Sampras Wins Big In Return

Thursday, May 3rd 2007, 10:28 pm
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ Playing in his first tournament in nearly five years, Pete Sampras easily defeated Petr Korda 6-1, 6-2 in the opening round of the Champions Cup on Thursday.

In the first match, John McEnroe beat Tim Mayotte 6-1, 7-5. But the night belonged to Sampras, who hadn't played in a competitive match since beating Andre Agassi in the 2002 U.S. Open final to capture his record 14th Grand Slam title.

``It was fun _ it was nice playing in the crowd,'' Sampras said. ``I felt excited walking out there with a nice ovation. This is why I decided to play.''

Sampras, who will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in July, didn't touch a racket for nearly three years before picking up the sport again last summer to get in better shape.

He first played in sporadic exhibition matches and in the World Team Tennis league before deciding to pick up his training following an exhibition with four-time Grand Slam champ Jim Courier, who organizes the senior tour.

``Playing against a former great player got my juices going,'' Sampras said. ``So I did some thinking and (decided) to play Jim's event. Maybe play against some of the former greats, just get my juice going with a little more at stake.''

Though he was a bit older than the last time he took center court _ at the U.S. Open _ he still looked like the Sampras of old in his senior tour debut. His booming serve topped 130 mph, his forehand was precise and he was as aggressive as ever.

``I was playing well before I came over here,'' Korda said. ``But this was just too good for me. I knew he was going to come hard. If he's going to show up for something big like this, he's going to come ready.''

Using a larger racket than he did in his prime, Sampras overpowered Korda from the start. After dropping just one game in the first set, Sampras won five of the final six games of the second to sweep the match.

He ended the match with an ace Korda had no chance of catching.

``Serving is one shot that when I picked up the racket a year ago that was pretty natural,'' Sampras said. ``It was still there.''

According to Courier, McEnroe, Mayotte and Korda, Sampras has more than just his serve left and could make serious run at this year's Wimbledon.

``The guy is a master on grass,'' McEnroe said. ``Roger (Federer) would say he'd play him, but he'd be concerned.''

Still, Sampras said there's no way he'll seek an exemption for one more shot at Wimbledon, an event he won seven times.

``I wouldn't play Wimbledon just to play _ I would play to win,'' he said. ``There needs to be a reason to come back and there really isn't a reason for me to come back.''