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Beyond the Baseline

Tennis players who appeared on Late Show with David Letterman

Serena Williams appeared on David Letterman after winning gold in both the singles and doubles tournament at the London Olympics. (Jeffrey Ufberg/WireImage) Serena Williams appeared on David Letterman after winning gold in both the singles and doubles tournament at the London Olympics. (Jeffrey Ufberg/WireImage)

Late-night talk-show host David Letterman has announced that he will retire in 2015 after 32 years. A number of tennis players have appeared on his New York-based show, which was an easy press stop before and after the U.S. Open. Through Letterman, several stars, both domestic and foreign, got an opportunity to introduce themselves to an American audience.

Here are some of our favorite interview moments:

Serena Williams

Williams was on Late Show four times, once as a Top 10 list presenter and three times as an interviewee. But her most memorable appearance came in 2009. Let's just say, Letterman really liked her dress.

http://youtu.be/ADvhNqild8g


Marat Safin

The Safin charm was in full effect in his media tour after he won the U.S. Open in 2000. U.S. audiences got to see what tennis fans already knew: Safin was the best interview in tennis and his quick wit translated easily. Already joking that he was a little bit drunk from his celebrations, he shared the secret of his success with Letterman: "No, [I drink vodka] every day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. And cookies."

http://youtu.be/Md5g50kaXTU


Andy Roddick

A two-time guest, Roddick made his first appearance after winning his only major, the 2003 U.S. Open. The hair was plentiful and spiky, and the interview was weirdly awkward. Letterman seemed ill prepared to interview the young upstart, and the questions were clunky. But we did get some Mandy Moore discussion, so it all worked out in the end.

http://youtu.be/L-eFxmhV0CE


Maria Sharapova

Sharapova popped up on the show for the first time in 2006 after winning her second major, at the U.S. Open. Poised and willing to throw a few barbs Letterman's way, it was a good introduction for Sharapova to American audiences who may have never seen her interviewed. It's funny seeing Sharapova, who has since struggled with her serve after shoulder surgery in 2008, belittle the concept of serving big. On the guys serving at 140 mph, "That should be illegal. It should be banned."

http://youtu.be/AiPKY1_wngw


Rafael Nadal

It speaks volumes about Nadal's confidence in his English that he was willing to banter with the quick-talking Letterman. Then again, it turns out Rafa is used to a quick tongue.

"If someone from Barcelona comes to Mallorca, they gonna be in trouble to understand us," Nadal told Letterman when referring to his native Mallorcan tongue. "We talk too fast for them."

To which Letterman quipped "You ever been to Trenton?"

As for his rivalry with Roger Federer, Nadal joked, "Well, sometimes it's better if he is not there."

http://youtu.be/BVWsaTkX6XA


Pete Sampras

Sampras' lone appearance came after he won Wimbledon in 1994. And he had to do the interview as a chef cooked up dinner.

http://youtu.be/I3Kv66CJTKI


Andre Agassi

"The hunkiest tennis player ever," as Letterman introduced him, Agassi appeared with his blonde wig still intact after winning the 1994 U.S. Open.

http://youtu.be/y8RCTQQtOXI


Jimmy Connors

Connors appeared in 1999. He apparently came with his good friend Ilie Nastase. Oh, to be a fly in the green room as they discussed their old antics.

"I feel that when Open tennis and money came into the game, so long as you didn't really overstep an invisible boundary, you went out there and enjoyed yourself, you argue a little bit, but you still try and give them good tennis," Connors said. "That's what I tried to do. That in turn brought color into the game, brought a little more excitement into the game, and packed the stadiums. It brought more money into the game."

http://youtu.be/JuIg_InwD4g


John McEnroe

McEnroe's appearance in 2000 has to be the first time that Davis Cup (McEnroe was the U.S. captain) was discussed extensively on mainstream American television.

http://youtu.be/wRrNntqdhOM

You can watch part two of the interview here.

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