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Sampras returns to have some fun

July 11, 2006 18:07 IST

Driven by victory during his glittering ATP career, Pete Sampras settled on having some fun in his World Team Tennis (WTT) debut on Monday.

The 34-year-old won his doubles match but lost his singles encounter to world number 211 John Paul Fruttero as his Newport Beach Breakers team were beaten 22-20 by the visiting St Louis Aces at the Palisades Tennis Club.

Sampras, who produced a mix of vintage serve-and-volley form with some rusty backhands, took great delight in entertaining a capacity crowd of 2,000.

"The atmosphere was great," the former world number one told reporters after making his Pro league debut.

"The crowd really got behind the team. I didn't know how it was going to be tonight but I actually enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to playing some more.

"When you practise you can get away with things, here you feel a little more pressure playing in front of people.

"You want to put on a good show and I thought I did pretty good. I missed a few here and there and I had a hard time getting my backhand going. That was really the key.

"But I'm going to have some fun the next couple of weeks, hopefully play some good tennis and entertain some people."

LOW-KEY RETURN

Sampras, who retired after winning the 2002 US Open final against American compatriot Andre Agassi in his last professional match, decided to make a low-key

return to the game after admitting he wanted something to focus on.

He does not plan to return to the ATP circuit and has set his sights on playing as well as he can in the relaxed atmosphere of WTT without doing his body any harm.

"All things considered, I played okay," he said after losing his singles match to Californian Fruttero on a tie-break.

"My body held up fine and I was serving pretty hard.

"It's not easy when you haven't played a match under the lights in years and I had a hard time picking it (the ball) up. But I think I'll play a little better as we go along."

Sampras, who won 14 grand slam titles and more than $43 million in prize money during his 15-year career, will play six more matches for the Beach Breakers over the next two weeks.

The WTT Pro League consists of 12 teams and past players include Agassi, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Andy Roddick and Venus Williams.

The league, created by Billie Jean and then husband Larry King, ran for five years from 1974. After a two-year break it returned in 1981 and has since been a feature of the U.S. calendar.

The top two teams from the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference play in the finals from July 28-30.

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