Head Coach Bruce Harrison chair umpire for legend match-up

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AJ Neuharth-Keusch


Radford University Women’s Tennis Head Coach Bruce Harrison had the opportunity to be the chair umpire for tennis legends John McEnroe and Pete Sampras on Saturday, Sept. 22.

In 1987 Harrison was certified to be an official. He typically officiated for club and local tournaments. When he was presented with the opportunity to be the chair umpire in this exhibition match held at the Greenbrier Resort, it was a no brainer he would say “yes.”

“I had fun. I think I was having too much fun,” said Harrison.

McEnroe (53 years old) and Sampras (41) have a combined 21 grand slam titles. Sampras has the second most behind present day champion, Roger Federer (17) while McEnroe is tied for 13th with seven other players.

“They were very entertaining. What’s impressive is how well they still covered the court and how well they placed the ball.”

They’re two of the greatest players to ever string up a racquet. Harrison was honored with the opportunity to interact with them.

“It was great, it was fun. Sampras was talking to me on the changeovers, and when he walked by he’d make a little comment to me. After McEnroe got in my face he walked by and goes ‘you having fun yet?”

McEnroe is notorious for his fierce temper and abusive attitude towards umpires and line judges. In the exhibition, he lived up to his reputation and got into Harrison’s ear several times.

“The girl calling the service line…missed a call and I overruled it and of course the overrule went against McEnroe,” said Harrison.

Everybody was able to laugh it off and get back to the lackadaisical mood of the exhibition.

Although it was a laid back event, the competition was still quite high.

“It’s competitive. I think Sampras might have had a little more to give than he showed us. He’s younger than McEnroe and he’s got a huge forehand and I don’t think we saw him totally unleash all of his shots.”

The opportunity Harrison received was once in a lifetime and bestows envy to tennis fans around the globe.

Although they’re two of the greatest players of all time, Harrison explained that they’re exciting to be around, stand-up guys with positive attitudes.

Despite their notoriously intense attitudes during match play, the two are comedic as well.

“[Sampras] was entertaining to me on the changeovers. He opened up the cooler and he was digging in the cooler…he said ‘could you not put something more fun in my cooler for me?’”

Sampras ended up winning the match in three sets. Both McEnroe and Sampras were complimentary of The Greenbrier’s efforts to expand the visibility of tennis at the resort. Each expressed hope of being involved in any future Greenbrier tennis ventures.

Maybe another exhibition will be held there in the future, where Coach Harrison can go back and fight through the taunts of the ever notorious tennis legends McEnroe and Sampras.