Federer, Sampras Set for Friendly Showdown in Seoul
Left, Roger Federer. Right, Pete Sampras.
By Kang Seung-woo
Two of arguably the greatest players in the history of tennis, Pete Sampras of the United States and Roger Federer of Switzerland, will showcase their top-level talents before South Korean fans in Seoul on Tuesday night.
In one exhibition match, dubbed as Super Match VI, sponsored by the Hyundai Card, the former and current world No. 1s are going to face each other for the first time since 2001.
Their first meeting happened in the round of 16 at Wimbledon six years ago, and the Swiss star downed the American in five sets.
Along with the Seoul match, the two tennis greats will have two more matches in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Macau.
``This match can stand comparison with any big match and is the best Super Match ever,'' said a clerk of Sema Sports Marketing, the organizer of the match.
``It will help not only improve Korean tennis, but also develop other sports in Korea.''
Federer won three major competitions _ the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open _ this year to seal the No. 1 spot for the fourth straight year.
The 26-year-old, who joined the ATP tour in 1998, picked up his 53rd career title at the Masters Cup after defeating David Ferrer of Spain in China on Sunday.
The Swiss has been ranked first for a record of 199 consecutive weeks and his 12 Grand Slam titles are the second most in history behind Sampras' 14.
What's bothering the No. 1 is earlier this year he suffered his first back-to-back losses in more than four years, losing to David Nalbandian of Argentina and Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, before capturing the Masters Cup title.
``It's going to be interesting to see how I'm handling his game,'' Federer said of the Sampras match in an interview with Chinese media after the Masters Cup victory.
``He still looks very healthy and fit, you know. I hope I can play well against him. It's going to be difficult because I practiced with him in L.A. this year. He seemed to play very, very well. He's still got the lethal forehand, the great slice and the great serve, you know, the fantastic movement and volleys."
A 14-time Grand Slam winner, the 36-year-old Sampras is trying to show he has enough fuel left in him to play against Federer, who is within reach of threatening his career record.
Sampras, a native of California who retired in 2002, is now playing at the Outback Championship Series, a group of tournaments for former ATP players who have met certain criteria during their careers.
During his 15-year career, he won 64 titles, including the 14 Grand Slams and finished ranked No. 1 for six consecutive years.
Sampras, known for his serve and volley, was ranked first for 286 weeks, the all-time best record, including a streak of 102.
``I'm excited to play Roger. I've practiced with a lot more intensity, a lot more seriously the past few weeks to make sure my body stays healthy,'' Sampras said on his arrival Sunday at the Incheon International Airport.
``Obviously, he's in his prime, and I'm past my prime, but I can still play pretty well.''
The match will be played at 5:50 p.m. at Jamsil Stadium.