Indian Wells: Last Friday’s verbal showdown between Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras has been described by world number one Roger Federer as an “awkward moment” and “a bit unfortunate”.
The episode occurred during the “Hit for Haiti” charity doubles match at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden where Sampras took exception to Agassi’s suggestion he was a poor tipper.
Each of the players competing wore a microphone so the crowd and television viewers could hear the banter and Agassi repeated the allegation he had made about his fellow American in his autobiography ‘Open’ last year.
“There was definitely an awkward moment, a bit of a heated moment,” Federer told reporters on Sunday after beating Romania’s Victor Hanescu 6-3 6-7 6-1 in the second round of the Indian Wells ATP tournament.
“It’s a bit unfortunate, but that stuff kind of happens. It’s a pity if that’s what grabs the limelight and not the event itself, you know.”
Federer and Sampras overcame Agassi and Rafael Nadal 8-6 in the match to raise money for victims of the Haiti earthquake.
The evening was organised by venue owner Larry Ellison, who got the idea from a similar match Federer organised during the Australian Open in January.
Ellison, the billionaire software mogul and chief executive of Oracle, presented a check for $1 million to the American Red Cross Haiti relief and development fund after the match.
Although most of the banter between the players was light-hearted and entertaining for the capacity crowd of 16,100, Sampras and Agassi appeared to get heated late in the match.
After Sampras and Federer had taken the lead, the American celebrated with a fist bump, prompting Agassi to reply: “You always have to get serious, huh Pete?”
Sampras countered: “Okay Andre, I’ll joke a little bit. I’m going to imitate you.” He then mimicked Agassi’s bow-legged shuffle.
In response, Agassi turned his pockets out and said: “I don’t have any money. No, wait, I’ve got a dollar”
The back-and-forth continued, Sampras at one point saying: “If that’s the way you want to play it”, and Agassi responding: “It’s better than being a valet driver and you pulling up.”
Federer felt it had perhaps been a bad idea to have the four players miked up.
“You’re sitting there and you’re thinking: ‘What now?’ I can’t say. I wish we wouldn’t play with the microphones on, to be quite honest,” he said.
“I don’t think it was that crazy bad, but it was a bit awkward because you didn’t know. Was it just fun, was it not fun? What was it, you know?
“I thought maybe we have to give both guys like a timeout or something,” Federer added with a smile. “We didn’t have to go that far. They weren’t that bad.”
The Haiti earthquake of January 12 is thought to have killed up to 300,000 people and left a million homeless.