On the eve of his induction into the Hall of Fame, Pete Sampras had admitted it was the boredom of retirement which drove him back to tennis on his own terms.
The 35-year-old who quit in 2002 after beating Andre Agassi in the US Open final, has over recent years begun dipping his toes back into the sport that he once dominated.
His latest lark was the July World TeamTennis season with the Newport (California) Beach Breakers.
Sampras said that after three years of improving his golf, expanding his family and wondering what to do with weeks of free time, something was missing.
"I realised when I played a few exhibitions here and there that I enjoyed it, I enjoyed getting in shape. I enjoyed playing tennis again," said the man whose all-time record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles is now under serious threat from Roger Federer with 11.
"It's not a crazy schedule, I'm not playing every week, but every couple of months, I need something to look forward to, to focus on."
Sampras is due to play a series of exhibitions in November in Asia against Federer, whom he got to know in March during a few hitting sessions at the older man's Beverly Hills mansion.
"I'm playing Roger in Asia and I'm looking forward to that.
"(Playing) keeps me sharp; it keeps me in the game. It's not anything I need to kill myself over, but I still want to play well and perform well," he explained.
Sampras said that he has now begun making tennis a part of his daily life.
"When I'm home, I just want to wake up in the morning, hit a few balls and get myself in shape.
"And it's good for every man to get his hands dirty, and I needed to kind of get back to work a little bit.
"I didn't do anything for three years, and after the third year, I was getting a little bit restless. Playing tennis gives me a focus; it's something that I still love to do."
Sampras, who started his world-beating career with a US Open title at age 19, said that his Hall of Fame ceremony at the weekend "hasn't really hit me quite yet."
"I've always enjoyed the history of the game. It's a sentimental time, to reflect on your career, look back over the years that I worked hard and had a really good career and put up some good numbers.
"I'll have my family there, it's an emotional time.
"This will gives me time to really stop everything and look back and appreciate what I've been able to do.
"You can lose sight of your identity at times, so this will be a chance to appreciate it.
I'm looking forward to being officially inducted, it's a great honour. I'm looking forward to the weekend."
07-11-2007, 09:43 PM
Updated: Jul 09, 2007 - 23:40:22 PDT
Q&A WITH PETE SAMPRAS:
Breaker returns polished
TENNIS: Humbled last season after very little preparation, Sampras is primed for WTT return.
dpt-sampras10TextLQ28CB90Pete Sampras, Q and ATENNIS: Humbled last season after very little preparation, Sampras is primed for WTT return.
WHO: Newport Beach Breakers vs. Sacrametno Capitals
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Newport Beach Country ClubPete Sampras, a member of the Newport Beach Breakers, plays his only home match tonight when the Breakers play host to the Sacramento Capitals at 7 p.m. at the Newport Beach Country Club.
Sampras, who has a record 14 Grand Slam men's singles titles, will also compete for the Breakers in matches in New York (July 18), Philadelphia (July 19) and St. Louis (July 24).
He recently spoke to reporters via conference call.
Question: Can you talk a little bit about where your game is — for a retired guy, of course — in comparison to a year ago.
Answer: As far as the tennis, I've gotten a little bit better. When I [competed in] World Team Tennis last year, I wasn't in the best shape. I was a little bit rusty, I wasn't really … I wasn't practicing that much. And I think I have been consistently playing the past year, 15 months. I have been playing quite well and kind of built a little bit of my conditioning and strength back.
I hope to perform better this year in Team Tennis than I did last year. Last year, I wasn't very good. I have been hitting three days a week for the past six months. It's amazing what a little bit of practice will do for you, so my tennis has gotten a little bit better.
Q: Why has World Team Tennis held this appeal for you?
A: I enjoy the night. It is competitive tennis. It is real tennis. It is definitely an environ- ment [in which] I want to play well. I want to win. Give the fans a chance to see some different people, double-doubles, singles. It is a team atmosphere.
Q: How were you received by WTT crowds last year?
A: Last year was great. They really responded well to me and they appreciated me playing in some of the markets I have never been to. That felt nice. It is just kind of my first sort of event for me back in four, five years. People look forward to seeing me play again, and it has been a while.
I think this year will be the same, I'm [being] inducted into the Hall of Fame right before I play some of these matches. That's the icing on the cake for having a good career and will just hopefully play well.
That's kind of my goal. I think people want to see me play well and, hopefully, I will perform this year better than last year.
Q: What are your impressions of the direction the WTT is going?
A: I think the direction is a very positive one. I think they see a vision of Team Tennis being a little bit different than what you see on the tour; something a little more colorful with the color of the court, having a little bit of everything. It is entertainment. They try to put out a little singles, a little doubles, a little music, just a little bit more fun atmosphere, a place where the fans can touch the players.
Q: Is it something that you see catching on potentially? It probably won't be mainstreamed but do you foresee it getting more attention than it gets now?
A: It is tricky. Tennis is such a traditional sport. You look at the majors and the Wimbledon and what's going on now; it is a lot of tradition. And to get into some of the things that World Team Tennis is doing, it might be a stretch and it might be tricky to hit the mainstream, but I think there is a definite market for it.
I think there is a certain part of the public that wants to be able to scream and shout at tennis matches and there are others who do not.
Will it transcend into ATP events? Probably not. I don't know that they want to do that. I think they like having their month season and knocking it out and having some fun and making a little money along the way.
