In the heart of Southeastern West Virginia is a budding sporting empire being built by Jim Justice, owner of the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Almost a half-decade ago, Justice brought the PGA Tour to the area with the Greenbrier Classic, while last year a taste of the NFL came to town with the New Orleans Saints holding their preseason training at a new facility.
This year, tennis has appeared at the forefront of Justice's vision, with a new tennis stadium, Center Court at Creekside (built by architect Matt Rossetti) debuting this Father's Day weekend. The 2,500+ capacity stadium was rocking on Saturday afternoon waiting for Pete Sampras (14 career Grand Slam titles, retired in 2002) and Andre Agassi (8 career Grand Slam titles, retired in 2006) to take the court.
It was a back-and-forth affair early, but Sampras showed that he still has a walloping first and second serve, flummoxing Agassi often. Agassi countered with methodical, yet dictating play from the back end of the court, attempting to wear down Sampras. However, the match was suspended at 3 games a piece in the 1st set as heavy showers entered the Greenbrier Valley, postponing the match to Sunday.
The match resumed in the early afternoon on Father's Day, with only 1/3 of the crowd returning. Those who were not able to stay for the conclusion of the event missed quite a treat, as it was heated.
The first set would go to a tiebreaker, where Sampras would continue to gain an advantage on Agassi through his overwhelming serve. Sampras would win the set, but Agassi, 'The Punisher', would stick to his gameplan. Although Sampras would get to Agassi with a few impressive dropshots to begin the 2nd set, Agassi would make a comeback, his bald head glistening in the sun. He made Sampras run more by hitting some conservative shots, and did not commit many errors. Sampras would start to lose his form by the end of the set, allowing Agassi to throw a few taunts at him.
With the 2nd set going to Agassi, the match would go to a 10 point tiebreaker. Both players were sweating like hogs, as there was very little breeze to cool off the setting. Sampras would start off with a 2-1 advantage, utilizing another dropshot to flabbergast Agassi. However, Pistol Pete was starting to lose steam. The always energetic Agassi pushed his way into a large advantage by taking a few more risks than he had in the previous 2 sets. His incredible hand-eye coordination, balance, and accuracy that we have known for 3 decades pushed him over the top today, winning 10-5 in the tiebreaker.
This was a joy for the fans to see, and only a precursor of things to come for tennis fans in the area. In September, the Greenbrier Tennis Champions Classic will start, with 4 competitors in Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, James Blake, and Jim Courier.