Sampras Returns and in Healthy Spirits : Splendor on the Grass: Pete and Wimbledon
By Christopher Clarey International Herald Tribune
Monday, June 26, 2000
First, the unsettling news for those who root for Pete Sampras. He has not won a Grand Slam event other than Wimbledon in nearly four years.
Now for the settling news: Wimbledon begins on Monday.
No man in this century has dominated the world's only important grasscourt tournament quite like Sampras. Not Hugh Doherty. Not the dashing New
Zealander Tony Wilding. Not Fred Perry. Not Rod Laver, Boris Becker or even Bjorn Borg, the unflappable Swede who this year will make his first return visit to the All England Club since he won the title five times in a row from 1976 to 1980.
Sampras has won six times in the last seven years in the verdant place Londoners refer to as SW19: his only loss coming in the quarterfinals in 1996 to Richard Krajicek, the big-serving Dutchman with the weak knees. And though the increasingly injury-prone Sampras is no longer the game's dominant player at age 28, it takes a brave pundit to predict that he will slip up this year.
The No. 1 seed has a reasonable draw and, unless Karol Kucera does to him in the second round what he did to Andre Agassi at the French Open, Sampras might not get his first significant test until he runs into Lleyton Hewitt in the quarterfinals. He is healthy, eager and still basking in the afterglow of his engagement last month to American actress Bridgette Wilson: that happened shortly after he lost in the first round of the French Open to Mark Philippoussis in five sets.
"There wasn't anything positive about losing the French except getting engaged," Sampras said last week. "It was a tough loss. It was a match that I felt like I could have won, and it is the major that I haven't won. So I try to do whatever I can possibly to win there, and you know I felt like I had played fine. It was a tough week being home seeing the results, seeing it on TV; you definitely want to be a part of the Slams."
Now, if all goes according to plan and serve, it will be the clay-court mavens' turn to watch Sampras on television (if they happen to have the right satellite or pay-per-view package). And just as he arrives in Paris with a certain sense of dread in his stout heart, so do the Spaniards and their ilk arrive in London with foreboding. The difference is that, as far as Wimbledon is concerned, their success on other surfaces counts for little.
It is why Alex Corretja, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Albert Costa, the Spaniards who all reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, were not seeded despite the fact that all three are in the top 16 of the ATP Tour entry system, which is used to determine seedings at the world's other important tournaments. Instead, players with much lower rankings but better grasscourt pedigrees like Krajicek, Patrick Rafter and Britain's own Greg Rusedski were placed ahead of them.
The three Spaniards have all sent letters of protest to Mark Miles, the chief executive officer of the ATP Tour, and also expressed their displeasure to Wimbledon and International Tennis Federation officials. Ferrero withdrew from the tournament altogether on Saturday, citing (and we emphasize the word citing) a back injury. Corretja and Costa have not excluded the possibility of some form of protest, which could include withdrawing or playing only a few points before retiring.
"At any moment I could start to have a headache," Corretja said in Barcelona on Friday.
What angers him most is that, unlike previous years, the new ranking system requires them to play at Wimbledon and to count their result toward their final year-end ranking. Why support a new system, they say, if the new system does not support you?
One can see their point, but Wimbledon has one of its own. It has followed its muse when it comes to seedings because of the particularities of grass-court tennis, and in November, the ATP Tour renewed a contract with the tournament that allows them such leeway. - BUT IN THE interests of fairness, it would be good if the French Open could jigger its own seedings to reflect clay-court expertise. Sampras has never had any business being seeded first at Roland Garros, and the only year he played superbly there was when he reached the semifinals in 1996, which happened to be the one year he lost at the All England Club. The two tournaments are indeed as disparate as France and Britain. Agassi came close to pulling off the double last year, when he won in Paris and reached the final at Wimbledon. But no one has done it since Borg in 1980, and Gustavo Kuerten certainly won't be the one to do it this year, even though he did reach the quarterfinals here a year ago. But who might if Sampras does not? Perhaps one of the counterpunchers: Agassi or Hewitt, who beat Sampras in the final in Queens. Or perhaps one of the more classic grasscourters: Krajicek, Henman or Mark Philippoussis, who is now getting advice from Boris Becker's former coach Mike DePalmer and who unquestionably has the game, if not necessarily the will, to win it all. A year ago, he was up a set on Sampras in the quarterfinals before incurring a serious knee injury and retiring, and his match with Sampras in Paris, with its multiple forays to the net and bludgeoning serves, bore much more resemblance to a grass-court match than a clay-court match. Why not Philippoussis? But Sampras, of sound mind and, at least, for now body, has a whole lot of history on his side. ''It is going to take someone who is playing very well to beat me,'' he said.
