Federer beats Sampras in first of three exhibitions

Updated: November 20, 2007, 2:10 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

[+] EnlargeSampras and Federer
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty ImagesPast great Pete Sampras couldn't hang with present great Roger Federer on Tuesday.

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.

[+] EnlargeSampras and Federer
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty ImagesPete Sampras and Roger Federer donned South Korean traditional robes after their first of three scheduled exhibition matches.

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."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press