Q: What are your feelings on your impending Hall of Fame induction?
A: I'm excited, looking forward to going. I have been working on my speech over the last couple days, trying to put something together. It is a time to reflect and look back on my career.
I am just looking forward to the experience, seeing the Hall of Fame, seeing all the other great players that have been in there and it hasn't hit me quite yet. But I think when I step on the grounds, I think I'll appreciate it. I will appreciate my career and it is a time to reflect.
My daily life today is about my kids, about taking care of them. And this is a time to think about my career. It will give me a chance to appreciate it. I am looking forward to it. I think it will be a great time. Q: With you departing in 2002 and Andre Agassi leaving after that, what do you think the state of men's tennis is right now?
A: I see it is really dominated by basically two guys — Roger [Federer and Rafael Nadal]. Inevitably, [Federer] is breaking all my records. I have had more interview requests in the past year than I have throughout my whole career to do the comparison of the record-breaking. I think he is on his way to breaking my 14 and winning as many as [golfer Jack Nicklaus]. That's the biggest story.
As far as being the American tennis, it is a little bit on the thin side. I think [Andy] Roddick is a main guy and [James] Blake, but I think they are getting better. They are getting closer to Roger. I still think he is really the man to beat.
Ultimately, what sells sports is some sort of rivalry. The more you have with Federer and Nadal, there's not an American in there and that hurts it. After getting done with the 1990s and that generation — one of the best generations in American history, it is tough to compare what we have today to that. I think it is unfair to live up to what we had. Jim [Courier] and Andre and I won more than 20 majors. We hit No. 1 in the world. It is a unique situation.
Today it is Federer and Nadal against everybody.
— From staff reports
07-11-2007, 10:00 PM
Organizers put Rockland tennis tournament on the map
By HAROLD GUTMANN
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: July 10, 2007)
NEW CITY - On Saturday, Pete Sampras will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. And on Sunday, he will be playing an exhibition match against Justin Gimelstob here at Dellwood Country Club.
The clay courts of Dellwood might seem like an odd place for Sampras, the owner of a record 14 Grand Slam titles, to play his first match as a Hall of Famer. Then again, it's just the latest in a string of surprising developments for the Kennedy Funding Invitational, a local tennis tournament that starts tomorrow at 3 p.m.
"This may become the biggest sports event in the history of Rockland County," tournament organizer Mitch Klein said. "Who knows what we'll do next year?"
The tournament started as the Rockland County Open in 2003, the brainchild of New City residents and self-described tennis nuts Klein and James Miller. Alex Asta, who was ranked 934th in the world, won $2,000 by beating Luis Flores in front of a few dozen fans.
"Tennis was diminishing in popularity, and we wanted to show the county what good tennis was all about," Klein said. "We wanted to generate some local interest."
The fields improved and the event grew the next two summers. But the tournament exploded last year when fundraiser extraordinaire Kevin Wolfer, the co-CEO of Kennedy Funding, entered the fold. In a finals matchup of top-100 Americans, Paul Goldstein defeated Kevin Kim to win $20,000. More important, more than $250,000 was raised toward the tournament's designated charity, the breast care center at Englewood (N.J.) Hospital and Medical Center.
This year's tournament should be even better. The purse has grown to $250,000 ($40,000 for the winner), an eight-player women's tournament will be held for the first time, and the same lights that are used at the U.S. Open will surround the 800-seat temporary stadium, allowing for night matches. Admission to all events, except the Sampras exhibition, will continue to be free.
Donations, however, will be accepted, and the organizers expect to raise more than $500,000 for the breast care centers at Englewood and Nyack hospitals. Nyack will buy two digital mammography machines with the money, becoming the first Rockland hospital with that early detection technology.
"We're going to help save lives here," said Klein, a CPA with Fasman Klein & Feldstein in New City. "It doesn't get much better than that."
The field has grown as well. Top-40 American Meghann Shaughnessy headlines the women's field, and 2005 U.S. Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri signed up for the men's tournament (though he is currently questionable with a staph infection).
"A couple of years ago, we would have been the equivalent of a solid Futures event," Miller said. "Last year, we were a solid Challenger event. This year, we're competing with ATP events and beating them."
The tournament doesn't offer rankings points, and clay is the least favorite surface for most Americans. So why do four of the 10 U.S. men in the top 100 are coming to play in New City tomorrow, not to mention two American women who recently made it to the round of 16 at Wimbledon (Laura Granville last week and Shenay Perry in '06)?
The money is certainly a factor. Klein and Wolfer have found 30 to 40 sponsors that have pledged over $10,000 each, allowing the prize money to grow exponentially. But equally important is Miller's ability to recruit.
The head tennis pro at Dellwood, Miller went to three tournaments in Florida this year to schmooze with players and develop an inside track with coaches, agents and trainers. And throughout the year, every time one of his targets had a big match, he followed up with messages and phone calls.
"I'm constantly on the phone with these guys, talking to their agents, giving them love," Miller said. "Players want to go to these other tournaments for points. You get a lot of money and a lot of love at my tournament."
The love continues this week. All the players will be picked up from the airport in limousines and have the option of being housed by a member of Dellwood.
"They're treated like kings and they love it," Miller said. "At other events, they don't know what city they're in."
