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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-07-2006, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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My date with Pete

After practice with Sampras, I learned he's still got it

Posted: Tuesday March 7, 2006 11:56AM; Updated: Tuesday March 7, 2006 12:16PM

First, Martina Hingis made a successful comeback. Then, John McEnroe followed her lead and became the first Hall of Fame inductee to return to the ATP Tour and win a tournament with his doubles victory in San Jose last month.

Could the most successful male tennis player in history be next?

When my phone rang last week, there was a familiar voice on the other end. That old sarcastic, condescending tone instantly revealed the identity of the great Pete Sampras. After catching up, he invited me to come and practice with him.

Pistol Pete and I have been frequent practice partners over the years, especially while he was contemplating retirement after his career-closing win at the 2002 U.S. Open. So my surprise wasn't with Sampras wanting to hit balls with me, but his desire to play at all.

In talking to Sampras during that ambiguous period, when he was assessing his desire to continue his career, I assumed he would take some time away from the game to decompress if he didn't feel he could maintain his level of commitment and excellence. Sampras earned the perfect ending to his spectacular career, winning his last event and finishing at the top of his sport -- a rare feat in any profession.

Sampras has spent most of his retirement honing his golf game, whittling his handicap down close to scratch, and helping his beautiful actress wife, Bridgette Wilson, raise their two young sons, Christian and Ryan. Sampras was never the type of player who enjoyed practicing for the sheer fun of running around and hitting tennis balls. He practiced with a purpose and out of necessity to maintain his skills as the best player in the world.

Knowing this, I wasn't surprised to hear that Sampras didn't hit much during his retirement. But even I was amazed when he told me during our first practice that it was only the fourth time he hit at all during his 3 1/2 years of retirement.

As soon as I showed up at Sampras' sprawling Beverly Hills mansion, I knew few things had changed. Contrary to public perception, Sampras is not the shy, reticent champion he is depicted as. A certain amount of confidence and self-assurance is needed in order to become the best in the world at what you do, and Sampras is no exception. I think that's why he always enjoyed practicing with me: I'm a big target, both literally and figuratively.

Never one to shy away from a confrontation, Sampras always took great pleasure in pointing out the obvious disparities in our career accomplishments. This fact was never more evident than when he walked me through his trophy room on the way to his private tennis court. If the old adage holds true that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," I must admit, catching a glimpse of those seven Wimbledon trophies side-by-side was one of the most beautiful things I have even seen.

During our frequent water breaks, we would chat and I would pester Sampras with questions. I have always been naturally inquisitive, but even more so when I'm around the tennis elite. I think it's normal to be intrigued by greatness, to wonder what sets the truly great apart or how they view certain situations. That has often been my feeling when I've been around Sampras, Andre Agassi or Jim Courier, the three most successful players that I have had the good fortune of spending time with on and off court.

Sampras informed me that he committed to play an exhibition event in Houston in a few weeks and a significant portion of the World Team Tennis schedule for the Newport Beach franchise. He was relaxed and in good spirits and we practiced over two days for about an hour and 15 minutes each. We started off rallying up the middle and then moved on to some competitive baseline games where one person feeds the ball and then the point is "live" with both players trying to win the rally.

I instantly felt like I was taking part in an experiment proving the value of natural talent and instincts. Sampras' timing and skill were still impressive, especially considering how infrequently he has played. Tennis is a sport that puts a huge premium on repetition, timing and balance -- that's what separates the greats from the rest. Sampras was, and always will be, one of the greats.

Here's a newsflash: He's still awesome, not so much in consistency, but in his shot-making ability. His cross-court forehand was automatic. His timing on his backhand was off -- as is to be expected, since it was always his weakest shot -- and he was definitely a step slower (which, incidentally, still leaves him a step faster than me). But his serve was as fluent as ever and his volleys were crisp.

I always thought Sampras was the hardest volleyer I ever played against, and I instantly remembered why when he came to the net. What amazed me the most about our workout was that everything still seemed as effortless and explosive as ever, almost like he took some old tools out of the shed, polished them off and they were right there again.

Unfortunately for the tennis world, Sampras has no interest in competing on tour ever again. His participation will be limited to exhibitions and special events, even though I'm fully convinced he could still challenge the best in the game.

Outspoken ATP tennis pro Justin Gimelstob is a frequent contributor to
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-07-2006, 08:26 PM Thread Starter
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March 7, 2006.


Do you really see the uber-competitive Pete Sampras just playing World Team Tennis and a few exos every year and leaving it at that? "I miss the game, I miss the majors, I miss competing," said Sampras on his reasons for picking up a racquet again. "But to play at the level I used to play is a whole other animal. I've done that, and I know what it takes. Me playing a little tennis this year is something I can control. There isn't any pressure. I can relax and have a little fun." Yeah, until he's mowing down active pros in WTT matches. Then it's going to be Pete at home getting the wildcard invite and inquiring, 'Hey, ummm, honey -- what would you think about maybe a trip to Wimbledon for some vacation?' After all, Pete did promise he would be back (he didn't say when) to play at the All England Club.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-07-2006, 08:37 PM Thread Starter
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Game on for stars in valley


Darrell Smith
The Desert Sun
March 7, 2006

Oscar night's glow has scarcely faded from view but our commitment to bringing you the stars who descend on the Coachella Valley will not waver, as evidenced once again by this week's celebrity sightings.

