Re: Pete and Bridgette 2006
Tennis: New York triumph may be fitting end for Sampras
Independent, The (London), Sep 10, 2002 by John Roberts at Flushing Meadows
BRIDGETTE WILSON'S diary, if she keeps one, would be a good place to research the agony and the ecstasy of life with a struggling superstar. The actress married Pete Sampras on 30 September 2000, less than two months after he achieved a record 13th Grand Slam singles title by winning his seventh Wimbledon championship.
From that moment until the elation of his triumph against Andre Agassi, his career-long rival, at the United States Open here last Sunday night, Sampras had laboured through 33 tournaments without winning a title of any kind.
The 31-year-old multi-millionaire's professional pride was hurting, and those of us who are not fit to string his rackets were urging him to retire before the regular losses became an embarrassment on the scale of this summer's second-round defeat on Court Two at Wimbledon by George Bastl, a "lucky loser" from Switzerland.
Some wondered if marriage had made Sampras too comfortable to meet the demands of his status in the sport. "Bridgette's support is a big reason why I've been able to get through the adversity," he said, having made his way up the steps of Arthur Ashe Stadium to give her a hug. "She lives with me every day. Trust me, it's not easy. When you're struggling, you're not having fun, it's a burden. It just showed me that I met the right woman, and now we're going to have a child. That's what life's all about."
Sampras also embraced his older sister, Stella, and his coach, Paul Annacone, with whom he was reunited a few days after the low point of losing to Bastl at Wimbledon. "Whatever is next, it's Pete's choice," Annacone said. "He can continue on the path he started last month and get better, or he could walk off into the sunset."
It would be hard for Sampras to find a sunset as perfect as the one over Flushing Meadows on Sunday, where he defeated Agassi, 6-3, 6- 4, 5-7, 6- 4, hitting 33 aces - one, it seemed, for each of the tournaments that eluded him during his two years of anxiety. Even then, a case could be made for Sampras as the greatest player the men's game has seen, even allowing for the supreme serve-volleyer's inability to win on the slow red clay of the French Open. Securing a 14th Grand Slam at this point in his career, and in an era when the grind of travel and tournaments is more demanding than ever, strengthens the argument.
Wimbledon may prove to be too strong a magnet for Sampras to resist. "Hopefully, my last Wimbledon will be on Centre Court and not Court 13 or Court Two," he said, grinning.
So he is not ready to call it a day? "I'm going to have to weigh things up in the next couple of months to see where I'm at," Sampras said. "I still want to play. I love to play. But to beat a rival like Andre in a major tournament, at the US Open, a story-book ending, this might be a nice one to stop."
There was pause. "But", he continued, "I still want to compete. Right now my head's spinning. I'm sure in the next couple of weeks I'll reflect on it, see where my heart's at, and my mind, and decide what to do in a few months' time. I wanted to stop on my own terms. That was one thing I promised myself, even though I was struggling this year and hearing this and that. I deserved to stop on my own terms.
"And I've done too much in the game to hear the negative things. There was a point I was believing it, but having my family, my wife, and Paul, kept me positive. I could step away from the game and feel really good about what I'd done. But I still felt like I had one more moment, maybe a couple more moments. And it happened today.
"I never thought anything would surpass what happened at Wimbledon a couple of years ago, but this one might take the cake. This might be my biggest achievement so far. The way things clicked for me today, it was awesome. [Because of the rain delays] I had to play five matches in seven days. That was a lot of work. I peaked at the right time against Andre. I had to."
Sampras has won 20 of his 34 matches against Agassi, who was on the other side of the net when the Californian won his first Grand Slam title as a 19-year-old at the 1990 US Open. During the course of that tournament, Sampras hit 100 aces. On reflection, he says he "just had a hot two weeks" and that his game was not mature enough for such an early success. He hit 144 aces this time.
The 32-year-old Agassi's renowned return of serve did not threaten Sampras until midway through the third set, when the momentum of the match began to switch, leading to a dramatic fourth set in which Sampras hung on as weary legs took a toll on both players. Agassi would probably have been favoured in a fifth set, but he did not get that far.
"No disrespect to anyone I've played over the years," Sampras said, "but Andre's the best I've ever played. He has an extra gear. He brings out the best in me. He's made me a better player. He's forced me to add things to my game. He's brought moments to my career that are like Borg and McEnroe."
Greg Rusedski, who, after losing to Sampras in five sets in the third round, said the American was a step and a half slower than he used to be, barely rated a mention at the end of the day. "Greg's got his own issues," Sampras said. "His issues have issues. We're talking too much about the wrong guy."
SAMPRAS THE GOLDEN OLDIE
The US Open men's final between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi was the first between two players over 30 in the Open era. Agassi is 32, Sampras 31. The final was also the first between over-30 players in Grand Slam competition since the 37-year-old Ken Rosewall defeated the 36-year-old Mal Anderson to win the 1972 Australian Open. Sampras is now the oldest Grand Slam champion since Arthur Ashe won Wimbledon in 1975 at 31 years, 11 months, and the oldest US Open champion since Rosewall won in 1970 at the age of 35. Sampras was 31 on 12 August 2002.
Sampras's record in Grand Slam finals
1990 US Open: bt A Agassi, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
1992 US Open: lost to S Edberg, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2. 1993 Wimbledon: bt J Courier, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3. 1993 US Open: bt C Pioline, 6-4, 6-4, 6- 3. 1994 Australian Open: bt T Martin, 7-6, 6- 4, 6-4. 1994 Wimbledon: bt G Ivanisevic, 7-6, 7-6, 6-0. 1995 Australian Open: lost to Agassi, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-4. 1995 Wimbledon: bt B Becker, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. 1995 US Open: bt Agassi, 6-4, 6-3, 4- 6, 7-5. 1996 US Open: bt M Chang, 6-1, 6- 4, 7-6. 1997 Australian Open: bt C Moya, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. 1997 Wimbledon: bt C Pioline, 6-4, 6- 2, 6-4. 1998 Wimbledon: bt Ivanisevic, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. 1999 Wimbledon: bt Agassi, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5. 2000 Wimbledon: bt P Rafter, 6- 7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2. 2000 US Open: lost to M Safin, 6-4, 6- 3, 6-3. 2001 US Open: lost to L Hewitt, 7-6, 6-1, 6-1. 2002 US Open: bt Agassi, 6- 3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.
All-Time Grand Slam winners' list
1 Sampras 14; 2 Emerson 12; 3= Laver 11, Borg 11; 5= Rosewall 8, Connors 8, Lendl 8; 8= Newcombe 7, McEnroe 7, Wilander 7.
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