Miller's courting of Ginepri started three years ago, when Miller took Ginepri's coach and trainer out for drinks in Los Angeles. Along the way he also befriended Gimelstob, a hitting partner for Sampras out in L.A.
"(Gimelstob) asked about how I felt about playing an exhibition with him, and I said yeah," Sampras said. "One thing led to another, and Justin put it together."
Miller is so effective at getting talent that Klein recently received a call from Mark Stenning, CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., which runs an ATP event at the same time as the Kennedy Funding Invitational. Stenning asked Klein whom they were going after so the two tournaments wouldn't compete for players.
"We know we're on the map now," Klein said. "Two local guys from Rockland County, and the president of the Hall of Fame is calling you up?"
Reach Harold Gutmann at email@example.com or 845-578-2465.
07-11-2007, 10:03 PM
Tennis legend to appear at fundraiser
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
The organizers of the Kennedy Funding Invitational tennis tournament generated $250,000 for the Breast Care Center at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center last year, but they are confident they'll raise substantially more at this week's event.
For good reason.
This year's star attraction is the man who's won more Wimbledon singles championships than anyone else in the past 125 years: Pete Sampras.
Sampras will play an exhibition match against Justin Gimelstob, the New Jersey native who's been ranked among the world's top 100 players, Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Dellwood Country Club, 60 Zukor Road, New City, N.Y. Tickets are $100.
This is the second year that Kennedy Funding has sponsored the tournament, which benefits Nyack Hospital as well. The real estate financing firm's founder, Joe Wolfer, lent the company's name to the tournament after a close friend died of breast cancer. Wolfer's son, Kevin, became one of the three co-executive directors of the event.
There is a $100 charge to attend the Sampras benefit match, but the remainder of the tournament, which begins Wednesday and runs through the weekend, is free to the public. James Miller, another of the co-executive directors, said competitors will include Robby Ginepri, the 46th-ranked men's player in the world, and Meghann Shaughnessy, one of the top 40 women's players.
For more information or to order tickets, call 800-342-8500 or visit thekennedyfundinginvitational.com.
-- Harvy Lipman
07-11-2007, 10:51 PM
New tennis Hall of Famers share more than you think
By Joel Drucker
Special to ESPN.com
Updated: July 11, 2007, 4:47 PM ET
On the surface, this week's International Tennis Hall of Fame inductees from the recent player category, Pete Sampras and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, appear to have little in common beyond their year of birth, 1971.
From his teens, Sampras was touted, his lanky body and fluid strokes drawing raves and expectations. As his lifelong rival, former doubles partner and fellow Hall of Famer Jim Courier said, "Pete was always dangerous, always loose, always knowing that even in the juniors he was going for bigger victories down the road."
Soon enough, Sampras fulfilled those hopes. In 1990, barely 19, he became the youngest man in tennis history to win the U.S. Open. When he won the last of his 14 Grand Slam singles titles at the 2002 U.S. Open, Sampras joined Australian legend Ken Rosewall as only the second man in tennis history to win Grand Slam singles events in his teens, 20s and 30s. As tennis stories go, his was on a scale worthy of Leo Tolstoy. Call it War & Pete.
Sanchez Vicario also won a Grand Slam in her teens. At 17, she shocked the world when she rallied from 3-5 third-set deficit versus Steffi Graf to win the 1989 French Open. It was thought then that the tenacious little Spaniard had waged one of those fortunate campaigns, a fortuitous, one-off short story that was less breakthrough than aberration.
But that wasn't the case. In 1994, Sanchez Vicario earned a second title in Paris and, most surprisingly, toppled Graf in the finals of the U.S. Open and soon enough was the world's No. 1-ranked player. Although Graf returned to the top the next year, Sanchez Vicario had proved more than a one-Slam wonder. For good measure, she earned a third Roland Garros victory in 1998, upsetting sentimental favorite Monica Seles. A quintessential Sanchez Vicario quote: "I just think that if you keep fighting, anything can turn around."
So with Sampras, it's a case of early promise and extensive delivery. With Sanchez Vicario, more a matter of surprise and persistence. Sampras won mostly with offense, Sanchez Vicario with defense.
But here's where they share much. Billie Jean King has often said, "You don't want to look back when you're 45 and ask yourself 'What if? What if I'd really put it on the line and given tennis everything had, done everything possible to be the best I could be?'"
Neither of these two will ever ask that question. Both wrung every drop possible from their tennis.
In their own way, both were consummate professionals, utterly committed to giving themselves every opportunity possible to play first-rate tennis. Depending how you look at it, their mutual fidelity to the sport represented a form of exemplary selfishness or selflessness. In the case of the former, both were strictly devoted to their respective needs, blindly and willfully ignorant to anything that distracted them from tennis and the pursuit of success. A Sampras peer once called him "a minimalist."
In the case of the notion of being selfless, by being so committed to excellence, both paid their fans and opponents the highest form of respect. Neither Sampras nor Sanchez Vicario whined much about the demands of life as a pro. Neither lamented the stress of competition, of being famous, of having to struggle and travel and practice and perform.
Of course, there were also major differences shaped by their playing styles and personalities (which comes first is an unanswerable chicken-egg question). Sanchez Vicario was filled with pluck, the spunky little engine that could who endeared herself to crowds and eternally came off as the underdog -- even when she was No. 1 in the world. Perhaps even she knew her run to the top was a surprise, akin to a vice president who, by dint of odd circumstances, suddenly finds herself occupying the Oval Office.
