Tuesday, September 22

Sometimes You Forget: Andre and Pete

One of the events of last week while we were in blackout mode was the U.S. Open final between Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro beat Rafael Nadal and Federer in consecutive matches to win the U.S. Open title handing Roger his first loss in New York since 2003. Federer had chances to close out the match but the younger Del Potro had a motor and a hefty forehand. At one point Roger was even reduced to swearing at the official for allowing what he thought was a late challenge.

Another year, another failure to get Federer and Nadal in a Grand Slam finals. This year, it seems injuries have caught up with Nadal. If it is not his knee, it is an abdominal injury. Last year when Nadal could not keep up in the U.S. Open after winning the French, Wimbledon, and an Olympic medal Catfish ruminated as to whether Nadal was tennis' version of D-Wade. The man pushes himself so hard so often that maybe Nadal will use a different approach entering next year's Grand Slam run.

It has been well over a year since one of the greatest matches ever and we have yet to see another Grand Slam final between to two titans of tennis. We may not see another; with Nadal's injuries and Federer approaching 30, perhaps we will not be that lucky. This got me thinking about the greatest tennis rivalry of the previous generation, Sampras-Agassi. While Nadal and Federer have met 7 times for a Grand Slam title compared to Pete and Andre's 5, the latter had the ability to capture the nation because they were Americans and prevalent in the landscape of sports during the 90s and early 2000s. It is unfortunate that no American has risen up to challenge these Nadal or Federer or that they are not as appreciated for their accomplishments because they are not American.

Besides their nationalities, Pete and Andre had everything you could want in a sports rivalry. They had distinctly polar personalities; Andre was always outgoing and loved the attention even after he dropped the "image is everything" label while Pete was more shy and retiring. Pete is arguably the game's best server ever not only because of his power but his accuracy and timing. Andre is just about undisputed in his title of best returner of all-time. Their rivalry began back when they were just kids training to become greats and lasted throughout their careers. Sampras won the most majors and 20-14 over Andre including 4-1 in Slam finals yet Andre had more fans and completed the career slam. Below are the highlights from one of their best matches, the 2001 quarterfinal final which went to four straight tie-breakers while neither man was broken on serve.

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