GAME * SET* & CAREER*****. -
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 12-01-2005, 08:58 PM Thread Starter
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GAME * SET* & CAREER*****.

Game, Set, Career
by Rick Reilly (June 16, 2003 SI)

Just inside Pete Sampras's front door in his cushy Beverly Hills house is a case of unopened cans of tennis balls.

"We give them to our friends who have dogs," says his wife, the actress Bridgette Wilson.

Suddenly, she stoops and covers her mouth. "Oops! Did I say that out loud?"

It's the worst-kept secret in tennis. The greatest player who ever lived has quit, without a parade, without a tour, without a goodbye. He has taken his record 14 Grand Slam singles titles and his unseeable serve and called it an era. He's traded his Wilson for his Wilson.

O.K., Sampras says there's a "five percent" chance he could come back and maybe play Wimbledon in 2004. "but the problem is wanting to." The way his nose wrinkles when he talks about it, you get the feeling he'd loofah-scrub Al Roker first.

"It's weird to say, but I'm content," Sampras says. "I'm happy. I've got nothing left to prove to myself. That's a big statement. I'm coming to terms with it, you know? I'm like, "I'm stopping?' But there's nothing left in tennis I want to achieve."

So winning at least one French Open means nothing to you? "If it did, I'd have been there this year," he says flatly.

Now wait a minute! You just don't do this in America! Not at 31! You don't just stop! You're supposed to keep striving, wanting aching to be more, better, greater. In this country the day you buy your Saab 900 is the day you start working your buns off towards the Saab 9000. The carrot is for chasing, not eating, damn it! "I know," he says with a grin. "It's crazy, huh?"

So the final act was his smash hit: the unforgettable Big Fat Greek Upset over Andre Agassi in the finals of the 2002 U.S. Open, when the 17th-seeded Sampras climbed into the stands to hug the person whom the media had blamed for his 26-month winless streak--his pregnant wife.

"[A TV commentator] had called her the Yoko Ono of tennis," he says, venom in his eyes. "That sooo pissed me off. Criticize me, criticize my game, but don't criticize my wife. She pulled me through the hardest period of my tennis life. That's why that [Open win] felt so damn good. I shut them all up in two weeks of work. I showed them that the best part of me was her."
Full yet empty at the same time, he took the rest of 2002 off and the first three months of 2003. In late April he was just about to begin the two-month sweat-a-thon that would get him ready for this year's Wimbledon when something turned up missing--his desire. "I've always had this little thing I do when I tie my shoes," Sampras says. "I finish tying them, slap the ground and say to myself, Here we go! But this time, it didn't feel good. And I stopped, right there and then."

He stewed over it. Was his career really over? He called friends in and out of tennis. Finally, when he called Wayne Gretzky and asked him what to do, the hockey god said simply, "You're the only one who can know." Sampras realized then that he already did. And that has pleased exactly nobody else.

His family, his friends, Bridgette, they all want him to play one more Grand Slam event. "I want it to be up to him, but, just personally, I'm going to miss watching him play," Bridgette says holding the six-month -old boy, Christian, for whom she's happily suspended her acting career. "And I'd love for Christian to be there once, even if he'd never remember."

But Sampras is choosing this new Huggies life, this Gymboree world where he's a hero to nobody but a kid who will never see him play. "My life not playing is too good!" he says, and that life includes adults--too much golf with his pal, actor Luke Wilson, and too many welts from banging with his three-on-three hoops buddies out on his tennis court. (Hey, you gotta use that space for something.)

He's a new man. You should see him chug the baby's baby's chocolate soy milk straight out of the carton, order the extra dessert, eat dinner without a thought of carbohydrate counts. "If I want steak instead of a big plate of pasta, I can," he gloats. "Or I can not eat at all. I'm free! I don't have to worry all the time: How am I going to play tomorrow? How're my legs? Did I eat the right combinations?"

But doesn't America deserve a chance to watch you take your last bows? "Acch," he says with a shrug. "I see Michael Chang doing the farewell tour thing, the rocking chair in each city thing, taking the bows. I don't want that. I hate to be honored. I took my bows at that Open. I just didn't know it."

I pity Pete Sampras. I do. He's lost the drive, the ambition, that will that keeps the rest of us busting his butts. There is no hope for the satisfied man, they say. Sampras is 31, and he'll never do anything greater in his life. He's doomed to spend the rest of his days with a neck-snapping blonde and a gorgeous son in a hilltop palace with nothing to do but find new and creative ways to blow his career winnings of $43 million.

(Hey, Pete, need any help?)

Last edited by angiel; 12-01-2005 at 09:03 PM.
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Re: GAME * SET* & CAREER*****.

Sampras says will never play French Open again

[June 14, 2003 Reuters] Pete Sampras says he will never again play at the French Open, the only grand slam tournament he has not won.

The record 14-times grand slam winner, who has not played since beating old rival Andre Agassi in September to win his fifth U.S. Open title, said he had put too much pressure on himself to win in Paris.

"That's that. I won't be seen at Roland Garros anymore," the 31-year-old said in an interview with sports daily L'Equipe on Saturday.

"I did everything I could to win the title, so I am giving it up without regret. I changed my preparation, playing a lot on clay before the French Open, or less, but there was always something wrong," Sampras said. "I came every year for nearly 15 years, I did everything I could to win this title, so I can forget it without having any regrets."