For Sampras, Wimbledon Is Served
By Jennifer Frey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 7, 1997; Page D1
WIMBLEDON, England, July 6 Pete Sampras felt no fear, not even a flutter, when he walked onto Centre Court today to play a Wimbledon final the entire world expected him to win. His opponent, Cedric Pioline, felt as if he could not breathe.
There is good reason Sampras had no doubt in his inviolability, and reason, too, that Pioline felt constricted. Playing better than anyone else at Wimbledon both this year and throughout most of history Sampras today claimed a lopsided 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Pioline for his fourth Wimbledon men's singles title and 10th Grand Slam championship.
At 25, Sampras owns more Wimbledon titles than anyone in the Open era except for Bjorn Borg, who won five. He has matched the total won by his idol, Rod Laver, and he is two Grand Slam titles from tying the record of 12 held by Roy Emerson. He also is on the verge of definitively establishing himself as the greatest male player in history, a title some tennis watchers already attach to his name.
"This is what it's all about, the major titles, and to have won 10 by the age of 25 I never really thought it would happen," said Sampras, the first American man to win four titles here. "This is what's going to keep me in the game. ... It makes it all worth it, all the hard work I put into the game."
With a serve so splendid it seemed unearthly, Sampras took less time to defeat Pioline today than it took Martina Hingis, the top-seeded woman, to win her best-of-three singles final against Jana Novotna on Saturday. His serve never was broken, and Pioline had break point just once during the match.
Sampras finished the final game with a sizzling first serve that Pioline hit hopelessly. Sampras then thrust up his arms in the usual gesture of triumph. His heart pounding, he put his right fist on his chest.
Known for being rather stoic, even in victory, Sampras later blew a kiss to his girlfriend, actress Kimberly Williams, as he basked in the crowd's adulation. He also had an irrepressible smile when the Duke of Kent handed him the Challenge Cup. With that trophy, Sampras moved one Grand Slam championship behind Laver and Borg, and within striking distance of Emerson.
"To have won 10 just makes me feel that 12 is something that's so much more realistic, that I can break the record," Sampras said. "To be put in the same sentence as a Laver and those guys is you can't have a more flattering comparison."
Pioline could only stand and watch the postmatch proceedings, just as he had stood and watched Sampras serve him off the court all afternoon. Sampras lost four service points in the first set and three in the second. In each set he also broke Pioline's serve early to pave his way to victory.
Sampras's only moments of fallibility if they could even be called that occurred in the third set. Ahead 30-15 and serving in the second game, Sampras double-faulted for the first time. The error was met with audible gasps and a low rumbling from the crowd, which seemed to buzz with surprise at what it had seen.
Two points later, Pioline reached deuce on Sampras's serve for the first time in the match, and, for a split second, it seemed some drama might unfold. Standing to receive, Pioline looked like a cat ready to pounce at the slightest opportunity his legs tensed, his hair seeming to stand slightly on end. Sampras made the toss for his serve, Pioline sprung from his crouch, and the ball boomed straight down the middle for an ace. Sagging, Pioline walked the baseline, his spirits diminished, and hit the next return long to lose the game.
"It's normal to be tight when you play that kind of match and especially when you are playing Pete because he doesn't give you air, you know," Pioline said. "You cannot breathe against him because he's serving big and he's returning good and so it's difficult."
