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Agassi on Sampras: 'We’ve straightened it out'

Agassi on Sampras: 'We’ve straightened it out'

NEW YORK (AP)—Forgive the tennis fans at Madison Square Garden if they’re secretly hoping to see Pete Sampras fire a serve at Andre Agassi’s head.

The two exhibition matches Monday night offer more than the chance to see four greats with 37 combined Grand Slam" titles. For guys who are long retired, there’s still an edge in the air when the Sampras-Agassi and John McEnroe-Ivan Lendl rivalries are renewed.

The four traded good-natured barbs at a news conference Monday morning, often about their past tensions.

Just under a year ago, Agassi and Sampras faced each other in what was supposed to be a friendly match for charity. Wearing a microphone, Agassi mocked Sampras for being stingy, a claim he had made in his book. Sampras responded with a high, hard serve that forced Agassi to duck.

Asked about the state of his relationship with Sampras, Agassi replied, “Strictly platonic.”

“That’s the nicest thing you’ve said about me in two years,” Sampras quipped.

“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.”

Added Sampras: “In my eyes, it’s over. 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.”

At which point Lendl interjected, “That wasn’t Andre you were talking about in the back?”

McEnroe and Lendl will play one set, first to eight games, in the event, called the BNP Paribas Showdown. Sampras and Agassi will play best of three sets.

The two younger players joked they were sitting between Lendl and McEnroe on the podium to keep the old adversaries as far apart as possible. Lendl and McEnroe faced each other in a record 20 ATP Tour finals, with McEnroe holding an edge by the slimmest of margins: 11-9.

“It would be an understatement to say I was pumped up to have this chance,” McEnroe said of playing in his native New York. “I never thought I’d have the chance to play Ivan, No. 1, because he didn’t play a match for 16 years—faking that back injury.”

When McEnroe noted Lendl’s role in promoting the annual tennis exhibitions at the Garden, Lendl said, “If you get what you perceive as a bad call, those linespeople work for me, too.”

Will there be challenges? McEnroe asked.

“You appeal to me,” Lendl deadpanned. “It will be a quick call.”

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