Shook Pete’s hand in Shook

KUALA LUMPUR—Yesterday, when my watch read “3:15,” I knew it was improbable. The exclusive, by-invitation-only Cocktails Party for Roger Federer and Pete Sampras was scheduled at 6 p.m. and, less than three hours shy of that time, I still had not received any confirmation.

But by 3:30 p.m., as I pulled out my mobile phone, my eyes enlarged reading the text message: “Ok I will meet u @ Starhill 530pm. I will pass u the invite then.”

WOW! I couldn’t believe it. We were at the IKEA store, 30 minutes away from the hotel, and I had barely two hours left. Plus, I had a problem: I brought no formal attire. So I rushed to buy a pair of leather shoes, bought a Giordano gray T-shirt, and, just as I was searching to buy a black coat, Dr. Ronnie Medalle phones to say that I can borrow his black jacket. Perfect. And so I ran. Got to Hotel Capitol by 4:15, changed, then sprinted to the venue.

The party was held at Shook Bar, a chic and classy resto-bar reserved for the Who’s-Who in Malaysia. It was located at the lower-most level of one of KL’s most luxurious malls, Starhill Gallery.

I arrived just in time. And as soon as Suresh Menon, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) official who secured for me that pass, arrived and handed me my pass, I could hardly believe my luck.

Here I was, inside this cordoned area in a swanky Kuala Lumpur bar, an hour away from meeting face-to-face with two tennis greats.

While awaiting their arrival, I phoned my Cebu companions and asked them to rush to the venue to take a peek and snap some photos. And so they did: my wife Jasmin, Dr. Ronnie and Stephanie Medalle, Mark and Ding Aseniero, and five others who had just arrived: my brother Charlie and his wife Mitzi, Rene Ven Polinar, and Sun.Star Cebu’s Lifestyle columnist Chinggay Utzurrum and Executive Editor Michelle So.

From left: Charlie, Mitzi, John and Jasmin Pages; Stephanie and Ronnie Medalle; Michelle So, Chinggay Utzurrum, Ding and Mark Aseniero, and Rene Ven Polinar

Waiting for Roger and Pete, I was surrounded by Malaysia’s elite—many in coat-and-tie and body-hugging dresses. I grabbed a glass of Heinekin beer (I don’t drink but it was free and I wanted to celebrate!) then just milled around. And, I drew closer to the stage—a move that would prove to be very wise—and talked with a few others who were just as excited.

By 7:15 p.m., the Shook Bar shook. Cameras flashed. Music pumped. Spotlights glared. Then, like movie actors stepping out to meet their crazed fans, Pete Sampras strode down the escalator, followed by Roger Federer, all under a thunderous rain of applause.

They stepped on the stage. Waved to the crowd. Smiled. And I was 10 feet away! Unbelievable. Here, in front of me, stood THE TWO GREATEST TENNIS PLAYERS OF ALL TIME.

Sampras wore a black sweater, which he rolled up to his elbows. He sported a pair of gray pants and black leather shoes. Federer, obviously the more fashionable of the two, wore jeans and a white polo shirt covered by a black suit.

“It’s an honor for me to be here,” Sampras first spoke. “He’s the best player in the world and he was nice enough to pick me to play him.”“It’s a great thrill for me to play Pete,” said Roger, returning the favor. “I’ve always looked up to Pete when I was young. He was the guy, next to Becker and Edberg, who took away all the Wimbledon titles and I hoped one day to maybe play in Wimbledon.”

Wimbledon? A hard-to-believe thought crossed my mind: These two men have won a combined 12 Wimbledon crowns.

Then, after a few minutes of speaking to the mesmerized crowd, it was the photo session. And they only had time for a few dozen. Good thing—as I mentioned earlier—I stood near the stage.

When my time came up, I was whisked near Sampras, whose hand I shook while saying “Hi, Pete!” We posed for a photo and, like all photo chances with great men, that was one shot I’ll picture in my mind for a lifetime.

That’s me (right most) with Roger and Pete

That’s me with back facing… shaking hands with Pete Sampras

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!


  1. What a thrill for you to be standing on the same stage with two of the world’s greatest tennis players. The photo op and hand shaking were merely icing on the cake, I’d say. I laughed on how you narrated your frenzied afternoon. Ako pud siguro mag-karag karag. But understandable for you sure didn’t want to miss out on a once in a lifetime invitation.

  2. hi daddy! Very nice article about Sampras and Federer. I misss you and mommy very much and hope that you have a safe trip back to Cebu!
    I love you and mommy so much!


  3. wow john it’s an event of a lifetime…me here in florida just settle to pose with nicole vaidesova at nick bollettiere tennis academy.

  4. Hi John! yes indeed a very enchanting moment to meet them up close and personal. Actually I also watched their game there in KL. I wasn’t expecting to see them too close because my ticket i bought was a bit far already – i think it was the third cheapest so anyway I was just roaming around the venue before the start checking which entrance they will go and I was just so lucky when suddenly Roger and Pete got down from the car – Mercedez I think and it was so fast and here they were in front of me and I was sooooo mesmerized and i kept on saying roger..roger..roger .. totally awed and forgot to take a pic haay anyway I still wont forget how he looks like in person and even until now I can perfectly picture him in my mind. I’m also a roger fanatic since way back in 2004 until now and even my kids know who Roger is and we all fondly call him papa rodge! heheh Please give my best regards to Jasmine. I think my comment is way too late hehehe but i only accidentally “discover” your site just recently.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *