Pete Sampras overcame triple match point against Todd Martin to win his seniors tennis tour debut on Sunday, splitting the first two sets 6-3, 5-7 before prevailing 11-9 in the tiebreak.
Sampras hadn't played competitive tennis since winning the 2002 US Open for his record 14th Grand Slam title. Retired at 31, he didn't pick up a racket or watch tennis on television for almost three years before deciding to play a limited schedule of exhibitions and Champion's Cup events.
His presence was a coup for the seniors tour and reminder for his opponents -- Petr Korda, Tim Mayotte, John McEnroe and Martin -- of why he dominated the regular tour when they were in their prime.
"Adding Sampras has certainly added some extra buzz," said Jim Courier, a competitor and organizer of the tour. "There's no question that when you bring in 14 major titles in one body, it's going to get tougher."
In a nod to the players fitness, the matches are best-of-two sets, with a 10-point tiebreaker in case they split the sets. Sampras won the first set 6-3 and it was 5-5 in the second when Martin broke Sampras' serve, then held serve to tie it.
Trailing 9-6, Sampras won five consecutive points. Martin was serving for the victory at 9-8 when he hit a backhand -- a "pretty easy" one, Sampras said -- into the net; Sampras took the victory when Martin returned a serve wide.
Sampras had been doing his best to stay in shape playing 3-on-3 basketball twice a week in Los Angeles with friends, including former tour player Alex O'Brien. Beach volleyball and golf have also kept him busy when he wasn't chasing his two young children around the house.
But now that he's back on the court, he plans to make a few appearances -- not the entire seven-event tour -- including Athens in two weeks.
"I'm excited about taking my folks there, being a Greek-American," Sampras said.