Sampras held serve in 116 of 118 service games in the tournament, with a 97-game streak in the middle. Pioline's only other chance to cut into that run of success occurred in the eighth game of the third set, when Sampras double-faulted for the second, and final, time at deuce. His next two serves were winners.
"When you [are] a break down and you have his serve in front of you, it's very difficult to believe you can break, that you can come back," Pioline said. "When he gets the break, he's serving even better because he doesn't want to give you a chance to come back."
The only player to have any semblance of success against Sampras here 16th-seeded Petr Korda said after their five-set, fourth-round match that Sampras served better when the sky was cloudy and overcast. Today, the sun shone on Wimbledon, and it seemed to bother Sampras not one bit.
"I don't know what happened with the serves, to tell you the truth," Sampras said. "They just clicked. They just clicked for every match I played. ... It was the shot that won me the tournament. This is the best I think I've ever served in my career."
And it is growing more and more evident that Sampras's "best" is perhaps the best ever, given that his incredible serve comes in the context of an all-around game Boris Becker termed "the best ever" this week.
The question now is, how long can he sustain it? Borg retired at age 25. John McEnroe won his last Grand Slam title at the same age. And, a few weeks shy of his 26th birthday, Sampras is the oldest man to win Wimbledon this decade. As far as he is concerned, though, he is just starting to reach his peak.
"I really have no fear in the game," Sampras said. "I feel like I can get better, I can improve and I can have another opportunity in a couple of months to win the U.S. Open, and that's where I'm at."
Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde won their fifth straight Wimbledon men's doubles title, equaling a record set nearly a century ago.
Woodbridge and Woodforde known as the Woodies and seeded No. 1 beat the Dutch team of Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (9-7), 5-7, 6-3. Their five straight titles tie a record set when Reggie Doherty and Laurie Doherty won five in a row from 1897-1901. They also won three other times for a record eight overall.
In women's doubles, American Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva of Belarus won their fourth Wimbledon title and their 14th Grand Slam as a team. They defeated American Nicole Arendt and Manon Bollegraf of the Netherlands, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4.
Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company
06-23-2007, 09:11 PM
Pete Sampras - Dominates Wimbledon
In 1992 Sampras began working with a new coach, Tom Gullikson, a former top-ten player. Gullikson insisted that Sampras spend more time on clay courts, where the ball has a slower kick off the clay than hard courts, making Sampras depend less on his serve and more on winning points on good strokes and strategy. During the year he reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. He made it as far as the semifinals at Wimbledon before being ousted by Goran Ivanesevic, another hard-serving powerhouse. At the U.S. Open Sampras overcame Courier in the semifinals, but a stomach ailment left him drained and a step slow, and he lost to Stephan Edberg in the finals in four sets, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2. Although he failed to win a Grand Slam during the year, Sampras rounded out 1992 with five titles, 70 match wins, and over $1.5 million in earnings.
After the 1992 U.S. Open, Sampras won 19 consecutive matches over the next six months. Reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open in January 1993, in April Sampras overtook Courier in point standing and claimed the No. 1 ranking. At the French Open, Sampras was stopped in the quarterfinals, but for the first time he walked into Wimbledon as the number one seed. In a spectacular performance, Sampras overcame defending champion Agassi in the quarterfinals and three-time winner Boris Becker in the semifinals. He met Courier, ranked No. 2, in the finals. After four grueling sets and 22 aces, Sampras prevailed to win his first Wimbledon championship. Overcoming a post-Wimbledon slump, Sampras won his second U.S. Open, easily overtaking fifteenth-seeded Cedric Pioline in the finals.
Following his Wimbledon victory, Sampras was slammed in the London press for his subdued, unemotional presence on the court. Headlines read "Wimble-Yawn" and "Samprazzzzz." Ironically, over the course of his career Sampras's lack of controversy in his life and play became his biggest source of controversy. Following in the wake of such on-court performers as Jimmy Connors and McEnroe, who were known for their emotional and passionate play, Sampras's expressionless silence during his matches was bemoaned as too impassionate, too seemingly indifferent. For years Sampras struggled to understand the distain for his demeanor. He was humble, polite, professional, and provided no dis-tasteful distractions on or off the court. He was raised, and trained, to focus on winning alone.
