Sampras misses game, not pressures that come with it
By Bonnie DeSimone
Special to ESPN.com
He still pictures himself on the court, he says, serving well enough to beat Roger Federer. He still feels a shiver of longing on the last Sunday afternoon of Wimbledon.
The bottom line, though, is that Pete Sampras was one of those rare athletes who retired completely satisfied with his career. His contentment showed Tuesday as he spoke to reporters on a conference call to promote Thursday's exhibition match in which he'll face No. 19 Robby Ginepri at the River Oaks International tournament in Houston.
Sampras recently picked up a racket -- a bigger one than he used to play with -- for the first time in three years to get ready for the match, his first on-court appearance since his dramatic U.S. Open final win over Andre Agassi in 2002.
"Basically, after I retired, I took some time to have some fun, play some golf, and do some fun things," said Sampras, who is married to actress Bridgette Wilson and has two sons, Christian, 3, and Ryan, who was born last July.
"After a few years of that, I asked myself what was next. I need to keep myself busier, doing more, fulfilling things. The end of last year, I opened myself up to playing this year if the right thing came to me.
"Hope I won't embarrass myself out there."
That seems unlikely, but the match will be on clay, Sampras' least favorite surface, and against a worthy opponent. He said he's preparing seriously, hitting (with partners including Justin Gimelstob and members of UCLA's men's team) a couple of hours a day, four or five times a week, for the last month.
"Playing tennis is like riding a bike; you don't forget it," said Sampras, winner of 64 pro titles and a record 14 Grand Slam events. "I'm more concerned about my movement and my body than actually hitting backhands and forehands. I'm not really worried about playing anybody."
A questioner noted that he still seems to have a little swagger.
"There's always swagger when I step on the tennis court," Sampras said.
Sampras conceded that Federer's dominance, somewhat like his own during a big part of his career, is not necessarily the healthiest thing for the game.
"I put myself on the court against him and see the game and see there's no one out there that has a big enough game, a big enough serve that can back it up and really put any pressure on him," Sampras said.
"The bigger server, [Andy] Roddick, you know, stays back. That's an uphill struggle for him. I think I would stick to my game and hopefully be good enough to beat him."
But Sampras reiterated that he's not mulling a return to the pro tour. He's been playing a lot of golf and poker, and enjoyed the Indian Wells tournament as an investor rather than a player this year.
"I know playing this sport and coming out of retirement is a whole other animal," said Sampras, who also will play for the Newport Beach team in World Team Tennis this summer. "I can play as much as I want or as little as I want … Once you've shut it down long enough, you look forward to hitting a few balls.
"I miss the focus. I miss the structured life. I miss the preparation … I really miss the majors. What I don't miss is the travel, the pressure, the stress of staying on top of the game. I feel like I had a bull's-eye on my chest for most of my career, so just kind of fending people off is something that I don't miss."
The match will be webcast free of charge on the U.S. Tennis Association's Web site, www.usta.com, with the pre-game starting at 8:15 p.m. ET on Thursday and the match itself beginning at 8:30 p.m.
Also missing in action …
Sampras commented on the absence of a big serve-and-volley player since his departure.
"The art … is pretty much extinct," he said. "You have some guys that do a little bit of it, but across the board, everyone stays back and just trades groundies. I miss the contrast. I miss one guy coming in and the other guy defending. I think that's the best tennis.
"But that's just a sign of the times. It's just the kind of direction it was at Wimbledon the last couple years. The part of the court that's worn out is the baseline, not the net. So, you know, if I'd be playing today, I'd be licking my chops on grass."
04-05-2006, 10:54 PM
April, 5 2006.
Sampras Thinking Hingis?
Is Pete Sampras thinking about making a comeback? That looks like a distinct possibility now that, out of nowhere, this week came an announcement that Sampras would play an exhibition match against U.S. Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri on Thursday in Houston. The match can be followed exclusively on the internet at www.USTA.com.
04-05-2006, 11:31 PM
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
From Pete Sampras in a conference call before his exo match vs. Robby Ginepri at River Oaks: "Playing tennis is like riding a bike; you don't forget it. I'm more concerned about my movement and my body than actually hitting backhands and forehands. I'm not really worried about playing anybody...There's always swagger when I step on the tennis court." And ESPN says "The match will be web-cast free of charge on the U.S. Tennis Association's Web site, www.usta.com, with the pre-game starting at 8:15 p.m. ET on Thursday and the match itself beginning at 8:30 p.m."..
Pete Sampras on his new racquet: "I'm using the (Roger) Federer racquet, which is a little bit bigger than what I had. It has a little more power, but the control is not as good, especially when I hit it off the frame."..
04-05-2006, 11:40 PM
Sampras Will Play A Limited Schedule
By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 5, 2006; Page E05
After he retired as the greatest player of his generation and arguably of all time, Pete Sampras wanted to get as far away from tennis as possible. And with a record $43 million in earnings from a career that spanned three decades, Sampras had the means to devote himself to whatever caught his fancy: golf, parenting, poker or plain old sloth.