If Sanchez Vicario was like a one-term president -- but a president, nonetheless -- Sampras was akin to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. For all the talk of Roger Federer as possibly the greatest player ever, note that thus far he has finished the year ranked No. 1 three times -- half as long as Sampras' record-setting reign of six straight at the top.
Moreover, Sampras' graceful and powerful game made it hard for him to be appreciated in the manner of his American predecessors, the pair of demonstrative, fire-breathing champions Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. As Sampras once said, "I've watched videotapes of me, and while it looks so easy, I wish people would know how much effort it took to get that far."
Perhaps in some ways, the current appreciation for Federer's liquid-smooth game is a makeup hug aimed toward Sampras. Pete, we hardly knew ye.
For as cool and tranquil as Sampras was in so many high-stakes moments -- his Grand Slam singles final record is a sparkling 14-4 -- expect to see him quite emotional upon his induction Saturday. This is a man with a deep sense of tennis history, a rich appreciation of the game's texture that he devoured not too soon after picking up a racket. That he was aware of his dreams at such a young age -- and attained them -- is powerful testimony to his deceptive passion.
Note: Two other men also will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this weekend. The master player category features Sven Davidson of Denmark, the 1957 Roland Garros champion long regarded as a classy competitor and as a catalyst for helping tennis enter the Open era in 1968. In the contributor category, the inductee is photographer Russ Adams, a 50-year veteran of the photo pits who's arguably the finest tennis photographer of all time.
Joel Drucker is based in Oakland, Calif., and writes about tennis for Tennis Magazine and The Tennis Channel.
07-12-2007, 02:54 AM
Sampras quaking in his boots at the thought that Roger will pass him in slams sometime in 2008. Just 6 years after he retired. Ridiculous.
07-14-2007, 03:28 PM
Big Server Receives His Due Today
Sampras Leads New Hall Of Fame Class
By TOMMY HINE | Courant Staff Writer
July 14, 2007
NEWPORT, R.I. - Fabrice Santoro found the secret to beating Pete Sampras.
"Play him on clay," Santoro said, drawing laughter from all within earshot.
Four times, Sampras and Santoro played on clay. Three times, Santoro won.
It was the only weak spot in Sampras' game. In his 15-year career, he won a record 14 Grand Slam singles titles, including seven of eight on grass at Wimbledon in one dominating stretch.
But Sampras never won a French Open on the red clay at Roland Garros.
"I could talk about him for a long time," said Santoro, a Frenchman who went 3-4 against Sampras. "He's one of the greatest champions ever."
Sampras, 35, will be honored as one of the best today when he, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario of Spain, Sven Davidson of Sweden and photographer Russ Adams of Worcester are inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
"I just remember him beating me up with the serve," said 14-year pro Vincent Spadea, who beat Sampras once on an Indianapolis hard court, only because Sampras retired with an injury. "The serve was the predominant force in his matches, but he backed that up with a supporting cast of amazing volleys, athleticism, mental focus, resilience and a ground-stroke game, a classic running forehand that we still talk about today.
"But it was all about the serve. Return was one of my best attributes. Still is. If he nullified that, it tells you how good his serve was."
Spadea wasn't the only player to see his strength negated by Sampras' serve.
"He nullified Andre Agassi's return, and Agassi was the best returner in the game," Spadea said. "He dominated Agassi [20-14] over the years.
"Sampras hit such a high-level serve, first and second, and he backed that up with solid volley play. That's what made him go down as arguably the greatest."
Sampras won 64 career titles, was second 24 times and earned a record $43,280,489.
"He's one of the greatest players who ever lived, of course," said veteran TV analyst and journalist Bud Collins, a Hall of Fame inductee himself 13 years ago. "He kept serve-and-volley alive. Now, with him out of the game, it's really diminished. I find that rather sad."
Sampras (6 feet 1, 170 pounds) held the No. 1 ranking a record 286 weeks, including one streak of 102 weeks between April 1996 and March 1998. In a storybook ending, he won the 2002 U.S. Open after being seeded 17th, then retired.
"He's the only player in history who won a major in the very last tournament he played and then called it quits," said Collins, who saw Sampras win all of his major championships.
Sampras has no regrets about leaving when he did. He married actress Bridgette Wilson in 2000 and has two young sons.
"My life today is about my kids, about taking care of them," he said in a conference call earlier this month. "And this [induction] is a time to think about my career. It will give me a chance to appreciate it.
"[Tennis] is really dominated by basically two guys - Roger [Federer] and Rafael [Nadal]. Inevitably, Federer is breaking all my records. I have had more interview requests in the past year than I have throughout my whole career, to do the comparison of the record-breaking. I think he is on his way to breaking my 14 [majors] and winning as many as [golfer Jack Nicklaus]. That's the biggest story."
Fairfield's James Blake never played Sampras but they have become friends. Blake stayed in Sampras' house in Los Angeles before he played in the Pacific Life Open in March.
"I was a little bummed I never got a chance to play him on tour, but I practiced with him plenty," said Blake, Sampras' practice partner at the 1999 Davis Cup in Boston and Davis Cup teammate three years later in Houston.
"I got to know him pretty darn well," Blake said. "So far, he's the greatest of all time. Roger might be on his way to changing that status, but that's nothing to hang your head about. Pete was the dominant force on tour the last 15 years. On any kind of hard court, he was the man to beat."