Sampras earned his third straight Grand Slam title, winning his first Australian Open championship in 1994. Then, for the third year in a row, he was ousted in the quarterfinals of the French Open, the only Grand Slam that he failed to dominate. Returning to Wimbledon, Sampras defended his championship, defeating Ivanisevic, 7-6, 7-6, 6-0, to take his second title on the grass courts. Coming off an ankle injury that sidelined him for six weeks, Sampras failed to play well at the U.S. Open, falling in the fourth round, but remained ranked No. 1.
Pete Sampras: tennis champ
Pete Sampras the best tennis player of all time, and his record speaks for itself. He expects to win every match he plays, period.
Pete Sampras doesn't have to be loud, outspoken, or talk trash to get attenion. His fans appreciate his smooth, calm manner, and the way he takes his defeats, and more importantly, his victories, in stride. He has had an amazing twelve years on the circuit and even John McEnroe has to admit that he seems to have at least a few more years left in him. Since winning the U.S. Open in 1990 at the age of nineteen, he has gone on to win 12 more Grand Slam titles. He has smashed several records during his career; this year's Wimbledon victory gave him the 13th Grand Slam title needed to surpass Roy Emerson's all-time high of twelve. Sampras was ranked #1 in the world for six consecutive years, from 1993-1998, and his incredible career boasts a 687-184 win/loss record!
Pete Sampras has proven to be a dependable player for those who have rooted for him since he came into the limelight ten years ago. We have no doubt he can win any match he sets out to win; his record speaks for itself. Out of the seven times he reached the Wimbledon finals, he won all of them. Pete Sampras is arguably the best tennis player of all time and undoubtedly the best of this era. He came from a time in tennis when greats such as Jimmy Conners, Bjorn Borg, and John McEnroe dominated the tennis scene. Because of the stiff competition he faced from those great players, he is a better competitor today. One of the only other great players left from that time is Andre Agassi, but even he can't boast of a record as great as Pete's. At the age of 29, Sampras is now considered an old geezer in the pro tennis world, but his opponents still get intimidated by his court presence. His strokes are powerful and the determination to win can be seen in his eyes.
When people are asked which tennis player stands out most in their minds, John McEnroe is often the answer you will hear. But when they are asked why they chose him, the answer is not because of his playing ability, but his outspoken manner and attention-getting antics. Anyone who has seen Sampras play knows he always remains calm, never throws a racket, rants like a crazed man, or does anything just to play to the crowd. He has been accused of not showing enough emotion on the court or playing to the crowd, but true Sampras fans understand that is his style and that his record should speak for itself. In the December 1997 edition of TENNIS magazine, he commented on this fact himself, saying, "I expect to win every match I play, period. I don't really care what the experts or analysts or media say, not because I don't respect their opinions, but because I kind of have what I want. You can say I'm boring or whatever, but the titles are there. I never wanted to be the great guy or the colorful guy or the interesting guy. I wanted to be the guy who won the titles."
The past ten years of his life have been marked with many ups and downs. He has had success doing something he loves, which is more than anyone could ask for, but his personal life has been marked with sorrow. Tim Gullikson, his coach whom he had a very close relationship with, died in May 1996 from brain cancer. Pete set his anguish aside and put on a determined face for his dying coach, giving him the boost he needed to feel better in his final days. Dealing with the pain of losing a loved one in the public eye is difficult for anyone, so it is even more commendable in a person as shy as Pete Sampras. In addition to Gullikson's death, his former childhood coach, Pete Fisher, was jailed in 1998 on charges of child molestation.
Pete Sampras deserves the title of "Best Tennis Player of All Time" mainly for his playing prowess. But take a look at other aspects of his life, and you will surely be convinced that he is by far the best choice for this honor. He is the perfect example of what every athlete should strive to be.
Sunday, 9 July, 2000, 08:30 GMT 09:30 UK
Sampras on the verge of history
Pete Sampras can re-write the history books by claiming his seventh men's singles crown at Wimbledon on Sunday (1400 BST).
