There have been few better showmen in tennis over the years as Andre Agassi, but for once things went a little sour as he and Pete Sampras managed to turn what was intended to be a charity event in aid of the Haiti earthquake fund into a very public, very personal slanging match.
The two former champions had been invited to join Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for a doubles in front of 16,000 supporters at the BNP Paribas Open. The two have never been the best of friends and had not been on the same court together since the 2002 US Open final.
Relations have been especially tense since the release of Agassi’s autobiography. Open, late last year, in which he accused Sampras of being a cheapskate, referring to an incident where Sampras had reportedly given a tip of only US$1 for valet parking.
All four players were wearing microphones and the banter was flying, but things got ugly when the two Americans lost their rag.
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While the two legends were getting in each other’s faces, Federer and Nadal just stood aside looking helpless. “This rivalry’s intense, man,” Federer said, trying to help the situation. “I mean Rafa, do something.”
Fortunately, things smoothed down between them and now, the two have laughed it off. “Our relationship is strictly platonic,” Agassi said, jokingly. “As much time as we spent together, I never really knew him. Two different people — those differences were never bridged between us. But I recognize him as a superior athlete.”
It certainly was fortunately that Agassi and Sampras buried the hatchet for the good of the game. To be perfectly honest, the feud was a little cringeworthy and even their respective partners, Nadal and Federer were uncomfortable.