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Two legends of the tennis world Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi will renew their rivalry at the CotaiArena at The Venetian Macao Tennis Showdown 2009 this coming Sunday.
Sampras and Agassi will feature at opposite ends of the tennis court for the first time since their historic battle in the final of the 2002 US Open, a match that clinched a then world record 14th Grand Slam title for Sampras.
Sampras took some time out today to look ahead to hit visit to Macao and what it means for him to step on to a court again with his greatest ever rival...
This is your second trip to Macao. What are you most looking forward to?
Whenever I step out into the court against Andre it is great , like a heavyweight fight. He's a great personality and a great player. I am looking forward to competing again against him, maybe not quite at the same cutthroat level, but still a high level of play.
Your final professional match was against Andre in the 2002 US Open final. What are your feelings about that match?
It was a great way to end my career. At that point people that written me off, they had lost faith in me. It was a fitting end- my first and last grand slam victory was at the same tournament and against Andre. He was my rival all through the 90s. At that point I was emotionally done, so to go out in that way was great.
Are you in good shape? How often are you playing?
I play whenever I can. Normally when I have these events coming up I hit for a couple of weeks before. I am hitting the ball pretty well and I've been hitting with a lot of young kids out in California. I am not as nimble as I was but I still hit the ball well. It's just the movement that has changed.
Andre played a couple of weeks ago on the Champions Tour, did you check him out?
Andre is fortunate to be playing again as he has had a lot of problems with his back. It's great to see him competing again. We both have a lot of pride and large egos and want to beat each other. I'm not sure what will happen in the match, but hopefully I will find my way early in the match as you need to do that against Andre.
What are the aspects you miss about playing with Andre?
Andre has the best return of serve in the game. You always need to be at your best against him. He doesn't give you a lot of opportunity as he hits the ball so early. It's a great challenge to play him, but I beat him in a couple of big matches, just as had his fair share of wins against me too. It was always high quality tennis. Andre and myself are closer in age than Roger (Federer) and Rafa (Nadal) so we had a lot more time playing against each other.
Do you think Asia is a growth area for tennis?
Yes, definitely. I played Roger (Federer) in Seoul, Macao and Kuala Lumpur a couple of years back and it was sold out. People love tennis in Asia and it is growing. The game is worldwide and it's only going to get better and better in Asia.
After the US Open, with Del Potro beating Federer in the final, do you feel there is a changing of the guard in Men's tennis?
Roger (Federer) still has a few good years left. He is still the player to worry about and I still like him at the majors. As long as he can keep his motivation he is still inspired for the slams. Of course you've got other guys like Del Potro now believing they can win, but I wouldn't say it is a changing of the guard. Roger will win more majors, he maybe just won't be as dominant as he used to be. Rafa has been hampered by injury- he hit a great streak and then hit a wall both mentally and physically. He could play less clay court events which could help him peak at the majors, but he is a great player and he is always going to be around the top 2 or 3 as long as he wants to be. He has a lot of heart.
Did it hurt to watch your Wimbledon record be broken?
It was an inevitable event. I was happy to be there. It's a different feel because this is a different generation. With the match with Roddick he managed to find a way to win and I am happy for him. It was great to see him after the match.
Pete, this is your second time in Macao, what are you looking forward to doing in Macao?
Well last time I wasn't around for long, so this time I would like to gamble a little, maybe a bit of blackjack. Obviously I have a few things I have to do for the event and I want to make it as good as possible and to give back to the fans and the organizers and sponsors. And of course I want to play well.
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