Pioline topples Sampras at last and meets Rusedski in final

Cedric Pioline recorded an historic win against Pete Sampras on Saturday afternoon to reach the final of the BlackRock Masters Tennis. The Frenchman had never previously beaten Sampras in nine attempts, but he produced some explosive tennis to topple the American 7-6(7), 7-6(5).

“This is a great feeling,” said Pioline. “I tried to hold my serve and today I was reading his serve pretty good as well. It was a close match in the end and it’s so great to finally shake Pete’s hand as a winner.”

After the match Sampras paid tribute to his opponent.

“It was a dog fight today,” he said. “I was really impressed with Cedric and he was returning better today than he used to way back when. I had my chance there in the first but I took my foot off the pedal serving for the set and he produced some great shots.” It was competitive and I wanted to win so I’m disappointed I didn’t make the final, but at least the crowd enjoyed it.”

Despite his defeat today, Sampras has enjoyed his long-awaited return to London, a place that holds so many special memories for the seven time Wimbledon Champion.

“I had a great time this week and I’ve been really impressed with the tournament,” he said. “It’s nice to be back in London and seeing the British people was fun for me. I’ve got some good memories coming here and just driving around the streets makes me think about my titles and my wins. It’s a shame I couldn’t win another one here at the Albert Hall.”

Pioline will now take on Greg Rusedski in Sunday’s final, and the Frenchman is expecting another tough battle.

“I think it’s going to be a difficult match again because he’s in good shape,” he said. “He has a big serve so I will need to return well again. To win the tournament would be something special and I’d love to leave London as a winner with the cup in my hand.”

In the final match of the day at the Royal Albert Hall Jeremy Bates put in a sensational performance to beat John McEnroe 6-4, 6-7(4), 11-9 (Champions’ Tie Break).

SAMPRAS TO RETURN TO WIMBLEDON WHEN TIME IS RIGHT

For Pete Sampras the All England Lawn Tennis Club is a special place, and one he has not revisited since his retirement from professional tennis more than six years ago. He had been considering a return to SW19 during his stay in London this week for the BlackRock Masters Tennis but the seven-time Wimbledon Champion decided to leave it a little longer before taking a trip down the most emotional of memory lanes.

“I decided not to go,” he said. “I hear there’s a lot of construction going on and I wanted to go at a time when all the courts are up. That way I’ll have a chance to properly reminisce and maybe even walk on to Centre Court again.”

Despite almost a decade of glittering success at the All England Club, Sampras’ most recent memory of SW19 came back in 2002 when the American suffered a  painful second round loss at the hands of the unseeded swiss George Bastl on Court Two. He retired later that year after winning the US Open and has not returned to the UK since.

“I decided that it’s probably better to go while the event is going on, and also I’d like to take my kids over to check it out as well and they’re not here this week. I’m going to go back one day. It’s just a matter of when.”

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

Sunday                                  13.00 – 17:00

RESULTS – Saturday 6th December

Cedric Pioline d. Pete Sampras 7-6(7), 7-6(5)

Jeremy Bates d. John McEnroe 6-4, 6-7(4), 11-9 (Champions’ Tie Break)

FINAL GROUP STANDINGS

GROUP A

Matches won/lost (sets)

Cedric Pioline                                                    3-0 (6-0)

Pete Sampras                                                    2-1 (4-2)

Jeremy Bates                                                     1-2 (2-5)

John McEnroe                                                                      0-3 (1-6).

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)

Sunday

1          Singles Final                  Cedric Pioline vs. Greg Rusedski

2          Doubles Final                   Bahrami/Fleming vs. McNamara/Woodforde

3          Doubles                          Bates/Murray vs. Black/Jarryd

About BlackRock

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