Sampras beats Bates to set up winner-take-all Pioline showdown

Pete Sampras set up a mouth watering winner-take-all clash with Cedric Pioline on Saturday after battling to victory over former British number one Jeremy Bates at the BlackRock Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday.

In a match that lasted just over an hour, Sampras was pushed to a second set tie break before eventually triumphing 6-3, 7-6(3) against an opponent nine years his senior. After the match, Sampras admitted he hadn’t been expecting to be pushed as hard as he was.

“The match was much tougher than I thought it would be,” he said. “I think on this court Jeremy’s pretty effective and he was serving and volleying well, particularly in the second set. I felt like I played pretty well, a little spotty at times but I’ve got to give him credit because he played really well.”

Sampras will now play Cedric Pioline on Saturday afternoon in a match that will decide which of the two men is to progress to Sunday’s final. Pioline has lost all nine of his previous meetings with Sampras, including the two most painful losses of his career in the 1993 US Open and 1997 Wimbledon finals.

“We’ve played in two Major finals before. He’s a talented guy and he’s going to be very tough to break out there because the court’s playing really quick,” said Sampras. “He’s got a good serve and he’s pretty eager to beat me so we’ll see what happens.”

The winner will take on Greg Rusedski in the final. The British player defeated Pat Cash 4-6, 7-5, 10-3 (Champions’ Tie-Break).

The event is being covered by ITV4 in the UK, and matches are also being streamed live on the ITV website, ITV.com. Click here to access the live stream http://www.itv.com/sport/tennis/default.html.

ITV4 TRANSMISSION TIMES

Saturday                                12.30 – 17.00 (19.30 Match on Red Button and also on the ITV.com website) Sunday                                  13.00 – 17:00

For tickets to the BlackRock Masters Tennis, or for further information, please call the box office on: +44 (0) 208 233 5882, or visit the official website.

Corporate Hospitality packages are also available. For more information, please call: +44 (0) 208 233 5854.

RESULTS – Friday 5th December
Stefan Edberg d. Guy Forget 1-6, 7-6(1), 10-6 (Champions’ Tie Break) Pete Sampras d. Jeremy Bates 6-3, 7-6(3)

LATEST GROUP STANDINGS
GROUP A
Matches won/lost (sets) Cedric Pioline                                                    2-0 (4-0) Pete Sampras                                                    2-0 (4-0) Jeremy Bates                                                     0-2 (0-4) John McEnroe               0-2 (0-4).
Greg Rusedski                                                    3-0 (6-2) Stefan Edberg                                                    2-1 (5-2) Guy Forget                                                         1-2 (3-5) Pat Cash                        0-3 (2-6).

ORDER OF PLAY (subject to change)

Saturday afternoon

Starting at 1pm
1          Singles RR      Pioline v Sampras  LIVE ITV4            2          Doubles Forget and Leconte v Black and Murray LIVE ITV4   3       Doubles Bahrami and Bates v Gullikson and McNamara LIVE ITV4

Saturday evening

Starting at 7.30pm
1          Singles RR      Bates v McEnroe                                2          Doubles           TBC                                        3          Doubles           TBC

Sunday
1          Singles Final                  LIVE   TBC                                        2          Doubles Final
LIVE   TBC                                        3          Doubles                                   LIVE   TBC

About BlackRock

BlackRock is one of the world’s largest publicly traded investment management firms. At September 30, 2008, BlackRock’s AUM was $1.259 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 investment system, risk management and financial advisory services. Headquartered in New York City, as of September 30, 2008, the firm has approximately 5,800 employees in 22 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.

The BlackRock Masters Tennis: http://www.theblackrockmasters.com BlackRock Tour of Champions: http://www.blackrocktourofchampions.com