Sampras came partially out of retirement last summer to play some World Team Tennis matches for the Newport Beach Breakers. In May, he played in Jim Courier's tournament for tennis veterans in Boston.
"He looked terrific," Collins said. "He had put on weight. He said one day he looked at himself in the mirror and saw two chins, and he said it was time to get in shape again.
"I think he was getting bored of changing diapers and playing golf. Now that he's back, I think he'll play more, but I don't think he'll play Wimbledon again. A lot of people have tried to float that idea. There's no reason to. He has the perfect retirement."
Former Palos Verdes prodigy set to enter Hall of Fame.
By Phil Collin
Ah, retirement. Kicking back, watching the kids surprise each day, tripping back to the East Coast to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Pete Sampras, once a mere child tennis prodigy from The Hill, has treated his days away from the game the way he once took on the world shortly after turning pro in 1988: He's aced it.
Saturday in Newport, R.I., Sampras will join Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Sven Davidson and Russ Adams in ceremonies certain to test the famous stoic resolve that Sampras displayed while compiling a record 14 Grand Slam titles.
"It hasn't hit me quite yet," Sampras said. "I'm sure (it will) when I land there and see the Hall of Fame and see the whole display of the history there.
"It's an emotional time. You kind of live your life, taking care of your kids. This gives me a time to stop everything and look back and appreciate what I was able to do.
"You can kind of lose sight of your identity at times, but this gives me a chance to be appreciated, and I'm looking forward to being officially inducted. It's a great honor; all the all-time greats of the game are in there, and I'm looking forward to the weekend."
Sampras was chatting in Newport Beach, which has become a part of Sampras' return to the game after he left on top with his 2002 U.S. Open win over Andre Agassi. Sampras is playing World Team Tennis for the Newport Beach Breakers and will continue to play in exhibitions, including three with current No. 1 Roger Federer in Asia in November.
This weekend, he'll be joined by his mother and father, sister Stella and brother Gus. His last coach, Paul Annacone, will deliver his Hall of Fame introduction.
Perhaps it's the start of the victory tour he didn't afford himself after calling it a career following his 14th major. There was his marriage to actress Bridgette Wilson and the birth of sons Christian, now 4, and Ryan, 1.
But for sure, you can tell there's a part of Sampras that misses the game he grew up loving on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
"I realized when I played a few exhibitions here and there, I enjoyed it," Sampras said. "I enjoyed getting in shape, I enjoyed playing tennis again.
"It's not a crazy schedule where I'm playing every week, but every couple months. I need something to look forward to, to focus on. It keeps me sharp, it keeps me in the game. It's not anything I need to kill myself over, but I still want to play well and perform well, and really when I'm home, I just want to wake up in the morning hit a few balls and get myself in shape.
"It's good for every man to get (his) hands dirty. And I needed to kind of get back to work a little bit. I didn't do anything for three years, and after the third year, I was getting a little bit restless."
It's hard to imagine Sampras considering tennis as dirty work after watching a fluid, graceful and gracious player hold the year-end No. 1 spot for six consecutive years.
The running forehand. The stylish one-handed backhand. The crisp volleys. And, of course, the rocket serves.
On the way to seven Wimbledon titles and five U.S. Open crowns, Sampras always was working behind the scenes for charities, raising millions of dollars and awareness.
He wasn't the ever-present pitchman, choosing instead to pick his endorsements carefully. And in 2000, he left England without his Wimbledon trophy, leaving All England Club officials scrambling.
Lakers public relations director John Black, a longtime Sampras friend who attended the tournament, was contacted.
"After winning the tournament and getting caught up in all the excitement and what not, he left the grounds without taking the trophy," Black said. "I'm not sure how they tracked me down, but somebody found I had a later flight. They said, `Well, the trophy's here. Can you pick it up and take it to him?' Uh, sure.
"I definitely kept it as a carry-on. I felt responsible for this thing. What if I lose it or break it?"
Black and the trophy made it home without incident. Still, there was no word from the Sampras camp.
"When I got back, I left him a message that I had it," Black said.
"A week had gone by and he was busy doing stuff and our schedules were not in sync. I had this thing at home and finally I remember calling him and saying `Hey, come get this thing. I'm getting nervous with this thing sitting in my house. I don't want to be to responsible for it.
"`I think I had it hidden in a box in the closet. It would have been a nice candy dish, though."
Little of the carefree side of Sampras made it to the court. He played behind a mask that never betrayed his emotions, save for one memorable moment.
During the 1996 Australian Open, just after Sampras' coach Tim Gullikson died, Sampras broke down weeping during a match with Jim Courier.
After a rocky couple of moments, Sampras collected his bearings and won the match - and the tournament.
"When I played, I was in control of my emotions," Sampras said. "I didn't have to act out if I wasn't playing well or there were bad calls. I just had this attitude when I hit great shots that I was going to do it again, so there wasn't time to jump around like I just won Wimbledon. There's a time and a place for that, but not every match I played.
"And you know, when I lost my composure against Jim, and people said it was `finally, to see him human,' I took a little offense to that.
"It's just that I happen to be a little more stoic than the rest, a little bit of the (Bjorn) Borg mentality. And throughout the years I think people just kind of appreciated it and embraced the type of player I was and the type of competitor I was. I let my racket do my talking in a day and age in the `90s when it was more about sound bites and being a little bit more controversial. And I really wasn't.
