Bridgette plays a bride on the big screen and in real life with Pete Sampras
By LOUIS B. HOBSON -- Calgary Sun
HOLLYWOOD -- Tennis ace Pete Sampras is one determined player.
On the court and in courtship.
Back in September of 1999, Sampras and some his tennis buddies caught an L.A. screening of the comedy Love Stinks.
Third Rock from the Sun's French Stewart plays a man who is pursued by a beautiful but neurotic woman played by Bridgette Wilson.
Sampras was amused.
He was intrigued.
He was smitten.
"Pete half joked to one of his friends that he'd love to meet me. His friend tracked down a friend of mine and together they set us up for a blind date," recalls the blond beauty who became Bridgette Wilson-Sampras on Sept. 30 last year.
"I agreed to let Pete phone me and talk about the possibility of a date. The first five minutes of that phone call were painful.
"I had no idea who I was talking to. I didn't know he was one of the top-rated tennis players in the world.
"The only thing I really wanted to know was if he was taller than me. The worst dates I've had are with men who are shorter than me. I think it's because we both felt uncomfortable. "
Wilson-Sampras admits she asked her telephone admirer to send her a photo.
"I showed it to a girlfriend and she put me in the picture."
Wilson-Sampras says it was not love at first sight for her or Sampras, but adds, "after a few dates I knew there was something special. In three months I knew Pete was the one."
She later discovered Sampras "had the same feelings at the same time. My sister talked to both of us independently and we pointed to the same day as the one that made us certain we were falling in love."
At the time they began dating, Wilson-Sampras was filming the romantic comedy The Wedding Planner in which she plays Matthew McConaughey's wealthy girlfriend who eventually loses her finance to Jennifer Lopez, the couple's wedding consultant.
Sampras proposed while Bridgette was filming The Wedding Planner. The timing, it turns out was perfect.
"It was a simple, quiet proposal, but it took me completely by surprise. I honestly didn't see it coming.
"I am really glad I made The Wedding Planner. It's what spurred me on to hire one to take charge of Pete and my wedding.
"We needed her desperately because we only had six weeks to plan our wedding. Having someone co-ordinate the wedding allowed me to concentrate on the day rather than on the incidentals."
One incidental that Wilson-Sampras left to a real expert was her wedding dress. It was designed for her by America's famous gown designer Vera Wang.
"I supposed it helped that I was marrying a rich, famous tennis player. Vera usually demands a lot more lead time than I gave her."
Wilson-Sampras says it is auspicious that she was married on Sept. 30.
"Pete's brother has the same wedding anniversary so they can help each other to remember the cards and presents."
She admits since the wedding she and Sampras have had to organize their time around each other's busy schedules.
"Right now, we both have demanding careers. We try to visit each other on location but it's difficult.
"We'd love to spend an extended holiday in Greece some time because that is Pete's heritage and we both really want children, but I don't think either is going to happen in the near future."
During their courtship, Wilson-Sampras asked her husband to give her tennis lessons.
"I'd never played tennis in my life, but I felt I should learn how for Pete's sake.
"He was very patient. I'm a bit of a slow learner and not all that co-ordinated."
In April, Wilson-Sampras stars in Just Visiting, John Hughes' remake of the French film The Visitors.