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Federer stops Sampras at Madison Square

The Swiss superstar had to fight hard before prevailing 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (8/6) in two hours and 14 minutes.

sports Updated: Mar 11, 2008 18:13 IST

World number one Roger Federer enjoyed a special moment here on Monday when he beat Pete Sampras in an electrifying exhibition match in New York's Madison Square Garden.

"It was like a dream come true for me," Federer said. "Playing my childhood hero here at the Garden. I had never played here. It was great. We had lots of fun."

Sampras and Federer, considered two of the greatest male tennis players of all time, performed before a crowd of 19,000, including golfing legend Tiger Woods.

"I have messed up the Grand Slam this year," Federer, 26, said. "Pete is not playing anymore so the only one really going for it is Tiger Woods.

"It was great that he came. I always appreciate when he does a trip like when he came to see me in the US Open in '06."

Federer, who revealed on Saturday he was sick with mononucleosis at the start of the season, is feeling healthy again.

"I felt great. Now, I really need more matches. It is nice to have been pushed to the brink," he said

The Swiss superstar had to fight hard before prevailing 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (8/6) in two hours and 14 minutes.

"I knew it was going to be tricky," said Federer who thumped 19 aces to Sampras' 13 and hammered 55 winners to 40 for his opponent.

"There was lots of pressure for both of us."

Despite the strong showing, the 36-year-old Sampras pushed aside any notion that he might attempt a comeback on the pro tour.

"That's not for me anymore," Sampras said. "I have no intention of coming back, not today, tomorrow, or ever."

Sampras, who officially retired after the 2002 US Open, dropped his serve in the opening game.

Federer displayed brilliant court stewardship. He broke Sampras one more time in the ninth game to run away with the first set in 29 minutes.

In the second set, Sampras leveled with solid serving.

The seven-time Wimbledon champion fell 0-2 in the ensuing set but staged a remarkable comeback, reeling off five straight games to go up 5-2 and 30-all.

But Federer regrouped and snatched the victory in the tie-breaker when a Sampras backhand sailed wide.

"I thought I had everything under control, then he came back out of nowhere with some great serving," Federer said. "I hit some great shots when I needed too."

Federer and Sampras reportedly earned 500,000 dollars in appearance fee money in New York.

The Swiss and the American faced each other for the first time in a three-city Asian exhibition tour in November.

The series kicked off in Seoul on November 20, moved to Kuala Lumpur on November 22 and concluded at Macau, China on November 24.

Federer edged Sampras twice, with the American veteran coming on top in their last encounter.

"I'd love to do it again," Sampras said. "I am retired and he is very active. It is up to Roger if he wants to do it."

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