An older article but a nice read anyways ....
BY MATTHEW CRONIN
Aug. 26, 2003
FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. — There are some analysts who prefer to call Rod Laver the best player of all time and they make a good argument. After all, "The Rocket" did win the Grand Slam twice, a feat that will likely never be accomplished again, at least not on the men's side.
But for three decades at least, there was never a player like Pete Sampras. Not Bjorn Borg and his incredible back-to-backs at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, not the ferocious Jimmy Connors, nor the artistic John McEnroe, the intense Ivan Lendl or the clinician Andre Agassi.
On Monday night, when Sampras teared up three times in front of the press, wept for a good minute in front of a nearly sold out Arthur Ashe Stadium and then took his victory lap with his angelic looking son, Christian, you just knew you were looking at a true player apart. He was a man who always knew he could pull off a remarkable victory, a player whose weapons hit their targets during the big moments. He won 14 Grand Slams, held the top year-end ranking a record six times and beat the best of his generation when they were at their best.
"I feel like my game will match up against anybody's," said Sampras. " I played perfect tennis in my mind at times, I stayed No. 1 for many years, which is tough to do. I feel like when it was a big match, I would come through. But to say I'm greatest ever, I won't say that."
But if you believe that sports leap up another step every decade, he is the best — at least for now. He certainly gave fans the world over some of the greatest moments in tennis history — way too many to note, but a few that stand out and will etch Sampras into the history books forever.
Sampras threw out his own moment of truth, mentioning that his loss to Stefan Edberg in the 1992 U.S. Open final was the turning point in his career.
"It made me hate to lose. I just became obsessed with being the best," he said.
There was his record-breaking 13th Slam title at 2000 Wimbledon, when the relentless Aussie Patrick Rafter had him on the ropes until Pete dug so deep that he hit stone under the hallowed lawns at the All England Club.
There was his greatest moments on clay, when he single-handedly led the U.S. Davis Cup team to their last title in Moscow in 1995. After his first match, he had to be carried off the court with cramps in his three and a half-hour win over Andrei Chesnokov. He came back the next day to team with Todd Martin for a doubles victory and then crushed Yevgeny Kakelnikov to clinch it.
There was his gut-check, food-and-fluids gone fifth-set tiebreaker quarterfinal thriller over Alex Corretja in the 1996 US Open quarterfinals, when he cramped so badly that he stumbled around and held his aching body up with his vomit-stained racket, but still managed to come up with remarkable winners when he needed to.
"Maybe the perception was I didn't have heart. I was digging deep — no pun," he said. "There were times when I looked a little lackadaisical, not into it. That was a great moment for me."
There was his picture perfect four-tiebreaker quarterfinal victory over Andre Agassi at the U.S. Open in 2001, possibly the best match ever played.
But the capper for Sampras and for most fans was his extraordinary run last year. He hadn't won title in more than two years coming into the tournament. He had been shocked at the tournament he ruled — Wimbledon — by journeyman George Bastl. Some critics wrote he should retire right then and there.
"That was one of the biggest low points, maybe the biggest, he said. "I was really down in the dumps after that."
But while only his close friends, family, coach and a handful of analysts believed he could win the 2002 Open, Sampras definitely did.
"I never had a doubt," he said. "I wasn't winning a Slam, but I still felt I could. That's why I kept it going. That's why I continued to play after 13 majors."
As John McEnroe said, it was a Dimaggio- like performance. His magic came back against young and old. He blistered hot young German Tommy Haas in the fourth round, embarrassed teen Andy Roddick in the quarters, overcame smart Dutchman Sjeng Schalken in the semis and in the final, and he took out Agassi when Agassi was at his near best in mouth-watering 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 victory.
His serve whizzed and whirred to the corners, his volley found all the right angles, and he leapt on his returns and found his sidewinder forehand. The big moments came and they went past Agassi right into Sampras pocket. Slam No. 14 was his.
"I proved it to myself and that the most important thing,' Sampras said. Once I had nothing like to prove, that's where I am right now ... I really climbed a tall mountain."
Sampras will stride out of New York tomorrow with a big smile on his face. Who wouldn't be pleased after being lauded by a number of the game's greats and being cheered like you are the second coming of one of your heroes, Michael Jordan?
He has no idea what he'll do with the rest of his life, other than to grow his family of wife Bridgette and son, Christian, but Sampras also knows that the thrills and chills that he experienced and gave out to the public are now behind him. And that's Okay.
"I'll miss playing. I'll miss competing. I'll miss going out in finals at Wimbledon or here, in front of 20,000 people," Sampras said. "That rush, that excitement. "Just the joy of playing the game that I will miss... But my time is done. I'm at peace with stopping. It's time too move on."
Pete Sampras is joined by his wife Bridgette Wilson-Sampras and son, Christian Charles, after he announced his retirement from tennis Monday.