Sampras Could Still Reach Wimbledon Second Week, Annacone Says
By Ravi Ubha
Feb. 20 (Bloomberg)
-- Pete Sampras could reach at least the second week of Wimbledon if he decided to come out of retirement, the record 14-time Grand Slam champion's former coach said.
``If he had the right lead-in and the right practice, there's not a lot of guys I would feel uncomfortable about him playing,'' Paul Annacone, who coached Sampras for more than six years, said in an interview.
After quitting tennis in 2002, the 35-year-old Sampras faced fellow American Robby Ginepri in an exhibition in April and played World Team Tennis, a pro league, in July. Last month, Sampras announced he would play seniors tennis by committing to an Outback Series tournament in Boston in May and last week added an event in Charlotte in September.
Sampras, who won half his majors on the grass courts of Wimbledon, still has the game to make the round of 16 at the All England Club, according to Annacone.
``I have absolutely no problem saying that, given the draw and some other stuff, but I don't think that would be a stretch at all,'' he said.
Sampras won 64 titles and earned more than $43 million in prize money in 14 years, capping his career by defeating Andre Agassi in New York for a fifth U.S. Open title. This July, he'll be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Since quitting the game, Sampras said he's spent much of his time playing golf in California and spending time with his two sons, four-year-old Christian and 1 1/2-year-old Ryan.
Ruled Out Return
Kevin Callanan, Sampras's agent, couldn't be reached for comment about Annacone's remarks. Sampras last month ruled out a return to Wimbledon -- and the professional circuit -- though added he would have a chance on grass with his serve-and-volley game because most players now stay on the baseline rather than come to the net.
Rafael Nadal, the two-time defending French Open champion on clay, reached the 2006 Wimbledon final by sticking to the baseline before he was eventually beaten by top-ranked Roger Federer, who captured a fourth straight title.
The men's tour ``is a whole different lifestyle and I'm done with that,'' Sampras said in a Jan. 30 conference call. ``That being said, I am hitting the ball pretty well. I've been hitting pretty consistently for the past six months. I can still play at a pretty good level.''
Annacone, who coaches four-time Wimbledon semifinalist Tim Henman part-time and became a men's coach with the U.K.'s Lawn Tennis Association in November, watched Sampras play four or five times last fall.
``Since last September he's put a lot more emphasis in getting into shape,'' Annacone said. ``If Pete was playing on grass for one tournament, there's not a lot of guys who I would favor over him.''
To contact the reporter on this story: Ravi Ubha in London at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Last Updated: February 19, 2007 21:39 EST