Victory over Australian Pat Rafter would take the American past Roy Emerson's landmark of 12 Grand Slams.
It would also bring Sampras level with William Renshaw.
The Brit won seven men's singles titles at the All England Club back in the 1880s.
But whoever lifts the trophy on Centre Court, it will be a triumph over adversity.
Both players have had to cope with more than just the person on the other side of the net en route to the final.
Sampras has been dogged by tendinitis in his left shin while Rafter is only weeks into a comeback following a serious shoulder injury.
Sampras has vowed to play through the pain barrier again on Sunday while Rafter admits he takes each match as it comes.
"It's been a long road back," said Rafter. "I'm taking it week by week, just grateful for being out there.
"I've done a lot of work on the shoulder and I'm hoping to get a bit more out of it than what the doctor might have expected."
The pony-tailed Australian admits he has exceeded his expectations by reaching the final.
Before the tournament started, he would have been happy with a place in the fourth round.
On the other hand, everyone expected Sampras to be make the final Sunday, although there were one or two doubts when he pulled up lame during his second-round clash with Karol Kucera.
But even a less than fully fit Sampras has proved too hard to stop.
And worryingly for his rivals who perhaps thought his powers were on the wane, the six-times Wimbledon champion reckons there is still plenty of gas in the tank.
"As long as I have my right arm, on grass I'm still a threat," said the 28-year-old American.
"I think you can play at a high level till your early 30s.
"Look at what (Jimmy) Connors did. He's a rare athlete but he played at a high level until he was 33, won the US Open at that point.
"I feel as long as I'm playing the game I'll always be in contention, especially here.
"I feel like I can possibly win here at 30 and beyond.
"You can definitely look at Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. They played until they were 36.
"Tennis is a different sport but it can be done. It's more of a mental battle."
That is what makes Sampras such a force, his ability to focus on tennis to the exclusion of everything else.
It is why the shin injury has not derailed his hopes of winning a record-breaking seventh men's singles title.
Rafter will be a much tougher proposition than his other opponents, though.
The 12th seed's agility and speed around the court will provide the ultimate test.
Andre Agassi found him too hot to handle, losing their epic semi-final in five sets.
Rafter, 27, will be roared on by his proud parents when he takes on Sampras.
They are taking a 20-hour flight from Queensland to London so they can be courtside when their son attempts to add another Grand Slam to his two US Open titles.
"It will take them a while," said Rafter. "They'll get in a 7am on Sunday morning."
06-30-2007, 11:43 AM
Speculation rife that SW19 may not have seen the last of Sampras
Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent
Do not tell Tim Henman because he would probably choke on his Weetybangs, but a certain man with a decent track record on grass still regrets the way he departed the championships and has discussed the idea of righting a wrong.
A rumour doing the rounds yesterday was that Pete Sampras had been offered a wild card into the 2007 tournament, but Ian Ritchie, the chief executive of the All England Club, said that no such thing had happened. “He’s a member, though, and if he ever wanted to come back and play, it is something we’d happily discuss,” Ritchie said.
But who is to say it will not happen next year, or the year after that? The seven-times champion is 35 – the same age as Jonas Björkman, the Swede who reached the semi-finals last year and the last 16 at the French Open this month – and is the same weight as when he stepped off the treadmill, fresh from a stupendous triumph at the 2002 US Open for his fourteenth grand-slam title.
When Sampras returned to competitive action this year, playing Team Tennis for Newport Beach and in the Outback Champions Series – an American “golden oldies” tour in which he is unbeaten – there was a sense that he would not be satisfied merely with hitting a few balls with his old pals, that there was an ulterior motive.
When you hear Sampras speak on the sport’s present trends, it sends a shiver down the spine. “I have a hard time watching how these guys play today,” he said. “It’s just amazing that everyone stays back and hits with so much spin. When you put spin on the ball on grass, it doesn’t really do anything. Slice does, top-spin doesn’t. I was watching [Igor] Andreev playing [James] Blake in the first round and Andreev hits that big top-spin backhand and it just sits up there, waiting to be hit. Granted, the guy is a clay-court player who isn’t real comfortable on grass. But still . . .