"But I'm happy the way I did it. I didn't compromise anything in my career. I was just happy to be who I was."
07-16-2007, 09:32 PM
Friday, July 13, 2007
Hall of Fame opens door for tennis great Pete Sampras
The required five-year wait for Pete Sampras to be a hall of fame enshirenee ends with his induction this weekend.
NEWPORT — The man who dominated professional tennis throughout the '90s, Pete Sampras, will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport on Saturday, July 14. After a stellar career that included seven Wimbledon singles titles, Sampras retired in 2002 having earned more than $43 million in prize money — more than anyone playing professional tennis to date.
When Sampras won his last Wimbledon title in 2000, he tied the record of seven Wimbledon men's singles championships, held by fellow hall of fame membe, William Renshaw. That mark had stood for 111 years. It may not take that long before that shared accomplishment is finally eclipsed. Switzerland's Roger Federer, who captured his fifth Wimbledon crown last weekend, currently has the best chance to break the Sampras-Renshaw Wimbledon men's championship record.
Sampras, a winner of a record 14 tennis grand slam single titles, will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame as part of the Campbell's Hall of Fame Tennis Championships tournament being played in Newport through Sunday, July 15. Sampras will be joined by three others in the 2007 class of inductees: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, the three-time French Open women's singles champion and the first Spaniard to capture the US Open; Sweden's first grand slam title winner, Sven Davidson, and the "Dean" of tennis photography, Russ Adams.
The 36-year old Sampras was born in Washington, D.C. His parents relocated to Los Angeles when he was seven and the move offered him the opportunity to develop his tennis passion and skills year round. At age 19, the Southern California teen was the youngest player to win the US Open. In addition to his five US Open singles titles (1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2002), a record he shares with 1998 fellow hall of fame inductee Jimmy Connors, Sampras also holds two Australian Open titles.
Sampras won the first of his seven Wimbledon titles in 1993. Championships at the All England Tennis and Croquet Club were again earned by Sampras in 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998 and 1999 until he tied the Wimbledon championship record in 2000. He was honored as the ATP Player of the Year from 1993 to 1998, a record six consecutive years. He won the ATP World Championships five times (1991, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999), a record he shares with 2001 hall of fame inductee Ivan Lendl.
Sampras' last and final appearance as an ATP pro was at the 2002 US Open, his final grand slam champioship. In Davis Cup action, Sampras was a U.S. team member for eight years (1991-2, 1994-5, 1997, 1999-00 and 2002), leading the U.S. to Davis Cup victories in 1992 and 1995. The colorful tennis journalist Bud Collins named him as one of the top five men's tennis players of all-time. Sampras will compete on grass courts again on Sunday, when he will appear at the International Tennis Hall of Fame casino courts in an exhibition match with other professional tennis legends.
Established in 1954, and recognized in 1986 as the sport of tennis' official hall of fame by the International Tennis Federation, the governing body of tennis, the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport currently has 200 enshrined from 18 countries.
By Lynne Tungett
07-16-2007, 09:36 PM
Charity wins, thanks to Sampras and Laver
01:00 AM EDT on Monday, July 16, 2007
BY MIKE SZOSTAK
Journal Sports Writer
NEWPORT — A broken string and two Hall of Fame autographs netted the Tim and Tom Gullikson Foundation $55,000 yesterday.
Pete Sampras, inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday, returned yesterday morning to play a singles exhibition against Todd Martin in the opening match of the Hall of Fame Classic.
When he broke a string on the only racket he had, someone handed him a Rod Laver wood racket, and he won a few points with it before using a more up-to-date model.
Sampras later signed his racket and Laver, who was on hand for the event, autographed his, and the bidding began. The two racquets sold for $55,000. A Hall of Fame official could not provide information on the winning bidder.
Sampras defeated Martin, 7-5.
In a mixed doubles match, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, also inducted Saturday, and Martin defeated local favorite Jill Craybas and former touring pro Richey Renneberg, 3-1.
And in a doubles exhibition, Tom Gullikson, who won the Hall of Fame championship at 33 in 1985, his only singles title on the ATP tour, and former pro Brian Gottfried, defeated Paul Annacone, Sampras’s ex-coach, and Hall of Famer Stan Smith, 3-1.
The event drew a crowd of 3,671. Proceeds benefited the Hall of Fame and the Gullikson Foundation, which supports programs for brain tumor patients and their families.
Jordan Kerr of Australia and Jim Thomas of the U.S. won their third consecutive Hall of Fame doubles title yesterday, 6-3, 7-5, over Nathan Healey of Australia and Igor Kunitsyn of Russia.
The top-seeded team of Wesley Moodie of South Africa and Fabrice Santoro of France withdrew after the first round to concentrate on singles. Santoro won the singles title, beating Moodie in the semifinals.
“We talked about it, and I think it was a good decision,” Santoro said.
Despite the lack of big names, the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships continue to be a popular draw. The Saturday and Sunday sessions were sold out, and the Hall of Fame Classic yesterday morning was sold out. Total attendance for the week was 22,132.
07-16-2007, 09:40 PM
Sports wire: Defeat led Sampras to HOF career
Article Launched: 07/14/2007 11:30:24 PM PDT
Despite 14 Grand Slam titles, it's a loss in the 1992 U.S. Open final that sticks with Pete Sampras.
