Men's Match of the Day
Long Island - Second Round
Paul-Henri Mathieu def. Pete Sampras (3) 6-3 6-7(7-9) 6-4
When Pete Sampras announced that he would examine his future at the end of 2003, he probably wanted to make people shut up about his retirement. We have this funny feeling it's not going to work. At least not as long as Sampras posts results like this.
Of course, Paul-Henri Mathieu is a kid with a lot of promise; he did almost beat Andre Agassi at Roland Garros this year. And he's only 20, so he's still improving.
Rapidly, it would seem. Because, over the past two years, Sampras's best surface, overall, has been his native hardcourts. And Matheiu beat him there.
In the short term, this probably won't cost Sampras in the rankings. He came in with a 260 point lead over Alex Corretja in the Entry Rankings, with 120 to defend. At worst, Sampras will fall to #18.
But that's #18 with a U. S. Open final to defend. That score represents nearly half of the points he has left. Assuming Thomas Johansson plays, Sampras will be seeded for the Round of 32 at the Open this year, and he could end up playing Johansson or Roger Federer or Andy Roddick in the third round. Assuming he gets that far. Sampras, two weeks from now, could be staring at a ranking of #35 -- or lower. Potentially, that means being unseeded at next year's Australian Open. He might even find himself in qualifying for the fall Masters Series.
Makes you wonder just how much of this he can put up with, doesn't it?
As for Mathieu, he came in at #85 in the Entry Rankings, and he's now had what he regards as the biggest win of his career. We have to remind him of what we say every week around this time: "No bonus points." It's just a second round win at a small tournament. A whole 20 Entry points. Still, it should be good for probably two more ranking spots.
And, of course, a nice boost of confidence.