FEW things give competition added significance more than rivalry.
And as tennis legends Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi showed on Sunday, the competition never quite ceases – not even when both parties have called it quits.
"As much as it's an exhibition, there's still a lot of pride," said Sampras before the Venetian Macao Tennis Showdown – the first time the two retired former world No. 1 stars squared up since the 2002 US Open final.
"Our egos are pretty big. Once the first point starts, I'm going to want to beat him."
Win Sampras did, 3-6, 6-3, 10-8, although in many ways, the clash was not quite like their previous 34 encounters (Sampras enjoys a 20-14 advantage, although this does not include the match-ups during their junior days).
For one, Pistol Pete would never opt to return first after winning the coin toss in his heyday.
Not to mention that he was eventually out-aced by Agassi, who is known more for his return of serve.
But while the contest was friendlier (how else can you explain Agassi's big smile after almost every point) and the stakes not as high, there were moments when it felt like we were living in the 90s once again.
The 11,000 fans who made it down to Asia's gambling capital, must have felt that they had hit the jackpot during a rally at 3-1 in the second set.
Agassi had retrieved Sampras' trademark Slam Dunk overhead only to see another smash pass him by. That was probably worth the entrance fee alone.
Then there was the exquisite half volley by Sampras to wrap up the second set, and bring the match into a champions' tie-break.
And pretty much like old times, he served the match out with an ace.
"It all came flooding back to me on court," said Agassi post-match. "Including the ace Pete did at the end."
Meaningless friendlies? Not if the match features two greats, and certainly not when a rivalry is renewed.