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End Of The Road For The King - The King Is Gone.

End of the road for the king

[June 22, 2003 Sunday times, Andrew Longmore]

Pete Sampras exclusively reveals he has played his last match at Wimbledon and may not even defend his US Open title.

The racket lies in the games room, next to the pool table. Close by stand the trophies, the videos neatly stacked next to the television, the images of a career that is done. Being Pete Sampras, as cautious off the court as he was explosive on it, he will not fully commit to a life without tennis, but in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times last week, the seven-time champion admitted for the first time that he would not be coming back to his beloved Wimbledon.

"We've got the two biggest events in tennis coming up, Wimbledon and the US Open, and if there was anything in me, that would be enough of a challenge," he said. "But it's not there, it's time for other guys to hold up the trophies. I'm 95% sure I'm stopping."

Sampras can even date the moment the odds slipped beyond his reach. Two months ago, he returned to the practice court at the bottom of his garden in Beverly Hills. It was spring and the inner clock was counting down the days to his favourite time of year. He called his coach, Paul Annacone, and said he wanted to hit some balls again, the first since he won his fifth US Open so dramatically and emotionally
late last summer.

"I knew I had to get my body back in tennis shape if I wanted to play at Wimbledon," he recalls. "I'd been putting off the decision and putting off the decision in the hope that something would come back. I thought I would get back to practising hard because of what the tournament meant to me. For a couple of days we had some good practice down there. But then on the third day, after about half an hour I called over to Paul and said, `Let's sit down for a second'. He knew what was coming. "I said, `This is real, I can't do it'. I just knew my heart wasn't in it. It wasn't my body that felt bad, it was just getting up and going to practice. I enjoyed hitting the balls, the backhands and the forehands, it was the bagful of other stuff that I knew I had to do, all the drills and the fitness.

" I just wasn't where I needed to be. Last year, losing like that (to George Bastl) on Court Two wasn't the way I wanted to go out. I couldn't think of anything worse, but even that wasn't enough to make me go back.

"Then it really hit me that I wasn't going to play Wimbledon. I had to own up to the facts, to the reality of where I was, and that was a huge deal because of what Wimbledon has meant to me. Growing up as a kid, that was where I dreamt of playing and where I dreamt of winning.

"It's no longer a tennis tournament, it has become part of my life and the whole process of not playing there after so long was very hard."

For two weeks, Sampras knew he wasn't going to play; he just didn't know how to tell anyone. He had to pass one further test of motivation. At Christmas, his brother had bought him the video of his seven Wimbledon triumphs, compiled by the BBC: Courier, Ivanisevic, Becker, Pioline, Ivanisevic, Agassi and Rafter. Late one evening, when his young son Christian had gone to sleep, he slipped the video
on for the first time. He wanted to see the final against Andre Agassi, the moment he reached perfection on a grass court.

"I was searching for something," he says. "I wanted to see if that would do anything to inspire me. So I sat there and watched the match against Andre and a little bit of my last final against Rafter, out of curiousity.

"But, actually seeing me play, seeing the mindset I was in, the focus and the concentration, knowing all the work that goes into that, made me pull away even more. It seemed like another age. It made it even more clear to me that my time had gone."

Admitting that to the rest of the world proved a bigger problem, a part of what Sampras calls the "process of retirement". He told Bridgette, his wife, and the rest of his family and discussed what to do with his agent.

In the end, Sampras was sitting at the side of the court, watching the LA Lakers lose to the San Antonio Spurs, when the news leaked out.

"That was an eerie day because people kept coming up to me and asking me about it," he says. "Everyone thought I was going to play, and when I said I wasn't I think they understood what I was going through.

"The public hadn't heard from me for quite a while because I had nothing to say, but once Wimbledon came around it was time to own up. I'd be cheating myself and the tournament to go out there. So the racket went back in the cupboard and that was pretty much it."

So, for the first time in 15 years, the greatest player in Wimbledon history will be absent, on the golf course at the Bel-Air Country Club, maybe, where he regularly challenges Annacone and a group of actors, new friends of his, to a dollar or two a hole.

Curiousity will drive him to switch on the coverage late at night, to check on the progress of his old foe, Agassi, and to glimpse the tunnel vision in Lleyton Hewitt which he once recognised in himself. He was asked to do commentary at Wimbledon for an American television station, but politely declined such an instant and obvious hop over the fence. Too much of his soul would be there on the court.

Yet there will be times over the next fortnight when he will shake his head at the succession of factory-built baseliners masquerading as grass-court players.

Whatever his heart might say, his instinct will remind him that, at the age of just 31, he could beat most of them tomorrow. "I used to lick my chops when I saw someone staying back," he says.