"When I came back to Flushing Meadows last year, everyone thought I couldn't win. Then I did win. So when I beat Andre in the final, it meant something enormous to me.

"I wanted to prove something, that I was still able to win a 14th grand slam tournament," he added.

Sampras said he had planned to return to Wimbledon this year. The American has pulled out of this month's grasscourt event, which he has won seven times, but has not ruled out a possible return.

"If I had made a comeback in the middle of the season, I've have done it at Wimbledon. Two months ago I started training again seriously with the aim of going back to Wimbledon. But it didn't last, my heart wasn't in it any more.

"This decision not to go to Wimbledon was followed immediately by that not to play in 2003, because If I can't motivate myself for the tournament that I put above all the others, it's not even worth thinking about the rest.

"I said to myself: 'What do you have to prove?' And I said 'stop'. I stayed at home, I stopped training. I didn't have any aim, I can no longer have any aim after all that I achieved in my career and what happened in the US Open."

And he admitted he will be tormented about not being at Wimbledon this year.

"When I think about tennis it's usually about Wimbledon.

"At the moment I've no feelings. But the first day of the tournament I know that I'm going to be thinking about it a lot, it will even torment me."

Asked why he did not announce his retirement, Sampras said: "I did not want to close the door for good. I will see at the end of the year if I will quit or not. Maybe in November or December, after more than a year without a competition, I will have the desire to play a few tournaments.

"With a bit of luck, it will be for the US Open or Wimbledon in 2004."
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 12-01-2005, 09:02 PM Thread Starter
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Re: GAME * SET* & CAREER*****.

Referee Mills feels he may have mistreated champ Sampras

[June 21, 2003 CHARLES BRICKER South Florida Sun-Sentinel] As tournament referee Alan Mills contemplated the first Wimbledon in 15 years without Pete Sampras, there was a sadness in his voice, as well as a lingering fear that he might have had something to do with Sampras' absence here.

"I think putting two and two together, he thought he was badly treated last year and maybe he's a little bit annoyed," said Mills, who had scheduled Sampras' second-round match against George Bastl on an outside court.

"He played his match on Court No. 2 and lost to a lucky loser, which obviously devastated him. You could tell that by the way he was at the end of the match. I hope it's not because of that that he's basically retired," said Mills, who also is the long-time referee at the Nasdaq-100 on Key Biscayne.

It was not unusual for Mills to schedule former champions for a match away from Centre Court or Court No. 1.

"We always try to put top players out there. We had McEnroe, Connors, Henman, Rusedski. ... I think it's a little bit unfair if you keep the same player inside the big courts all the time," he said.

"Pete called to find out where he was playing and I told him. There was no argument. Fifteen minutes later he called back, asking if there was any chance of going indoors, as he called the big courts. I said, `Well, no, the order has been published.' Then his coach (Jose Higueras) came in, which is fair enough. He looked at the four men's matches on the big courts and said he could understand. Pete's match didn't have the attractiveness of the others.

"The way he handled it told me he takes the rough with the smooth, that he's a great sportsman. I will miss him in a personal way."

Listening to Mills, there was a sense that the episode on Court No. 2 last year still weighs heavily on him.

"I hope Pete will come back, because he will be invited back," Mills said.
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 12-01-2005, 09:11 PM Thread Starter
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Re: GAME * SET* & CAREER*****.

Wimbledon will miss Sampras' presence

[June 22, 2003 Charles Bricker] For the first time in 15 years, including seven in which he raised the championship trophy over his head on the final Sunday, Pete Sampras is not at Wimbledon.

His locker in the gentlemen's clubhouse has been passed on to another player. You won't find him on his favorite practice court, gagging it up and betting dinners with Tim Henman or Jeff Tarango that he can whip them in a tiebreaker. The house he rented for years has been let to someone else.

There is no evidence anywhere of his presence, though you might still get a chill as you enter one of the gangways on Centre Court and look down on the pristine grass which has become known, quite correctly, as Pete's Lawn.

Yankee Stadium without Babe Ruth. Chicago Stadium without Michael Jordan. In its own context, Wimbledon, which begins its annual fortnight run Monday, has lost just as much.

Even in his unannounced retirement, Sampras cannot be separated from this pantheon of tennis. He has won 14 Grand Slam titles, but it is at Wimbledon, not at the U.S. Open, where his greatness was forged, and he will be deeply missed.

Outwardly, Sampras displayed little change in personality or attitude over the years. He was the consummate Wimbledon sportsman -- a man who held this tournament in as much or more esteem as any Brit and who never uttered a demeaning word in a news conference.

Inwardly, however, there was a petulance boiling up within him that was fed, in a reverse way, by his Wimbledon success.

He was indignant that he never received the unbounded adulation from the rest of the sports world than he routinely received from the tennis community.

And so he remains in Los Angeles, unofficially retired and happily married with a son and no apparent plans to play in 2003. Yet he has not declared himself finished as a player.

How will he be remembered at Wimbledon if he has indeed played his last match here?

Henman needed less than three seconds to answer that question. "Best grass-court player that ever lived," Henman replied. Then he smiled. "That doesn't take me or a rocket scientist to say that, does it?" he added.
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