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Sampras Praises Monfils Following San Jose Exhibition

San Jose, U.S.A.

Gael Monfils© Ron AngleGael Monfils goes behind the lens to capture Pete Sampras in action.

Frenchman Gael Monfils made a memorable debut at the SAP Open, taking the court across from American Pete Sampras in an exhibition match Monday night in San Jose. Monfils defeated the former World No. 1 by a score of 7-6(4), 6-4, and afterwards admitted it was “a bit like a dream” to play the Hall of Famer.

Sampras, a two-time San Jose champion, was pleased with his performance and had high praise for his opponent: “I played a little better than I did last year and held my own, but physically that’s the most I’ve served and volley in combination of the last seven years. Not easy.

“Gael’s a great mover. He returns well and made me work pretty hard on my service game, but all in all, I’m very happy with the way I played. I had a few chances in the first set I let slip away, but he’s the real deal. I’ve played a lot of good movers in my day, but not only does he move well, but he slides, which helps really cover the court that much better.”

After failing to convert on four break points in the first set, the 39-year-old Sampras opened up a 3-2 lead in the second set only to lose his next service game. Monfils sealed the victory with another break of serve after one hour and 19 minutes of play.

Sampras, who won 14 Grand Slam titles during his career, said about Monfils’ chances of winning a major: “You look at Roger [Federer], [Rafael] Nadal and [Novak] Djokovic now, you can tell that they can play at that level a little bit easier, a little less effort, whereas with Gael I think just to get there is a lot of work.

"He has the talent, it’s just a matter of putting it all together, but he has the game. He serves big, he can come in when he has to, and returns quite well, but to win these majors you’ve got to be very, very special. He has the talent, it’s just going to take some time. He’s still very young. He’s 24. He still has a lot of time to get it.”

World No. 12 Monfils is the No. 2 seed this week at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament, and will play American wild card Bradley Klahn in his first-round match Wednesday night.

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