Pete Sampras took some time to talk to the media before his exhibition with Marat Safin at the LA Open and he had a lot to say about his friend Roger.
Welcome to the first day of the Los Angeles Tennis Open presented to you by the Farmers Insurance Group. Last year it was the Countrywide Classic but the subprime mortgage crisis threw a wrench into that arrangement. Apparently Farmers didn’t put up tons of money else we’d be having the F.I.G. Open this week.
Vince Spadea, the dead serious rapper/author who usually provides our entertainment at the LA Open, suffered a discouraging double bagel loss to Robert Kendrick this afternoon. Not to make Vince feel worse or anything but that’s only the third double bagel at this event in the Open Era (1967 forward).
I love Vince because he thinks nothing of taking on other players in print or in the interview room while no one else will say boo. He’s probably still mad that Patrick McEnroe chose Mardy Fish over him for the 2004 Davis Cup team. Still, that score was pretty embarrassing and Vince isn’t making it out of qualies these days so maybe he should think about starting a family.
Speaking of family, Pete Sampras is on the premises to play an exhibition against Marat Safin tonight – you could call it a rerun of Safin’s 2000 US Open title courtesy of Pete. I asked Pete about Roger Federer’s instant family.
Roger’s wife Mirka gave birth to twins last week and I asked Pete if he thought to himself, “Uh oh, twins,” when he heard the news as in one new child is manageable on the ATP tour but two is pushing it. Despite joking that Roger would immediately hit the road to escape two screaming babies, Pete said he didn’t think it would affect Roger’s career at all: “I don’t think it’s going to affect him. I don’t see Roger changing diapers at 4am in the morning.”
He may not being changing diapers at all but Pete considers raising his two sons his fulltime job so I’m not convinced that it won’t affect Roger. I feel bad for Pete, by the way. Not only did he lose his grand slam record to Roger but now his media sessions consist almost entirely of questions related to Roger.
When someone asked Pete to compare his era to Roger’s era, Pete said that “no one scares” Roger because everyone stays back – meaning that Roger doesn’t have to face serve and vollyers at Wimbledon. Does Nadal scare Roger? “Not the way I felt playing Goran [Ivanesivic] on grass, that scared me a little bit,” Pete answered. Having said that, he does think Roger realizes that he’s met his match in Nadal and as for losing to Nadal in the Australian final this year: “I think it sort of freaked Roger out a little bit in Australia. Wow, maybe this kid’s better than me.”
It seems to me that being freaked out is a pretty close companion to being scared and this is not anything we couldn’t have figured out ourselves. I think a lot of people were freaked out when Nadal beat Roger in Australia and Roger himself was so distraught he could barely bring himself to speak at the awards ceremony.
But this info comes from a guy who is a good friend of Roger’s who regularly exchanges texts with him and that’s a big deal because Roger is not likely to publicly admit that Nadal may be better than he is anymore than he’s likely to say that he was ever freaked out by anything less than a tsunami or maybe a world war. That kind of stuff does leak out in personal communications, though, and Pete is not always the most revealing guy so I pay close attention when he does reveal something.
Safin managed to stop fooling around long enough to pull out the exhibition in a supertiebreaker in this, his last year on tour before heading back home to Moscow for good. Somehow I don’t think we’ll be seeing him sitting in the guest box at Wimbledon or any other slam and we’re not likely to see him hanging around Los Angeles unless he gets a movie role as a tortured superhero which is actually not a bad idea. But I do expect him to take on some projects, unlike Sampras who hasn’t figured out quite what to do with himself post-tennis, I just can’t imagine what they’d be.
Do you have any guesses or maybe even a suggestion or two? I’d be happy to pass any suggestions directly on to Safin.