"Look at the top 10 in the world now. I think my game could still stack up against some of these young guys. There's nobody there who can serve you off the court and I never used to worry much about returners, to be honest.

"Last year's final (between Hewitt and David Nalbandian) was a sign of what's to come. Tim Henman's there, he's one of the few natural serve and volleyers, but if he's not in the final, you could have two baseliners again.

"Roger Federer's got a good game for grass, I think, and Andy Roddick has the ability, though it's hard to serve that well every match.

"One of the reasons I was able to win it so many times was that I could play at a high level at Wimbledon with less effort than many of the others. I could just serve and volley some guys off the court and my reputation helped me, there's no question about that. But this year I think it's a matter of who gets hot over the fortnight."

He pauses, contemplating his own absence. "I'll always miss Wimbledon, this year, in 10 years' time, whenever, but I'm not going to come back and play just to say goodbye. People talk about Michael Jordan and his competitiveness in everything, but I don't feel like that. I was competitive at tennis and that's why I didn't want to contemplate a farewell tour or anything, because the only reason I play the game is to win. I've raised the bar over the years, and though it has been tough to touch the same heights over the last couple of years, I still expected to reach certain standards. "Before the last US Open I wanted to win one more major, to prove to everyone that I could do it, to prove everyone wrong. When I won it, I felt kinda empty because I realised I had nothing left to prove, but the day after wasn't the right time to call it a day. I thought maybe it was time to stop, but I wanted to be 100% sure.

"I didn't want to retire and then six months later come back again. The good thing is that I don't have to report to anyone, not an owner of a ball club or a team manager. I'm my own boss and I can make my own decisions."

The statistics define Sampras's status in the game with indisputable accuracy. He has won 14 Grand Slam singles titles, more than anybody else in history, spent more weeks at No 1 (286) than anybody else and
earned more money (just under $44m) than anybody else. His record at Wimbledon : played 70, won 63 (including 53 victories in 54 matches from 1993 to 2000) : is unsurpassed. Yet it will mean as much
to Sampras that Stefan Edberg, a player and a man in his own image, recently nominated the American as the greatest player he'd ever seen.

Nobody at Wimbledon will need any reminding of that essential truth. Sampras made it look so easy, deceptively so. "People misunderstood me, underestimated the amount of work I've had to put into the game," he says. "The game did come pretty easy to me, but for six or seven years I was the man to beat and that has taken its toll. It's nice to see Andre still out there at 33, and I wish him well, but I've burnt more fuel along the way than he has. You have to be in better shape as a serve and volleyer than a baseliner. The arm, the back, the
shoulder; the movements are more explosive. It's like the difference between a sprinter and a marathon runner."

Occasionally, the vague outline of a return to the courts infiltrates the reality of his conversation. He will give it a few more months, he says, before he finally gives up on his motivation. The US Open, and the prospect of defending his title, will be the last chance. Any longer and there will be rust on the wheels. "I feel content," he says quietly. "I never felt like that in my career. It feels good not having the responsibility any more, the travel, the practice, the airports, the lifestyle of a professional tennis player. It's not a bad life at all, but it's a hard life. I've a seven-month-old boy and he's smiling now and it's a lot of fun to see him growing up. Having a routine at home, sleeping in my own bed at night, making breakfast in the morning, that's something I've never had. It'll take time before I'll pick up a racket again, even for a gentle hit. Besides, the strings on the racket have all popped."

Just one thing he wants to know. Why do the players no longer have to bow to the Royal Box? Maybe, I laugh, it's because he's not there.

"That's right," he says, enjoying the idea. "The king is gone."

Last edited by angiel; 12-01-2005 at 10:37 PM. Reason: mistake
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Re: End Of The Road For The King - The King Is Gone.

The Sampras Interview

[May 17, 2003, Neil Harman] 'Wimbledon is the one place where I really get emotional. This has been a very, very hard decision'

THE tone of his voice gives the game away. He says it is not a "forever" decision, but to all intents and purposes it is. "I climbed the highest mountain and I'm not sure if I can top that," Pete Sampras said yesterday.

After 14 years of English summers spent accumulating a lifetime's worth of medals and memories, Sampras has chosen to be at home in Los Angeles when Wimbledon rolls around in five weeks' time. The languid grace combined with the devastating power of the most wonderful service action the sport has seen, the spellbinding volleys, the masterful movement, the slam-dunk overheads . . . all have become yesterday's treasures.

