Seriously, what is the point of this IPTL? Nothing at stake, no ATP points, players already on holiday and attracted by the lure of money... We understood, the International Tennis Premier League, this unlikely rehash of American InterCitys which will take place in Asia until the 13th of December, will have limited sporting interest. But the presence of a few tennis legends amongst the four teams competing with Sampras, Agassi, Rafter, Ivanisevic or Moya guarantees a good 90s revival. The opportunity to dive back into these years of "great servers" and "ultra-fast surfaces", here are the best memories.
Andre Agassi vs. Pete Sampras – 2001 US Open quarterfinals
While it is now official that the two biggest rivals of the 90s are NOT friends, one of the last exhibitions between the two Americans had almost turned sour...
... We prefer to remember the 34 duels that marked their careers between 1989 and 2002. The highlight being at the US Open in 2001: four sets (four decisive games and no break) 338 Points (almost all beautiful, air attacks against military defence) and at the end Pete winning with his mental 6-7 (7), 7-6 (2) 7-6 (2) 7-6 (5). It had been called at the time "the best match of all time." That was before the arrival of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, but the only thing missing to this match was maybe not to have made history. It is true that it didn't change anything about Sampras career, nor to that of Agassi, or that of the US Open, that the two Americans had already won several times.
Andre Agassi vs. Goran Ivanisevic –1992 Wimbledon Finals
For Agassi, Ivanisevic is inevitably a good memory. And why not even the man of his life since it is thanks to him - with pain - that the American finally managed to change his life, at 22! Legendary match, with the great Goran doing hara-kiri at 4-5 in the fifth set, taking shortcuts in his service game, failing 6-7 (8) 6-4 6-4 1-6 6-4. Quadruple surprise, Andre Agassi, who wasn't much more than a loser in a blonde wig and fluorescent shorts at the time, won his first Major where he was the least expected (on grass, a surface that was far from his favourite) for a big moment of depression (no good result since the start of the season), against a man he had never beaten (Croatian then leads 2-0), and moreover he was wearing white...
Rafter vs. Agassi – 2000 Wimbledon semi-finals
We never know which one to choose amongst the 15 matches between Rafter and Agassi. Today, we will remember the semi-finals of Wimbledon 2000, further evidence that Agassi was never really a man for a fifth set. Here, for fear of seeing the Australian attacking him on his returns, Agassi forced his second and multiplied the double faults on crucial points. "I took risks but I don't regret it because it's not by playing cautiously that you win major tournaments." We also remember his delicious lack of lucidity at the US Open 1997 when Rafter, winner of the event, had stopped him short in 8th round. "He has no chance of winning, had however assured the American at a press conference. There are still plenty of guys who can beat him. I'm not saying that he doesn't play well, I'm just saying he's not going to win the tournament."
Pete Sampras vs. Goran Ivanisevic –1998 Wimbledon final
"This is the worst time of my life. This doesn't make me want to come back. The only thing I can do is to kill myself. I'm no good for anyone." Without his Wimbledon title in 2001, Ivanisevic might have ended up having a nervous breakdown, or he would maybe have accepted to play against Sampras today? These words, amongst the darkest ever uttered at a press conference by a professional tennis player, were said after the third defeat of the Croatian player in the Wimbledon final, the second against the American, with a score of 6-7 (2) 7-6 (11) 6-4 3-6 6-2. Without being a masterpiece, this final remained memorable partly for this dark and suicidal poetry of the brilliant tormented soul.
Rafter vs. Ivanisevic – 2001 Wimbledon final
We saw better tennis since on Wimbledon Centre Court, but have we ever seen a more emotional final than that one? Honestly? The synopsis: Ivanisevic the cursed man, former great-hope-turned-has-been who stole in extremis to the Australian (6-3 3-6 6-3 2-6 9-7) this major victory which was so deserved at the dawn of thirtieth birthday after which he decided to hang up the racquets. In other words, it was then or never. And given the content of his statements at previous finals, no one actually knows how else could have ended this incredible Monday of July, animated by thousands of Croatian and Australian fans...