charity exhibition

AGASSI, SAMPRAS RIVALRY UP IN FLAMES: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

Rivalry Up in Flames – By now everyone around the globe must know about the infamous spat that took place between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi at the “Hit for Haiti” charity event. I’ll go on record as saying that both men were wrong for the way that they behaved that night. But I’m also placing the overwhelming amount of blame on Agassi, and he’s the only one of the two for whom I also felt disgust. Agassi’s mouth was going a mile a minute the entire evening and taking subtle jabs at Sampras. Finally Sampras snapped, and his response was to do his impression of Agassi. I had no problem with this. Sampras did this same impression at an exhibition event several years ago with Agassi, and in response, Agassi then did an excellent Sampras impersonation. That was all Agassi needed to do last week. Instead, he hit Pete way below the belt. Even Agassi’s apology was sorely lacking, as he admitted to the joke falling flat but then faulted Sampras for not rolling with it. Why should he, Andre? He was the one being embarrassed in front of a stadium full of people. Sampras already took the high road once when Agassi’s book first came out, and Sampras offered little comment on it. To ask him to do so a second time in that kind of an atmosphere is too much. Worse still, Sampras is unlikely going to be willing to put himself in that kind of a situation again any time soon, so good luck to any exhibition organizer trying to get those two out on the court to hit for charity.

Void of Punishment – Not to keep harping on Andre Agassi, but I was also disappointed (though not surprised) to see that the ITF has come out with a statement declaring that the statute of limitations has passed, and there can be no retroactive punishment for Agassi’s past use of crystal meth. In many ways, it’s a shame that there’s no real retribution here. I can accept that people make mistakes, but to see Agassi get by with this on top of last Friday at the charity exhibition, this verdict is just one more thing that makes me shake my head and wonder how much more he’s going to be allowed to get by with before someone steps in and does something.

Pakistani Pullout – In a sad story that ran earlier this week, the ITF was forced to announce that the Davis Cup tie between Pakistan and New Zealand, which had been slated to take place in Pakistan, would have to be moved to New Zealand due to the recent bombings in the Pakistani nation. The move is completely understandable but a hard blow to Pakistani tennis. Home ties can so often help spark tennis interest and growth in the host nation, not to mention bring some joy if victorious. A troubled nation like Pakistan could have used this boost.

The Fallout Continues – Things continue to unravel in Great Britain after they suffered one of their most humiliating Davis Cup losses in history. The All-Party Parliamentary Tennis Group, which includes members of both the House of Commons and House of Lords, is staging an inquiry to further study the status of tennis in Great Britain at all levels of the game. Furthermore, John Lloyd is throwing in the towel, while coach Paul Annacone will no longer serve as the Davis Cup team coach. Bless whatever soul is brave enough to take over the helm of this rapidly sinking ship before they face Turkey later this year.

Latest Russian Maladies – In one of the more mind-boggling stories of the week, it was noted that Russian Nikolay Davydenko was forced to withdraw from the BNP Paribas Open due to a broken wrist. The fact that he had to pull out of the tournament with such an injury was not the mind-boggling part…it was the fact that he’d played with the broken wrist, which had been misdiagnosed earlier in the year. The Russian could possibly be out for the entire clay court season. My fingers are crossed that he makes a speedy recovery, especially given how well he’s played the past six months.

Philippoussis To Make ATP Champions Debut In London

Former Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis is to return to the city that he so nearly conquered when he plays in the AEGON Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall in London, December 1-6.

Philippoussis, who also reached the final of the US Open during his career, will be making his debut on the ATP Champions Tour when he lines up alongside fellow grass-court greats Goran Ivanisevic, Pat Rafter and Stefan Edberg at the season-ending event. For Philippoussis, who beat Andre Agassi on his way to the 2003 Wimbledon final before losing to Roger Federer, it will be an opportunity to renew rivalries and rekindle his relationship with the British public.

“I get goosebumps every time I go to the UK because of the British crowds,” said Philippoussis, who is universally known as ‘Scud’ for the power of his serve.

“The British fans are incredible – they have such a great appreciation for tennis. I’ve always enjoyed a lot of support from them and I hope they are looking forward to seeing me again. I certainly can’t wait.”

Philippoussis has visited the Royal Albert Hall once before back in 2006 when he played a charity exhibition match against Tim Henman, and the Australian is looking forward to experiencing the world’s most unique tennis court for a second time.

“I really can’t wait to play at the Royal Albert Hall again,” he said. “It is one of the prettiest tennis venues I have ever seen, it really is gorgeous. It’s perfect in terms of how close the crowd is to you when you’re playing and the atmosphere that creates.”

Philippoussis will join an eight-man singles line-up that already includes the 2001 Wimbledon Champion Ivanisevic, former World Number One Edberg and two-time Wimbledon finalist Rafter. The AEGON Masters Tennis could give Philippoussis the chance for revenge against Rafter, who beat him in the final of the US Open in 1998.

“I’m so looking forward to seeing all the guys again,” said Philippoussis.

“The line-up is really amazing so every match should be good. I’d love to play against Edberg, and I’m looking forward to seeing Goran again because he’s just a great guy. Then obviously Pat’s a fellow Aussie, so it should be great fun. I just can’t wait to get down there and get out on court.”

The AEGON Masters Tennis runs from the 1st to the 6th of December at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The tournament uses a round-robin format, with all players playing at least three matches each. Each day of the tournament, except the final Sunday, features two sessions – an afternoon session starting at 1pm and an evening session starting at 7.30pm. All sessions will feature a combination of singles and doubles matches. The event is the final tournament in 2009 on the ATP Champions Tour – a circuit of former World Number One tennis players, Grand Slam singles finalists and Davis Cup winners.

For more information, visit: http://www.aegonmasterstennis.com/

For tickets, go to: http://www.aegonmasterstennis.com/tickets.asp