Sampras to Face Rios In Dream Final In Sao Paulo

The BlackRock Tour of Champions will stage the first ever meeting in a final between Pete Sampras and Marcelo Rios when they clash in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Sunday.

Rios battled past Peru’s Jaime Yzaga 6-0, 7-5 on Saturday, while Sampras dismissed Thomas Muster 6-3, 6-2. It means the pair completed the round-robin stages of the event unbeaten, and something will have to give in the final of the Nossa Caixa Grand Champions Brazil.

As well as the perfect conclusion to the event itself, it will also help to answer a few questions about what would have happened if they had met more often during their careers.

When Rios reached the summit of tennis in 1998, the prospect of a thrilling rivalry with Sampras had beckoned.

Rios, the most uniquely talented left-hander since John McEnroe, had reached No.1 in the rankings during the first half of that year, winning titles in Indian Wells, Miami and Rome. Sampras dug deep to win his fifth of seven Wimbledon titles and ultimately finish the year as the World No.1 for a record sixth successive year. Throughout those compelling 12 months, they did not meet once. In fact, despite their careers overlapping for eight years, they played each other only twice, with Sampras winning on both occasions – on clay at Roland Garros in 1994 (Rios’ debut year on the circuit) and indoors in Stuttgart in 2001.

At 32 and 36 respectively, Rios and Sampras are still in excellent physical shape, and both have beaten current ATP players in exhibition matches this year.

“It should be a good final,” confirmed Sampras.

“Rios is young, talented and in very good shape. He is serving well too. He could probably still be playing on the (ATP) tour.”

Rios was equally excited by the prospect of Sunday’s clash.

“To play Sampras in the final here will be incredible. We are happy he decided to play some events on the BlackRock Tour of Champions,” he said.

Elsewhere, Jaime Oncins defeated Andrei Cherkasov 6-7(2), 6-4, 10-7 (Champions’ Tie-break) in one hour and 50 minutes to book a spot in Sunday’s 3rd/4th place match against Fernando Meligeni. Meligeni enjoyed a 7-6(10), 4-6, 10-7 (Champions’ tie-break) victory over Marc-Kevin Goellner.

For the latest results and reports: http://www.blackrocktourofchampions.com/

For a video review of each day: http://www.grandchampions.com.br/

And to see what Sampras thinks of Roger Federer’s chances to win a sixth straight Wimbledon, click here.

RESULTS, SATURDAY 21ST JUNE, 2008

Jaime Oncins  d Andrei Cherkasov 6-7(2), 6-4, 10-7 (Champions’ tie-break)

Fernando Meligeni d Marc Goellner  7-6(10), 4-6, 10-7 (Champions’ tie-break)

Marcelo Rios d Jaime Yzaga 6-0, 7-5

Pete Sampras d Thomas Muster 6-3, 6-2

FINAL GROUP STANDINGS

GROUP THOMAZ KOCH

Pete Sampras                      3-0 (6-1)

Fernando Meligeni              2-1 (5-3)

Marc Goellner                      1-2 (3-4)

Thomas Muster                    0-3 (0-6)

GROUP CARLOS KIRMAYR

Marcelo Rios                        3-0 (6-0)

Jaime Oncins                        2-1 (4-3)

Andrei Cherkasov                1-2 (3-4)

Jaime Yzaga                                         0-3 (0-6)

ORDER OF PLAY, SUNDAY 22TH JUNE, 2008

14h30

3rd/4th place – Fernando Meligeni vs. Jaime Oncins

16h00

Final – Pete Sampras vs. Marcelo Rios

SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS 2008 TOUR OF CHAMPIONS RANKINGS (after four events)

POS.       PLAYER                                                PTS

1              Michael Stich                        650

2              Anders Jarryd                       525

3              Marcelo Rios                        400

4              Pat Cash                                               340

5=           Thomas Muster                    330

5=           Mikael Pernfors                   330

7              Goran Ivanisevic                  260

8              Marc-Kevin Goellner (WC)                250

9              Henri Leconte                      240

10=         Chris Wilkinson (WC)         200

10=         Cedric Pioline                 200

12=         Jeremy Bates (WC)             125

12=         Albert Costa                          125

14=         Sergi Bruguera               80

14=         Magnus Larsson                  80

14=         John McEnroe                       80

17=         Bjorn Borg                                             60

17=         Carl Uwe Steeb                   60          

WC denotes Wild Card.

The BlackRock Tour of Champions Calendar 2008

Belfast, Northern Ireland – February 21-24   (Tennis Legends) – Champions: Anders Jarryd; Runner-up: Mikael Pernfors

Barcelona, Spain – April 24-27 (Champions Cup ’08) – Champion: Marcelo Rios; runner-up: Michael Stich

Rome, Italy – May 10-11 – Champion: Thomas Muster; runner-up: Goran Ivanisevic

Hamburg, Germany – May 14-17 (BlackRock Tennis Classic)

Champion: Michael Stich; Runner-up: Marc-Kevin Goellner

Sao Paulo, Brazil – June 19-22 (Nossa Caixa Grand Champions Brasil)

Istanbul, Turkey – July 17-20

Graz, Austria – July 29-August 2 (s Tennis Masters)

Algarve, Portugal – August 5-8 (Vale do Lobo Grand Champions CGD)

Paris, France – September 18-21 (5e Trophée Jean-Luc Lagardère)

Luxembourg, Luxembourg – September 25-28

Eindhoven, Netherlands – October 2-5 (AFAS Tennis Classics)

Budapest, Hungary – October 9-12

Frankfurt, Germany – November 13-16 (klarmobil.de Champions Trophy)

Brussels, Belgium – November 20-23

London, UK – December 2-7 (BlackRock Masters Tennis)

OTHER INFO

BlackRock is a premier provider of global investment management, riskmanagement and advisory services to clients around the world. The rebrand from the Merrill Lynch Tour of Champions to the new BlackRock Tour of Champions,

stemmed from the merger between BlackRock and Merrill Lynch Investment Managers on the 29th September 2006. This merger united the predominantly US fixed income institutional heritage of BlackRock with that of Merrill Lynch

Investment Managers’ award-winning global retail equity franchise.

BlackRock is one of the world’s largest publicly traded investment management firms. At December 31, 2007, BlackRock’s assets under management (AUM) was US$1.357 trillion. The firm manages assets on behalf of institutions and individuals worldwide through a variety of equity, fixed income, cash management and alternative investment products. In addition, a growing number of institutional investors use BlackRock Solutions(r) investment system, risk management and financial advisory services. Headquartered in New York City, as of December 31, 2007, the firm has approximately 5,500 employees in 19 countries and a major presence in key global markets, including the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. For additional information, please visit the Company’s website at www.blackrock.com.

South Africa’s international flagship airline and the continent’s most awarded carrier, South African Airways is the official airline of the BlackRock Tour of Champions. Its modern fleet features a comfortable Economy Class cabin recently reconfigured for extra legroom and a Premium Business Class cabin featuring the airline’s award-winning, lie-flat seat. Complimentary South African wines, inspired cuisine and personal on-demand entertainment for all travellers make the trip to Africa fly by. Built on a venerable 72-year history of bringing the world to Africa and taking Africa to the world, the airline’s network is unsurpassed on the continent – connecting travellers to more than 20 destinations within South Africa and more than 20 cities across Africa. As a recent member to the worldwide Star Alliance, South African Airways is now able to offer its customers 852 destinations in 152 countries and more than 15,500 flights daily.

For the Latest News, Features and Updates from the BlackRock Tour of Champions: www.blackrocktourofchampions.com

and for further information:

www.blackrockinternational.com/tourofchampions