“The bottom line is that nobody comes with heat and can back it up.
There’s no Richard Krajicek around to really attack you and take your time away. That’s the key to winning with the serve-and-volley game: deny the other guy his time. Roger [Federer] can win without doing it because he has so much game and such good hands.
“I think the 1990s may have been the toughest time to win Wimbledon. The grass was fast, the balls were fast and there were a lot of guys around who could turn it into a crap-shoot: Stefan [Edberg], Boris [Becker], Goran [Ivanisevic], those guys really made you uncomfortable.
“By contrast, I always loved seeing guys who wanted to play back against me – players who liked to load up and hit their shots. Andre [Agassi] was different because he played up in the court and he played pretty flat, so he was coming to the table with something – an ability not just to keep you from getting in but maybe even push you back. But with other guys who played back, I felt if I could hit one shot and be in there, I’d be in control. And control is what it’s all about.”
A look at the players who have reached the fourth round in the singles this year emphasises that grass has become a surface for all the talents, not the preserve of the serve-and-volley exponent. Juan Carlos Ferrero, who won the French title and reached the final of the US Open in 2003, has made the last 16 for the third time in seven attempts – he is no “stay-away Spaniard”.
Control being the operative word, as Sampras said, it is worth extolling the levels of command Ferrero displayed in his 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 victory over James Blake. That the American has not been beyond a quarter-final at this level, given his quality, indicates that he does not quite believe enough, but give Ferrero his due. For a Spaniard to win 19 of 23 points at the net is not a statistic that would immediately be recognisable in his homeland.
Ferrero now plays Janko Tipsarevic, the trail-blazer for the present crop of Serbian tennis vitality and one of three nonseeds left in the top half of the draw. Clubbed together in one portion are three French players – Richard Gasquet, the No 12 seed, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the last remaining wild card in either draw, and Paul-Henri Mathieu, who is beginning, at 25, to live up to the full range of his talents.
Gasquet against Tsonga has the makings of a minor classic, which is what we had hoped Federer’s meeting with Marat Safin would prove yesterday. Federer won the first set in 19 minutes – “It’s like watching a train wreck,” my Centre Court neighbour said.
Safin pulled out as many stops as he could, spun his racket repeatedly into the turf and kept trying to use his cross-court forehand to peg Federer back deeply enough to be able to hurt him. The trick worked a few times, but never enough. Tommy Haas, of Germany, is next in line.
Federer, having extended his grass-court winning streak to 51 matches, is among those who have tried to persuade Sampras to give this gig another go, without giving his reasons. Maybe he is as fascinated as the rest of us to see if the legend could be extended.
Eric Butorac and Jamie Murray are beginning to build a little legend of their own on the doubles court. Booty and Stretch, to given them their stage names, defeated the No 7 seeds, Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram, of Israel, in four sets to earn a third-round place in only their second grand-slam tournament together. Butorac, of Croatian descent, jokes that he’d really like to be British. Now where’s that LTA dotted line?
There’s an aura about Wimbledon that places it above other grand slams, and alongside sport’s most coveted trophies. The tradition, the well-behaved crowds, and the culture make it high priority on most tennis players and fans’ diaries. Maverick tennis player Marcelo Rios once announced “Grass is for cows,” rather haughtily. May be that’s why he’s a maverick. For many, Wimbledon is the tennis tournament. Here are some players who made Wimbledon their own.
The Champion at The Championships. Nobody has dominated Wimbledon in recent times the way Pete Sampras did. Relentless, workman-like and devoid of emotions, Pete was head and shoulders above others whenever he played on those lawn courts. After taking over as the World no. 1 in April 1993, Sampras celebrated by winning the Wimbledon in June that year. It was the first of as many as seven titles. He won three on the trot from 1993 to 1995 and, save for a blip in 1996, he was on another spree, snapping four titles in a row from 1997 to 2000, forever stamping his authority on the pristine grass of Wimbledon.