BY DARRYL RICHARDS
Jul. 20, 2002 8:47 a.m.
DALLAS — Pete Sampras, still licking his wounds from an embarrassing
Wimbledon performance, is desperately searching for ways to reclaim
the game that made him the Grand Slam king.
And while Sampras is the first to say that quest starts from within,
he is also looking for a helping hand. Again.
Sampras confirmed he has parted ways with Jose Higueras, who coached
him at the French Open and Wimbledon this year. Sampras made quick
exits from both tournaments, failing to get past the second round in
either event. But Sampras said bumbling around London and Paris like
an aimless Chevy Chase in European Vacation did not cause him to look
for his third coach this year.
"I was hoping to continue to work with Jose, but I needed somebody
who could work with me more full time," said Sampras on Friday before
playing Andy Roddick in an exhibition match at Moody Coliseum. It was
his first public appearance on a court since a stunning second-round
loss to George Bastl at Wimbledon.
Sampras is looking for his game and he is searching for the right
mentor. He ended a six-year relationship with Paul Annacone in
December and started the year working with Tom Gullikson at the
Australian Open. Sampras reached the fourth round in Melbourne,
losing to Marat Safin.
In his heart, Sampras says he still believes in his game. Although he
hasn't won a tournament since winning his seventh Wimbledon title in
2000, Sampras has reached the last two U.S. Open finals. But he is
searching for something to put him over the top.
A full-time coach may be the answer. Rumors are Sampras may go back
to Annacone for the summer hardcourt season. It makes sense because
there is familiarity and Sampras is a creature of habit. Annacone
knows his game and frankly, with everything Sampras has accomplished,
who is qualified to tell Sampras what to do on the court?
Sampras said regardless of whom coaches him in the future, he is
mostly responsible for turning around his game.
"This has been the most frustrating time in my career without
question," Sampras said. "I've put in a lot of work and I have
nothing to show for it. I'm going to have to do something I've never
done before and have a comeback. I have the game and I want to do it.
I feel like I can win a couple more majors."
Imagine telling Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky how to retool his
game. Sampras, who turns 31 next month, may be in more need of tough
love than anything else at this point in his career.
"He knows how to play," Gullikson said. "He has to remember what he
did to get back to where he was. To me it's simple. It means having a
positive attitude and playing aggressive tennis. He has to dictate
the points again, he has to move forward."
Gullikson, whose late twin brother Tim coached Sampras early in his
pro career, also made a compelling point. Sampras has to be true to
himself. He is the player who has to get in shape. He is the one who
has to be positive about his game.
"A player who is coming back has to be willing to seek the truth,"
Gullikson said. "Athletes don't always want to seek the truth. If he
is willing to seek the honest truth, I think he is capable of winning
A Sampras comeback would rank among his greatest accomplishments.
Most tennis players are ready to call it a career once they turn 30.
Andre Agassi's geriatric success is a rare exception. Sampras would
like to be another.
"My challenge is myself," Sampras said.
It's a formidable opponent.