"That's always the first match that comes to my mind," said Sampras, who recalled the turning point in his career Saturday before his induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame along with Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Sven Davidson and photographer Russ Adams in Newport, R.I.
After splitting the first two sets in the 1992 U.S. Open final, Sampras led 5-4 in the third against 2004 Hall of Famer Stefan Edberg before he double faulted on the first and last points of the game, eventually losing the set in a tiebreaker.
Sampras said he gave up in the fourth set and ended up losing 6-2.
"It changed my whole mentality, when I kind of gave up in that fourth set," he recalled during a morning press conference. "I just promised myself I would never let that happen again. I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to stay No. 1. That 1992 loss to Edberg was the wake-up call that I needed to really figure this thing out."
He did that, becoming the career leader with 14 Grand Slam singles titles that included seven Wimbledons, five U.S. Opens and two Australian Opens. Sampras was No. 1 in the world for
a record 286 weeks, 102 straight from April 15, 1996, to March 30, 1998.
Sanchez-Vicario, a member of Spain's five Fed Cup winning teams, won three Grand Slam singles titles.
The 79-year-old Davidson was the first Swede to win a Grand Slam event, winning at Roland Garros in 1957 after losing in the French final in 1955 and '56.
Adams, who turns 77 on July 30, was a face behind the lens, capturing pictures of tennis for 50 years.
His favorite moment?
"My next photograph," he said.
07-17-2007, 12:24 PM
Sampras quaking in his boots at the thought that Roger will pass him in slams sometime in 2008. Just 6 years after he retired. Ridiculous.
Nah Pete isnt a whiny brat who mastered the art of false humility, he just was a humbled normal down to earth grounded man, he sleeps well at night unlike federer would if any of his records were challenged. or if he were beaten 2 weeks in a row by the same qualifier
Pistol Pete's grand finale
By PETE ALFANO
Star-Telegram staff writer
He didn't swagger around a tennis court, torment chair umpires or bow to the crowd at the end of matches like his noted rival Andre the Entertainer.
Oddly enough, what characterized Pete Sampras' demeanor was an impassive air, and when things weren't going particularly well, a hangdog look -- like a bobblehead doll with a broken spring.
But as the saying goes, appearances can be deceiving. Sizing up Sampras by his body language was as difficult as reading his serve, which never broke speed records, only the spirit of the players on the other side of the net.
In the Open era of tennis, when fans have been reared on the volatility of John McEnroe, combativeness of Jimmy Connors and showmanship of Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras is a throwback -- the gentleman player who was comfortable in white and still likes to say, "I let my racket do the talking."
And did it ever. Highlighting a 15-year career are a record 14 Grand Slam singles titles, 64 tournament victories in all and a record six consecutive years of finishing as the No. 1 player in the world in probably the most competitive era in men's tennis history.
As Sampras says, you can't achieve all that and not be driven.
"There was a deep-down competitiveness that not many people saw," he said in a telephone interview Friday. "I was not going to compromise to market myself or change my look or attitude. But I internalized a lot. That's the nature of being a Sampras."
The fire literally burned in his belly. Sampras went two years with an undiagnosed ulcer, which made him feel nauseated whenever he ate and during stressful matches.
But if his stomach is churning today, it will be for a far different reason. Almost five years after he retired at 31, with the last of his Grand Slam titles accounted for at the U.S. Open, Sampras receives the sport's ultimate honor when he is inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.
And while he knows it was a foregone conclusion -- "I thought my chances were good," he joked -- the event has been a trip down memory lane and enabled him to put his career in perspective.
"It's been a weekend of reflection," said Sampras, who turns 36 in August. "I've stopped everything and looked at my career. It's time to thank people who helped me get here. I never even appreciated myself during my career. You'd win and then look at the next tournament."
Sampras is a student of the game. He admires the great Australian players and tried to model himself after them. "I'm a big fan of history and I'm happy to be inducted in the Hall with [Ken] Rosewall and [Rod] Laver," he said.
He is married now and the father of two boys, and relishes having his wife Bridgette, his sons and his parents sharing his day. "I'm sentimental sometimes, and to have my family here is pretty cool."
When he retired after defeating Agassi for the third time in a U.S. Open final, the debate centered on whether Sampras is the greatest player of all time. Now, of course, the question is kicked around about Roger Federer of Switzerland, who is only 25 and already has won 11 Grand Slam events. Eclipsing Sampras seems to be a matter of time.
Sampras said he was hitting with Federer in Los Angeles recently and jokingly told him, "You could have let me enjoy this a couple of more years."
"He's a great player and dominating much more than I ever did," Sampras said. "He's mellow, my type of player and personality. I don't see anyone stopping him."
The argument can be made that the game was stronger at the top during the Sampras years with players such as Agassi, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker, among others. In addition to a galaxy of clay court specialists -- Gustavo Kuerten, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Sergi Bruguera, Thomas Muster, Carlos Moya -- there were also dangerous serve-and-volleyers like Goran Ivanisevic, Michael Stich and Richard Krajicek.
"I think the game was stronger [at the top] in the '90s," Sampras said, "but I think the players from number 15 on down are stronger today."
It is difficult to compare athletes of different generations, thus the nature of sports is to measure success by the numbers.