At 31, almost nine months after his last competitive match and seven since the arrival of his first son, Christian Charles, Sampras does not have it in him to challenge on the stage that was once his own patch of grass. "I didn't say anything for a long time because I didn't have anything worth saying, I just wanted to get out there and practice and see how it went," he said. "I have found out that my heart isn't in it and I always promised myself I wouldn't just play, I had to play to win. "I'm not into farewell tours and saying goodbyes. I've got to be out there to win, doing whatever it takes to be what I want to be. I would be doing myself a disservice going out there and I don't want to do that to myself. You need to be on top of your plan, on top of your emotions, have a purpose. I've just felt like it's not there. But I'm not ready to retire. I can't make that choice now. I don't want to close the door 100 per cent.

"There might be a possibility I could play next year, I don't know that yet. I'm going to miss Wimbledon, but I'll find out what it feels like not to play. Then I'll be much clearer if I want to continue or not. Right now, mentally and physically, I'm nowhere near close enough to where I need to be to compete for the majors. You can't do it halfway."

As ever, Sampras speaks plainly, but even down a phone line to his home, you get the sense of a man whose heart is breaking, ever so gently. "It's very difficult for me to have to own up to my feelings," he said. What would he not give to walk out on Centre Court (by instinct he would turn and bow, and expressed disappointment that it is no longer de rigueur) and whip a few more butts? He could play grass-court tennis in his sleep.

His record at Wimbledon is astonishing. He first played the championships in 1989, when, as a 17-year-old, he was knocked out in the first round by Todd Woodbridge. The same happened in 1990, when Christo van Rensburg put paid to his chances. But Fred Perry, Great Britain's three-times champion in the 1930s, had seen enough to be convinced that Sampras would win the title one day.

Derrick Rostagno, Sampras's fellow American, defeated him in the second round in 1991 and the following year he was beaten in the semi-finals by Goran Ivanisevic. The breakthrough arrived in 1993, beginning a run of seven championship victories in eight years, interrupted only in 1996, when Richard Krajicek defeated him in the quarter-finals en route to the title. With his twilight success in the 2000 final over Pat Rafter, Sampras overtook the record of 12 grand-slam titles, held by Roy Emerson.

In the past two years, Sampras's flame has dimmed. He was beaten in the fourth round by Roger Federer on Centre Court in 2001 and then, sadly and badly, by George Bastl, another Swiss, in the second round on the notorious Court No 2 last year. During that defeat he constantly referred to a letter, written by his wife, Bridgette, telling him that he was the best husband, the best player, the best man in the world and not to worry about the match.

In his press conference only a few minutes later, he choked up. "When I heard I was on Court 2, I wasn't happy about it," he said. "But as predictable as I've been here, you are going to have a match like this every ten years. I plan to be back. I love playing here and though I'm pretty bummed out right now, I'm not going to end my time here on that loss."

That was then. In all, Sampras played 65 singles matches at Wimbledon and won 59. He never lost in his seven final appearances. A couple of months later, when no one gave him a prayer, he won his fourteenth grand-slam title at the US Open -- his "mountain top". Since then he has gone about fatherhood with great glee, leading some to suspect that family contentment is behind his announcement.

"I have a wonderful family, but I want you to make it absolutely clear, to let people know that this decision has nothing to do with me being a father," he said. "It's about me as an athlete. If I had a goal that I wanted to achieve, the family would come to London. And I am my own boss. Of course, those who are close to me have had their opinions, but this is my choice. I'm just not driven right now.

"This is hard to admit but it's true, I'm owning up to it. Wimbledon is the one place where I really get emotional, so you can imagine that this has been a very, very hard decision. I've wrestled with it for months and months. I just didn't want to put the work in on the practice court that was required. I'd go out there for a couple of days, but on the third I didn't have it in me.

"For me, tennis has been about victories, records, numbers. My six years in a row as No 1 was agonizing, but I made myself do it. There aren't that many challenges left. I'm very content with the feeling that I can let Wimbledon go. I don't know if I'll watch it. I'll probably be anxious to see some results. I'll miss it when I'm 32, 42 or 52, but I have to remind myself what I've achieved, where I've been at. That's life."

Paul Annacone, Sampras's coach, said his man was the exception that broke the rule. He played tennis in a different way, one that brought a contrasting sense of joy, of beauty. The final last year was played between strict baseliners, a trend that Sampras believes is with us for the foreseeable future. It says much about how remote he has become from the sport that he was not even aware of Tim Henman's shoulder injury. "Of course, I wish him well, I'd love to see him win it," Sampras said.

With that, he bids you farewell. He does not want to consider whether he would return to defend his US Open title in September, he just wants time to reflect on what he has done to Wimbledon, and to himself. How can the man who has climbed the highest mountain seem so low?
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-01-2005, 10:36 PM Thread Starter
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Re: End Of The Road For The King - The King Is Gone.

