By Cam Huffman
Pete Sampras and John McEnroe are coming back to West Virginia this fall, and they’re bringing two other tennis stars with them.
The two Tennis Hall of Famers, who came to White Sulphur Springs last September for the first-ever Greenbrier Champions Tennis Classic, will be back on the outdoor clay courts at the famed Greenbrier Resort Sept. 21-22 for a second helping of what is expected to be an annual event. They’ll be joined by Ivan Lendl and Tommy Haas this time around in what will be a two-day affair that will include both singles and doubles matches.
“We are so thrilled to continue to build the tradition of the fall tennis classic at The Greenbrier and welcome Pete and John back to the resort,” said Jim Justice, owner of The Greenbrier, in a release. “We could not ask for better ambassadors for the resort and our extraordinary tennis facilities than four of the most talented players that have ever graced the court in international men’s tennis.”
Sampras, who captured a 3-6, 6-3, 10-7 decision over McEnroe in front of a crowd of 700 at last year’s event, won 14 Grand Slam titles during his career and was No. 1 in the world at the end of six consecutive years from 1993 through 1998.
An avid golfer, he’s hoping to see a little more of The Old White TPC, the host course for the PGA TOUR’s Greenbrier Classic on this year’s visit.
“I’m excited to come back,” said Sampras, who won his first pro tournament when he was only 18 years old. “Since we’ll be there an extra night, hopefully we’ll be able to relax a little more and play a little golf. But I’ll also have to do a little work to get ready for Tommy. He’s a top 15 player.
“I’m looking forward to the week. It’s a great resort, and hopefully everybody has a good time.”
McEnroe, known as much for his personality as his game, won seven Grand Slam titles and was No. 1 for four straight years from 1981 through 1984. He’s now a popular television analyst.
“It was a bit in and out (at the Greenbrier) last year,” said McEnroe, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1999. “But I was extremely happy that I was able to remain competitive with Pete. I think the altitude there helped me, and it was nice to go to a place that was new for me.
“It’s nice to see that people felt good enough about it that they wanted to have both of us back.”
Lendl spent 17 years on the ATP Tour and was ranked as the world’s No. 1 from 1985 through 1987 and then again in 1989. He won eight Grand Slam titles and helped lead Czechoslovakia to a Davis Cup victory in 1980 before eventually becoming an American citizen.
Lendl is now the coach for Andy Murray, the No. 2 player in the world.
“He’s very meticulous,” said McEnroe of Lendl. “He was very good (as a player) at coming up with game plans, and he still does that as a coach.”
The other new face, Haas, has competed on the ATP Tour since 1996 and is currently ranked No. 14 in the world. In May of 2002 he reached No. 2 in the world, and he’s won 14 career singles and doubles titles. He also won a Silver medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
In 2012, Haas was named the ATP Comeback Player of the Year, after a season that saw him upset the world’s No. 1 player, Novak Djokovic.
“He’s an experienced player,” said Sampras. “He’s been around for many years. He’s smart. He knows what he can and can’t do, and, quite honestly, he made one of the biggest comebacks I’ve seen in many years.
“What Tommy’s done has impressed me. He’s 34 or 35 and still has the passion to play.”
This year’s event will begin on Saturday, Sept. 21 with a singles match between McEnroe and Lendl at noon. Sampras and Haas will follow with a match at 2 p.m.
There will also be meet and greet opportunities with all four players that day, with tickets running $25 per meet and greet session.
On Sunday, Sept. 22, there will be a doubles match pitting the Americans — McEnroe and Sampras — up against the Europeans — Lendl and Haas — at noon.
“It will be a little more of an event with the other players and the doubles,” said Sampras. “I think they tested it out last year with John and I, and they were happy with it. We just want to have a lot of fun and make sure everybody’s happy.”
Tickets to the matches are available for $125 per day for general admission, and reserved seats are available for $200 per day.
To purchase tickets, call 855-239-7531.