John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl...together again
What a treat it was last night to see the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden featuring Andre Agassi vs. Pete Sampras and John McEnroe vs. Ivan Lendl!
What happened to the young in-their-prime men we used to know? Agassi and Sampras look OLD. Old. Old. And Johnny Mac and Ivan "you won't like me when I'm angry" Lendl looked ANCIENT. Extremely ancient - like the grandfathers they are.
However, looks are deceiving as each one of these legends of tennis still plays AWESOME!
Pete Sampras' serve seems to have even gotten better. And his serve is and always will be the VERY BEST TENNIS HAS EVER SEEN. He won the match against his friend/archenemy rival Andre, 6-3, 7-5. Andre seemed to wake up in the second set and had a good chance to tie it, but Pete's serve is still unbeatable. There was no radar at the game last night to clock Pete's serve but Brad Gilbert estimated that is was well in the 130's range. 130 + miles per hour. So much for old.
The two seemed to enjoy themselves this time (we won't mention what happened last year at a charity match, when more of the archenemy of them came out and not so much the friend part. Let's just say it got ugly, petty and mean.) The two made up for it last night. It was all smiles and nostalgia.
Madison Square Garden welcomed these Tennis Gods with open arms and the love was reciprocated in the fullest. It was great to see Pete and Andre again. One of the greatest sports rivalries in history. In fact, at the end of 'Showdown', we were reminded by Mac's little brother and commentator Patrick McEnroe to enjoy the Rafael Nadal/Roger Federer rivalry that has been going on the last few years. It too is a moment in history that we will look back on with such nostalgia when 15-20 years from now those two legends will be bantering and playing for charity and we will hear ourselves saying, "Oh! Remember when these two would battle for hours in 5-set barn burners? It seems like yesterday."
Poor John McEnroe sprained his ankle during warmups - he is after all...Old. And so the great match up between him and Lendl only went 9 games in before Mac had to retire for the night. He looked devastated. But during play, let me tell you, the Old Mac Was Back. McEnroe was on fire, playing some of the best tennis we've seen him play since he retired. He looked great on court. Ivan, not so much, but still for his great age, he'd beat any of your asses in two seconds. It was so great to see him again! Mac was in such pain though with the ankle that an aborted match was all we could ask for. Anyone else would have been in the emergency room and not trying to play. Way to go, Mac.
What fun! The crowd - a sell out of 17,165, was on it's feet cheering it's head off for these 4 superstars of tennis yore. Awesome!
"We played pretty good for a couple of old guys," Sampras said, clearly thrilled with his showing.
"I came back to the people I love to say hello," Agassi said. "Hopefully, we created a little nostalgia. That's why we're here."
Oh and regarding the "Incident" last year here's what the two had to say:
"We've straightened it out," Agassi said. "Like I've said 150 times, it was a complete mistake on my part. 'Hit for Haiti' raised a lot of money; we did a lot of good things. But we unfortunately had a microphone on our mouths, and I was talking a lot. One thing wasn't good."
"In my eyes, it's over," Sampras said. "It's unfortunate what happened. Andre apologized. It's just one of those things that sort of got blown out of proportion over the last six months. We're still here. He's a rival and a friend."
Last night proved the hatchet was buried..and not in each others backs anymore.