Sampras calling it quits

[August 22, 2003, Howard Fendrich, AP] Pete Sampras won his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open.

He won his last one there, too.

And he'll return to Flushing Meadows to bid a formal farewell to the sport he dominated for so many years.

Sampras hasn't played a match since winning the 2002 U.S. Open, but he never officially announced he was retiring. That will change during a news conference Monday, when Sampras also will be feted at Arthur Ashe Stadium on the opening night of year's last major.

In keeping with Sampras' muted public style, the news came via an e-mailed statement from his representatives Thursday.

"We certainly look forward to having Pete back at the Open," USTA chief executive Arlen Kantarian said. "The ceremony will be a special night for Pete, for his family and for his fans."

``He was just one of the most graceful players of all time, one of the most quietly competitive players of all time, one of the best pressure players of all time. The bigger the match was, the better he played. And he didn't make a big fuss about things. He just made his name by winning. Everybody goes through peaks and valleys,'' Roddick said. ``Pete's the only guy I've ever seen win everything for six years.''

Mark Miles, chief executive of the ATP, on Thursday hailed Sampras as a model athlete.

"His passion for excellence and dedication to success make him a model athlete that will be celebrated for generations to come," Miles said. "Sampras may be retiring from professional tennis, but his legacy will carry on."

Sampras forever will be associated with the All England Club, where his strong serve, crisp volleys and booming forehand made him nearly unbeatable on grass.

In July 2000, Sampras won a fourth straight Wimbledon to break Roy Emerson's career mark of 12 major titles. After beating Patrick Rafter in the final, Sampras looked into the stands for his parents, who never before had witnessed one of his Slam wins.

Reflecting on his successful pursuit of Emerson's record, which stood since 1967, Sampras said: ``Time will tell if it will be broken. I think in the modern game, it could be difficult. It's a lot of commitment, a lot of good playing at big times.''

He wouldn't win another tournament of any sort for more than two years. The disappointments included early losses to journeymen at the French Open _ the lone major he never won _ and Wimbledon, and Sampras carried the drought into last year's U.S. Open.

He was seeded just 17th, barely above .500 for the season.

And he put together what, in retrospect, was a perfect parting gift to himself and tennis fans.

The man he beat in the Open's third round, 1997 finalist Greg Rusedski, called Sampras ``a step and a half slow'' _ but Sampras just kept winning. He knocked off twentysomethings Tommy Haas and Roddick while playing five matches in seven days to get to a fairy tale final against lifelong rival Andre Agassi.

In what it turns out will be Sampras' last match, he pounded 33 aces to beat Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 and, at 31, become the tournament's oldest winner since 1970.

At the postmatch news conference, Sampras alternated between sounding as though he were ready to hang up his racket and ready to get back to work.

``I'm going to have to weigh it up in the next couple months to see where I'm at. To beat a rival like Andre, in a storybook ending, it might be nice to stop,'' Sampras said at the time.

``But,'' he added, ``I still want to compete, you know? I still love to play.''

He has other interests, too, including fatherhood. Sampras' wife, actress Bridgette Wilson, had their first child in November.

So Sampras exits with perfect bookends: He beat Agassi in the 1990 U.S. Open final to become, at barely 19, the tournament's youngest champion.

``Pete Sampras' retirement is a time for us to honor the outstanding career of a champion who inspired us to be perfectionists,'' ATP chief executive Mark Miles said. ``His passion for excellence and dedication to success make him a model athlete that will be celebrated for generations to come.''
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-03-2005, 09:09 AM
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Re: End Of The Road For The King - The King Is Gone.

luv those article
I am still reeling abuot missing the retirement ceremnoy at US open 2002. I have never watched & been searching for links to it

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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-03-2005, 07:56 PM
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Re: End Of The Road For The King - The King Is Gone.

After Pete retired I lost interest in men's tennis...
I prefer the WTA now...
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-03-2005, 08:05 PM Thread Starter
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Re: End Of The Road For The King - The King Is Gone.

Originally Posted by SloKid
After Pete retired I lost interest in men's tennis...
I prefer the WTA now...

I feel the same as you my dear, and welcome to Pete's thread, how doing? minus the WTA, dont like women tennis that much.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-03-2005, 08:06 PM Thread Starter
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Re: End Of The Road For The King - The King Is Gone.

Originally Posted by almouchie
luv those article
I am still reeling abuot missing the retirement ceremnoy at US open 2002. I have never watched & been searching for links to it

There is a lot of articles about his retirement, go to google and type in SAMPRAS.
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