Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sampras v. Federer Commentary


On Monday night my buddy Chad and I had the chance to watch the thrilling match between former world #1 Pete Sampras, and his successor, Roger Federer. Although I’d rather watch Nicolas Lapenti and Felix Mantilla play a five and a half hour five set match at Roland Garros (on Court 17 ideally), I decided to shell out $100 to watch the two legends slug it out.

Before the match began there were some opening ceremonies and dedications on the court, but I was much more interested in people watching. Chad and I immediately noticed the abundance of attractive females in the crowd, but we knew our nosebleed seats weren’t impressing anybody. I was particularly amused by the wave of anger and panic that hit Donald Trump upon his realization his seats weren’t front row. He argued with about 4 ushers while his arm candy, Wife #7, stood alongside him like a statue. Chad took advantage of his sweet 3x digital camera and was able to snap some shots of Veronica Vaughn a.k.a. Mrs. Pete Sampras a.k.a. Bridgette Wilson (one piece of ace). Tiger Woods (who was front row) was there with his wife, who’s not too bad looking either. I don’t think the Donald or Tiger said a word to their wives at any point during the night.

It took my eyes a few minutes to adjust to the blinding reflection of light from Pete’s ever-growing bald spot, but from what I gathered the match started off with nervous, erratic rallies. The points were quick, full of both errors and spectacular passing shots. Federer broke Sampras in the first game of the match, then went into cruise control and steadily served out the set. Sadly, a mere thirty minutes after the match began, it was potentially half way over.

Early in the second set the crowd witnessed the point of the match. After a second serve, Sampras approached the net with a down the line forehand, putting Federer on the dead run. Showing off his remarkable speed, Federer amazingly was able to reach the ball and toss up a defensive lob to Sampras who was unsurprisingly covering the net. Pete then vaulted into the air and spiked one of his patented scissor-kick overheads; but the smash was not deep enough. Federer sprinted to the other side of the court, leaped off the ground and essentially used a service motion to return the overhead when it was at its peak. Unfortunately for Roger, the shot clipped the top of the tape. Nonetheless, the packed crowd erupted in applause. From there, Pistol Pete’s unleashed his serve in the second set and was able to take advantage of a multitude of errors from Federer. In a composed, methodical fashion Sampras took the second set in a tiebreaker.

The level of play and intensity among the players and the crowd were noticeably higher in the third set. Shots were being hit with more conviction and precision. Federer began the set with a break of serve and I was convinced he would go on to easily close out the match. But Pete surprised everyone and was able to take 5 games in a row off of big Rog’. At this point the entire crowd was on its feet passionately supporting the American underdog. Down 5-2, Federer finally demonstrated why he is number one in the world by crushing 4 consecutive aces and 4 perfect passing shots off of Pete’s 130mph serves to get the match back on serve.

My favorite part of the night was right before a crucial point in the match when a wasted audience member shouted over a silent crowd, “C’mon Tiger!” and absolutely floored everyone in the Garden, including the players and Tiger himself.

Two points away from victory in the third set breaker, Sampras displayed his lack of recent match experience by committing several errors and allowing Federer to prevail. Most were disappointed that Pete couldn’t pull it out, but at the same time everyone was extremely impressed by his performance. Exhibition matches in tennis are usually pretty boring, comparable to All-Star or Pro-Bowl games in other professional sports. The match and atmosphere on Monday greatly exceeded my expectations and I definitely got my money’s worth. MSG was an amazing venue for tennis and I’m praying for a McEnroe – Connors battle there soon.

1 comment:

Madamelamb said...

great post, peter peter lamb eater!!!

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