against Andre, he brought out the best of me. When I look back at my career, those are the most memorable matches I played.”
Sampras’ career always will be intertwined with Agassi, who beat Andy Roddick in an exhibition match at Alltel Arena in 2003.
Sampras, 35, won his first Grand Slam as a 19-year-old at the U. S. Open, beating Agassi 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. And he put the finishing touches on a career many still judge as the greatest ever with another victory over Agassi in the 2002 U. S. Open final. Sampras said that was the most satisfying championship of his career.
McEnroe, 48, began his career more than a decade before Sampras won his first professional match.
For a man known for his outspoken and sometimes outlandish behavior on the court, Borg, who was as unflappable as they come, was a perfect foil.
“Borg, he was the perfect guy for me to play,” McEnroe said. “He was the exact opposite of me, the way he looked, dressed. He was like a Viking god. I was the attacker; he was the counterpuncher. Because he didn’t say anything, I didn’t think anything I did would be magnified so I could just go out there and play. It naturally fit like a glove, and he was the best rival I ever had. I wish he had kept playing more. He was my greatest rival.”
If Borg was the opposite of McEnroe, Connors was almost a mirror image.
“Connors and I were similar in the way we went about playing,” McEnroe said. “We played with a lot of intensity and effort. We played with a lot of emotion, and it fueled us to greater heights. But we were like two bulls butting heads. We both wanted it so bad, we started bickering and not liking each other, basically. But we respected each other.”
Both McEnroe and Sampras said they respect Federer, and think Federer might end up as the most accomplished tennis player of all time.
Both also said Federer’s current rivalry with Spaniard Rafael Nadal will go down as one of the great rivalries of the sport.
“This is one of those special times in tennis, with two legends battling it out,” Sampras said. “Those two guys will be battling for a number of years. Rivalries are what sells sports in general. The Lakers needed the Celtics, the Dodgers need the Giants. You have these great matches, and it’s great for the game, around the world. You would like to have an American in it, but I don’t think two guys have dominated their surfaces like this in a long time.”
Nadal has won his only Grand Slams on clay at the French Open. It is also the one surface, and tournament, that Federer has failed to master.
Both McEnroe and Sampras, who each failed to win a French Open, can empathize with Federer.
“I know what it’s like. I was five points away from winning the French and it drops you down,” McEnroe said. “[Federer’s ] window of opportunity is closing. If he won the French the last couple years, I’d put him above Pete [as the greatest player ever ]. He at least needs to win the French.”
“It’s one of those unfortunate things that is happening to Roger [not winning the French Open ], and it happened to me,” Sampras said. “The next two or three years are key for him. But without a doubt, we’re looking at an icon. Only in the middle of his career, and he’s dominating his decade more than anyone ever has.”
McEnroe’s decade was the 1980 s, and Sampras ruled the 1990 s.
On Sunday, the two tennis greats will try to bring some of that old magic to Alltel Arena.
07-23-2007, 10:47 PM
McEnroe promises intensity
BY CHRIS GIVENS
Posted on Sunday, July 22, 2007
They’re calling it an “exhibition” match, but that word isn’t in John McEnroe’s vocabulary when it comes to playing tennis.
So when McEnroe takes on Pete Sampras in a best-of-3-sets match at Alltel Arena at 3 p. m. today, those in attendance should expect to see the very best that the former No. 1 player in the world has to offer.
“I fully intend on going 100 percent, because I feel like I need to do that to even have a chance,” McEnroe said. “There’s no point in going and not giving absolutely everything I’ve got. [The fans ] want to see if you play.”
In 2003, Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick played in a similar exhibition match at Alltel Arena, and both players said they went at about 60 percent. It was clear to those that follow tennis they weren’t fully exerting themselves.
Perhaps because they are no longer on tour, and only playing senior tour events now, both Sampras and McEnroe said fans will see their best, and they aren’t treating it like a “hit-and-giggle” match.
“I don’t play that many matches, so every match I play means something,” McEnroe said. “This means more to me, in some ways, than the tournaments, because I’m playing Pete. There’s just more upside. I’m playing, arguably, the best player that’s ever played. Just from that point alone, I have to rise to the occasion and there’s more pressure than playing someone without the credentials.
“ When you’re only playing one match, one day, I put pressure on myself to want to be as prepared as possible and try to perform as well as I can.”
Sampras returned to competitive tennis, on the senior tour, just this year after a five-year layoff. So he, too, is trying to get back in shape, and he said he can’t do that by just going 60 percent.
“It’s competitive, and John always comes out and wants to win,” Sampras said. “We’re still intense, just not as intense as we used to be. But people want to see us play good tennis. They want to see us serve 135 mph. Is it a little more light-hearted ? Yeah, but we both have pretty big egos about winning.”
McEnroe, 48, said he knows he has a tall task in beating Sampras, 35.
Sampras beat McEnroe 6-3, 6-4 in a senior tour event two months ago, and Sampras won all three matches the two Hall of Famers played on the ATP tour in the 1990 s.
McEnroe said Sampras isn’t the kind of player to take it easy on his elder.
“I get the feeling that he’s not the kind of guy that throws me bones,” McEnroe said.
McEnroe, who never has been shy about lobbying for calls on the tennis court, is being just as vocal when it comes to lobbying for some crowd support. He said he knows that the crowd will likely be rooting for Sampras, who retired 10 years after McEnroe last played a tour match and was extremely popular while on tour.
