Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were more Federer-Nadal than McEnroe-Connors. During their careers, the two tennis stars had a rivalry that was mostly confined to the court and didn't include any petty, off-court troubles.
It took retirement for things to get heated.
One year after Agassi embarrassed Sampras with awkward jokes made during an exhibition match, Sampras is still holding a grudge. He refused to play his long-time rival last week during a scheduled exhibition in Argentina after a testy phone call with Agassi following their last match. From TENNIS.com:
"Andre phoned Pete after that match to tell him he should have slowed down a little bit to make it more entertaining and not take the exhibitions that competitively," said one of the sources. "The conversation didn't have a friendly ending and Pete wanted to cancel the whole thing."
The match in question took place in February as Sampras easily cruised to a 6-4, 7-5 victory at an exhibition at Madison Square Garden. Sampras took little mercy on the hobbled out-of-shape Agassi that night, running him around the court and going for first-serve aces instead of engaging in the longer rallies that are customary at such events. Pete was playing for payback.
It didn't go unnoticed by Agassi, who complained about the move three days later in an interview with Busted Racquet:
I asked Pete to be a little sensitive with him breaking off serves left and right and jerking me around the court, but he thought it was more important to get his aces and do his drop shots and make me look my age. As a result, I'm still recovering. [...]
Pete certainly is more capable than me on the court these days and the quality of that entertainment was solely in his hands.
Agassi laughed it off when we spoke but his frustration was clear. There was a distinct coolness in his voice when he mentioned Sampras. His tone lightened when we moved on to other topics.
The tension spilled over into the recent exhibition, in which Marat Safin and Mardy Fish were brought in to be replacement opponents. TENNIS.com continues:
Sampras and Agassi spent almost two days in Buenos Aires. They arrived in separate flights, stayed at the same hotel, but on different floors, and didn't share the table at the welcome dinner held on Tuesday. "Sampras asked the organizers not to meet Agassi at any point," the source said.
They gave tennis clinics separately and spoke with the local media at separate press conferences, while the other waited in the VIP lounge. The only time they got together was during the official photo, when Major of Tigre posed between them. They had no real contact at all.
The pair will be forced to make nice on Tuesday when they're scheduled to be on a conference call together announcing the schedule for a new Champions Series tennis tour that begins this fall. Can't imagine what Pete and Andre will be asked about.
- Pete Sampras
- Andre Agassi