But greatness is another matter; it is about defining moments. Federer had perhaps his first in the fifth set against Rafael Nadal in Sunday's Wimbledon final.
The irony is that the supposedly reticent Sampras had some of the more unforgettable moments in tennis history.
Remember when he broke down and cried during his match against fellow American Jim Courier at the 1995 Australian Open in Melbourne, after his coach Tim Gullickson was sent home ill, suffering from a malignant brain tumor that took his life the next year?
Sampras won the match.
In the U.S. Open final that year, he and Agassi brought the crowd to its feet with a 22-stroke rally in which each player had apparently won the point several times. Sampras did win the point, which inspired a TV commercial starring the two Nike clients.
And he capped that astounding year in December when he fought through cramps and dehydration to beat Andrei Chesnokov of Russia in a Davis Cup final singles match on clay in Moscow. Sampras collapsed and was carried from the court, but returned the next day to win the doubles match, teaming with Todd Martin. He then clinched the Cup with a dominating straight-set victory against Kafelnikov. It was a tour de force on his weakest surface.
But an even more indelible example of his determination and perseverance came in a quarterfinal match at the 1996 U.S. Open. Sampras became ill and was barely standing during the fifth-set tiebreaker against Alex Correjta of Spain, leaning on his racket like a cane between points.
At 7-all, Sampras straightened up and smacked a second-serve ace for match point. An unhinged Corretja then double-faulted, giving Sampras a 9-7 victory in the tiebreaker, and ending the four-hour marathon. He would go on to win the Open.
But matches like these took a toll. Sampras knew he was slowing down when he lost to Marat Safin of Russia in the 2000 U.S. Open final and to Australian Lleyton Hewitt -- the new Connors -- in the '01 Open final.
"They blew me off the court," said Sampras, who could not overcome having to play on consecutive days against considerably younger opponents.
But he wasn't going to quit until he broke the tie (and put some distance) between him and Roy Emerson for Grand Slam titles. And Agassi was the perfect foil.
He is a year older than Sampras and they probably could have played each other blindfolded. Sampras won that Open final in 2002 and then spent the rest of the year contemplating his future.
"Throughout my whole career I always had a goal," he said. "It was either to stay No. 1 or to win another major. It's what kept me going through a couple of tough years.
"After that Open, it took six to eight months to see what was next. Then I realized I had nothing left to prove to myself. It was an emotional decision."
There are no regrets, Sampras said. He doesn't wish he tried to win another Wimbledon, especially now with Federer breathing down his neck. He is disappointed that he didn't win the French, but said he wouldn't trade any of his Grand Slam titles for even one at Roland Garros.
"I never relaxed and let it flow there," he said. "As the French went on, the anxiety increased. I was trying too hard to win."
Now, after rarely touching a racket in the first three years of his retirement, Sampras is back on the court, playing World Team Tennis and exhibitions. He'll play against Todd Martin on Sunday in Newport, and will play Federer three times in Asia later this year.
It keeps him in shape, he said, and it satisfies a need for competition. But while he is convinced he would still be a formidable opponent at Wimbledon, he has no illusions about a comeback on the men's tour.
He walked away a champion, in select company with Michael Jordan and John Elway.
"I always played to win," Sampras said. "I knew when it was time to move on. I didn't want a farewell tour."
Sampras by the numbers
14 Grand Slam titles (No. 1 all-time: Wimbledon 7, U.S. Open 5, Australian Open 2)
2 Davis Cup titles U.S. won with Sampras (1992, '95)
6 Years finished as No. 1 in the world ( all-time ATP best)
19 Age when he became the youngest men's winner in U.S. Open history, 1990
31 Age when he won the U.S. Open in 2002, his 14th Slam title
$43 Million in career prize money
762 Match victories (2nd all time to Agassi)
Pete Sampras vs. Roger Federer
Roger Federer has 11 Grand Slam titles, and at the age of 25 it seems just a matter of time before he passes Pete Sampras (14) for the most Slam titles in men's tennis. One view of how they would have fared on the four surfaces if they faced each other in their prime:
Grass Although Federer won in five sets in their only meeting at Wimbledon, Sampras' serve and volley game is custom-made for lawn tennis, and he'd probably win seven of every 10 matches they would play.
Clay Federer has the clear advantage because of steadier groundstrokes, more patience and growing up on clay.
Sampras led the U.S. to the Davis Cup title against Russia on clay in 1995 and reached the French Open semis in '96, but said he could never get over the hump on dirt.
Hardcourts A tossup. Sampras enjoyed beating Andre Agassi at his own game at the U.S. Open, rallying from the baseline, but he would have to force the issue and serve and volley against Federer.
Indoors Without the elements to affect his serve, and because indoor surfaces tend to be fast, the advantage goes to Sampras.
On the record
Facing John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl at the end of their careers and playing Roger Federer and Andy Roddick at the start of theirs, Pete Sampras' record speaks for itself:
Pete Sampras vs. Record
Andre Agassi 20-14
Boris Becker 12-7
Michael Chang 12-8
Jim Courier 16-4
Jimmy Connors 2-0
Stefan Edberg 8-6
Roger Federer 0-1
Goran Ivanisevic 12-6
John McEnroe 3-0
Richard Krajicek 4-6
Ivan Lendl 5-3
Patrick Rafter 12-4
Andy Roddick 1-2
Michael Stich 4-5
Pete Alfano, 817-390-7985