McEnroe hopes to turn the crowd, mainly because he thinks he’ll need the support to beat Sampras.
“I’m playing well, but Pete is one of the greatest guys that ever lived,” McEnroe said. “He’s still got a lot of game, so I know I’ve got my hands full. I’m working hard and got myself in shape to give him a run for my money, but he still has the big serve.
“ Hopefully the crowd will bet behind me and boo Pete. He’s gotten too much respect over the years.”
McEnroe, who rates Rod Laver and Sampras as the best who ever played tennis, was clearly joking.
Sampras said he does expect some of that attitude and personality from McEnroe today.
“He’ll know how to do that, he knows how to work a crowd,” Sampras said. “He plays and still plays really well. I guarantee John will act up a little bit. That’s part of his shtick.”
Sampras said that while there might be some hamming it up on the court, the tennis won’t be any shtick. Sampras recently hit 135 mph on a serve in a similar event with McEnroe in Boston.
It was serves like that that got Sampras excited about playing again. He said he enjoys playing these exhibitions in markets where he hasn’t been before.
“I don’t get to play a lot of these markets, so this is really for fans that haven’t seem me play before,” Sampras said. “I was getting a little restless for a while, and this gives me a chance to have some fun and see were my game’s at. I’m still competitive, and playing in front of people is a rush.”
McEnroe said it’s also about giving the fans a rush.
“I think they want to see some entertainment,” McEnroe said. “It’s not Wimbledon, and you can have some laughs, but you want to show you can still play.”
PETE SAMPRAS HOMETOWN Washington, D. C. RESIDES Los Angeles BORN Aug. 12, 1971 (age 35 ) TURNED PRO 1988 RETIRED 2002 PLAYS Right-handed; one-handed backhand CAREER PRIZE MONEY $ 43, 280, 489 CAREER TITLES 64
JOHN MCENROE HOMETOWN Wiesbaden, Germany (U. S. military base ) RESIDES New York BORN Feb. 16, 1959 (age 48 ) HT / WT 5-11, 165 TURNED PRO 1978 PLAYS Left-handed; one-handed backhand RETIRED 1992 CAREER PRIZE MONEY $ 12, 547, 797 CAREER TITLES 84
08-01-2007, 08:45 PM
Pack players hit court with Sampras, McEnroe
By Pat Clark Technician
July 30, 2007
Raleigh, NC (CSTV U-WIRE) -- A former State tennis player and current one had an experience they won't ever forget on Saturday when they got to pair up and play doubles with two of tennis's all-time greats, Pete Sampras and John McEnroe.
Will Shaw, who played for the Pack before finishing his eligibility in 2006, paired up with Sampras and faced off against David Rozek, a rising senior, and McEnroe in a 10-point tiebreak.
The Sampras/Shaw duo took down the McEnroe/Rozek combo 10-8.
Shaw got the mini-match started by serving first instead of having the 14-time grand slam champion and power-serving Sampras serve first.
"We won the serve, and Pete told me to go for it," Shaw said.
But Shaw said is wasn't without some nervousness.
"I was nervous warming up. There was a decent-sized crowd, and I felt like my legs weren't moving well," Shaw said. "But I relaxed when I got going, and it was a lot of fun."
The nerves started almost as soon as the two got word they would be taking part in the Serving Up Aces exhibition, which featured a singles match between the two legends, followed by a mixed doubles match with a woman from both UNC and Duke, in addition to the doubles match with two State players.
"David and I practiced a bit on Wednesday after we heard on Tuesday that we'd be playing," Shaw said. "After we hit, we talked about all the things that could go too wrong, like whiffing on a shot or tripping during a point. If that had happened, I'd have probably had to walk off the court."
Both players were able to avoid such a downfall; however, each had a chance to be reminded that, despite their ages, their partners still had extraordinary tennis skills.
The first time Rozek sent a serve over to Sampras's court, it promptly came back over as the seven-time Wimbledon champion crushed a return winner.
"It wasn't my best second-serve, but I didn't think it was a meatball," Rozek said. "He did."
With the score at 3-2, McEnroe hit a flat serve that hit the center "T" for an ace against Shaw.
"I felt kinda stupid. It wasn't his fastest serve. He just placed it really well. I was expecting a slice out wide, since he had done almost all wide serves against Sampras in the singles," Shaw said. "But he changed it, and I got cross-footed."
At the time, Shaw said he felt there was no way he should have been aced on that.
"But, looking back, it was pretty good," he said.
Each player would have his revenge, though.
"I won a point on Sampras's serve," Rozek said. "And I felt like I did my job holding my own serve twice in a row."
Shaw said he got his own highlight play in too.
"I ripped a backhand winner at McEnroe for match point, and he missed it," Shaw said. "I sort of don't remember much of the match vividly because I was trying to make sure not to mess up, but I remember that shot clearly."
That match-point shot came right after McEnroe had a bit of fun with a heckling fan.
"Come on Mac, you gotta win something!" the fan yelled, referring to McEnroe's losses in both the feature singles match and the mixed-doubles contest earlier in the afternoon.
McEnroe, who won seven Grand Slam Singles titles and another 10 Grand Slam doubles championships during his career, responded by turning his back to the fan and dropping his blue shorts in a half-moon, revealing his boxers to the heckler, eliciting huge applause and laughter from the RBC Center crowd of roughly 5,500.
"It was a cool, fun experience all-around," Shaw said. "Though I did have to have a word with Pete for beating my boy Tim Henman seemingly every year at Wimbledon."