SEOUL, South Korea -- If Roger Federer expected an easy
victory over his balding opponent, he found out early in their
exhibition match that Pete Sampras still has his powerful serve.
The world's top-ranked player came back to beat the man he is
chasing for the all-time Grand Slam titles record. Federer won 6-4,
6-3 on Tuesday in the first of three Asian exhibitions. These
tennis greats of the past and present meet again Thursday in Kuala
Lumpur and Saturday in Macau.
"Pete was one of my idols growing up and it's great to play
him," Federer said. "It wasn't easy for me; it wasn't easy for
him as he's been retired five years. I am No. 1 and everyone
expects me to win."
The 36-year-old Sampras brought cheers from the crowd at Seoul's
Olympic Tennis Arena with two aces in his first service game
against an opponent a decade younger. Sampras proceeded to break
Federer's serve, then moved ahead 4-2 courtesy of a drop shot.
Sampras' trademark serves and volleys were on display, but he
understandably moved around the court slower than he did during his
1990s heyday. Federer took advantage of a slew of unforced errors
to come back to win the first set.
Other than three successive lobs that Federer served up to his
opponent in the second game of the second set, the match was a
competitive, though lighthearted, affair.
By early in the second set, Federer was hitting his stride. He
completed the straight-set victory with little trouble.
"I feel pretty good," Sampras said. "I made it competitive,
which was my goal. Obviously Roger is the best player in the world
and I retired five years ago. I am grateful that he invited me."
Federer was pleased with the workout a few days after winning
his fourth Masters Cup.
Sampras retired in 2002, a year after the only previous meeting
between the pair at Wimbledon. Federer won that fourth-round match
in five sets.
Sampras won a record 14 Grand Slams, but Federer, who owns 12
titles, could break the mark in 2008.
"I have no plans to come back from retirement," Sampras said.
"You have to come back for a reason. I just stay home and watch
Roger win on television."