"Class" act

Friday's performance of the popular "Senior Class: A Revue of the Golden Years," at the Palme d'Or theater in Palm Desert was a who's who of entertainment on and off the stage. In the audience were Broadway legend Carol Channing and comedy legend Phyllis Diller, recently of the brilliantly blue comedy documentary "The Aristocrats," in the valley to sign and discuss her new book "Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse: My Life in Comedy." Also in the seats were Emmy award-winning producer William Asher ("Bewitched," "I Love Lucy") and Barbara Stuart, who played "Miss Bunny" in "Gomer Pyle."

After Friday's show, Diller hosted a party for the cast at Macaroni Grill.

A good cause

Do yourself a favor, tennis fans and head to La Quinta Resort and Club Tennis Stadium 2:30 p.m. today for a free tennis exhibition to benefit the Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation.

Who will be there? Living legends Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova, and James Blake and Mardy Fish.

Tim Gullikson, a top tour player and later desert resident Pete Sampras' coach, died of brain cancer in 1996.

The foundation funds support programs to assist brain tumor patients and their families. Donations will be accepted at the match.

Don't you feel special?

You would if you watched the 78th annual Academy Awards on Sunday and were at the 16th annual Palm Springs Film Festival in January.

There's that nagging sense of deja vu watching "Brokeback Mountain"'s Jake Gyllenhaal and Felicity Huffman of "Transamerica" and party "Crash"-ers Terrence Howard and Cris (Ludacris) Bridges of Best Picture winner "Crash" on the small screen, knowing that we saw them right here in our back yard mere months ago. Better than a crystal ball, this film fest.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-07-2006, 08:44 PM Thread Starter
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Press Release Source: The Sports Network

Vic Braden Serves Up Tennis Features for The Sports Network
Tuesday March 7, 9:45 am ET

HATBORO, Pa., March 7 /PRNewswire/ -- The Sports Network, the nation's foremost real-time sports wire service, has announced an agreement with Vic Braden, longtime sports science researcher, licensed psychologist and the founder of Vic Braden Sports Instruction and the Vic Braden Tennis College, which are held nationwide at premier resorts, to contribute tennis features to and, accordingly, to their international wire service as well as the branded sites of hundreds of clients worldwide. A spokesperson for TSN added that Mr. Braden has also produced sixteen instructional videos that incorporate his research and his coaching knowledge.

"Vic Braden is a gem, an icon in the world of tennis although it is admitted," stated Mickey Charles, president & CEO of The Sports Network, "that those who know of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Amelie Mauresmo, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Kim Clijsters, Lindsay Davenport, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Nalbandian and Ivan Ljubicic will not be instantly conversant with Vic. That certainly does not lessen his credentials nor diminish his ability to contribute a learning experience, advice and some humor.

"His lighthearted approach is endearing and his motto of 'Laugh and Win' has helped shape the resoundingly positive attitudes of decades of students. In his books, videos, Tennis Colleges, and speeches," continued Mr. Charles, "Vic strives to teach effectively and connect with students on a personal level, aiming to uncover the 'genius to perform' that he believes rests in every individual. And, from what I know, he succeeds admirably. The fact that he and I graduated from the same university," he concluded, "was sheer coincidence. Besides, said with a smile, he predated me."

Mr. Braden has authored six books, contributed to publications such as Sports Illustrated, and continues to author editorials for several publications such as Tennis Week and Tennis Life. In addition, he has appeared on popular television shows including NBC's Today Show, hosted his own television shows on PBS and ESPN, and provided televised tennis commentary for numerous professional events.

Working with famous sports researchers for several decades, Vic finds great joy in passing on new and valuable information as he strives to help students maximize their performance and enjoyment of this great sport in the shortest period of time.

"In our (thoroughly biased) opinion," added Scott Riley, Tennis Editor for The Sports Network, "Vic is simply the best. Tennis has, admittedly, stood on the sidelines watching golf eclipse it as not only a participation sport but one whose fan base has gathered momentum from year to year and season to season. The growing resurgence in tennis recently can use the insight, guidance and wit of Vic Braden. We're fortunate to have him on our team."

About The Sports Network

The Sports Network is the nation's foremost international real-time sports wire service furnishing a plethora of content on a 24/7 basis using state-of- the-art technology. TSN's website,, contains voluminous proprietary sports news data that includes, but is not limited to, scores, trends, analysis, news, features, statistics, pre- and post-game reports, box scores, historical data, and very much more. Among its clients are Google, AT&T, Reuters, Viacom Television Station Group, Tribune International, Knight- Ridder Digital, Lexis*Nexis, Westwood One, Dallas Morning News, New York Times, Boston Globe, New York Daily News, Houston Chronicle, Denver Post, L.A. Times, Detroit News, Clear Channel Network, Learfield Communications, Media News, Metro Source, Comtex and hundreds more. is consistently ranked as one of the most prominent sports sites on the Internet - - and TSN currently brands sports pages for sites numbering in excess of 500 while furnishing-satellite transmitted data and online transmission to a host of organizations domestically and internationally.

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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-07-2006, 09:15 PM
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Hello Pete fans

Here is the link to Justin's column about Pete at If you could all click on it just once, I would appreciate it. Helps him to have a high hit count for the column. There is also a comment box there if you want to send a message to Justin.

Best twitter posts of the epic match:

@dougrobson - Whoever is supplying Mahut with hair gel needs to ink a sponsorship deal now.

@Wimbledon - FYI, with @Wimbledon live scoring devices, please add 50 to the games in the fifth set of the Isner v Mahut match.

@HolterMedia - Nice to see that a three-day test has come to tennis here @wimbledon.

Andy wearring Crocs, courtesy of Smitty8
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