Over the last three years, Sampras has pared his golf handicap to 5 and treasured the time spent with his two sons. He still enjoys the occasional jaunt to Las Vegas with his pals. But sloth, he learned, isn't what it's cracked up to be. So at 34, Sampras found himself pulling out the rackets he'd put away and looking for an opportunity to ease back into the sport that had consumed his life for so long -- not to reclaim any former glory, but simply to remember what it was like to be fit, reasonably focused and able to strike a ball and know , unlike golf, exactly where it was going to go.
Tomorrow, Sampras will play his first competitive match since winning the 2002 U.S. Open, facing off against fellow American Robby Ginepri in a clay-court exhibition in Houston. Later this summer, Sampras is scheduled to play about six matches for the Newport Beach (Calif.) Breakers of the World TeamTennis league.
In a conference call Monday, Sampras stressed his return to the game was limited and motivated entirely by a desire to get in shape again and regain a sense of purpose.
"Me playing some exhibitions is in no way an indication that I'm coming out of retirement," said Sampras, seeking to snuff out any speculation about a full-blown comeback before it began.
Tomorrow's exhibition won't be televised but can be viewed live on the Internet. The U.S. Tennis Association is producing the webcast (it starts at 8:15 p.m. Eastern time at http://www.usta.com ) in hopes it will ramp up traffic on its redesigned Web site, much like a title fight does for cable TV.
Sampras's goal is more modest.
"Hope I won't embarrass myself out there," he said with a chuckle.
Sampras sounded relaxed and spoke with a candor and ease that is rare among active players as he fielded questions on a range of topics, including Roger Federer's place in history, Andre Agassi's inevitable decision about retirement and the demise (lamentable in his eyes) of serve-and-volley tennis.
He didn't hesitate to hail Federer as the greatest player the sport has seen in years but stopped short of anointing him as the greatest of all time. Making comparisons across generations, he said, simply wasn't possible -- whether that comparison be of Rod Laver to himself, himself to Federer, or Laver to Federer.
"No question Federer has the best game we've seen in a long time, but I felt like I did okay myself," Sampras said.
Sampras won 14 Grand Slam titles in his career and finished the rankings at No. 1 for six years -- records that will likely never be broken. At 24, Federer is halfway to Sampras's total, winning his seventh Grand Slam event at the Australian Open earlier this year.
Sampras confessed to imagining himself across the net against Federer and implied that, at his peak, he thought he'd fare well, given his powerful serve and serve-and-volley tactics. The problem today, Sampras suggested, is that none of Federer's opponents has a big enough weapon to hurt him. Andy Roddick has the big serve but hugs the baseline rather than pressure the Swiss.
"I think I would stick to my game and hopefully be good enough to beat him," said Sampras, who lost to Federer at Wimbledon in 2001.
Sampras retired in storybook fashion, bowing out after defeating his arch rival, Agassi, in the 2002 U.S. Open final.
He said he feels both admiration and empathy as he watches Agassi press on despite a chronic sciatic nerve injury.
"I think the next four or five months are going to be a telling tale on what his future is," Sampras said. "If he can't compete, if he can't move the way he wants to, I do see him hanging it up. But I understand that he wants to keep going, and I think that's great."
04-05-2006, 11:44 PM
Posted on April 05, 2006
Sampras Live on Web, Says Ready to Wow in Exo
By Richard Vach, Tennis-X.com Senior Writer
Pete Sampras, the most accomplished player in the Open Era, will set another record Thursday night when he takes part in a live web broadcast of his exhibition match at River Oaks against Robby Ginepri.
The match is not being shown on TV but will be webcast exclusively on USTA.com. The webcast will begin with pre-match interviews with both players starting at 8:15pm (EST), with play beginning at at 8:30 p.m.
Speculation is running rampant as to Sampras' physical condition, how he will perform with his new Roger Federer-model Wilson nCode, if his serve-and-volley game can overcome the slow River Oaks claycourts, and how he will measure up against the power of Ginepri.
It has been more than 3-1/2 years since Sampras was last seen on court, ending his storied career by beating Andre Agassi in the final of the 2002 US Open. While Sampras went out "on top," an extended slump prior to his final slam title saw the American lose in the first or second match in 10 of his final 15 tour events.
The 34-year-old also plans to play in the World Team Tennis league this summer, but says a tour-level comeback is not in the cards.
"I miss playing the game. I miss the majors. I miss competing," Sampras said. "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."
In a conference call earlier this week Sampras riffed on topics such as the video replay challenge (which he approves of) and the lack of depth on the WTA Tour that has helped the comeback of Martina Hingis.
"I'm not surprised that she is able to come back," Sampras said of the 25-year-old Hingis. "When she had stopped, she was quite young so she had some fuel left in the tank. The ladies' game isn't quite so deep, so with her game and her drive now, I think it's not surprising to me that she's able to have a very healthy return."
Sampras also said today's men's game lacks variety with the near-death of the serve and volley game, and insinuated that with many of today's men's players staying on the baseline even on grass, he'd be mowing down the competition during the lawn season.
"I do miss the serve and volley game, but there's not really anyone that serves and volleys naturally," Sampras said. "You have big servers that might come in, but the art of serve and volleying is pretty much extinct. You have some guys that do a little bit of it, but across the board everyone stays back and just trades groundies. I miss the contrast. I miss one guy coming in and the other guy defending. I think that's the best tennis. But that's just a sign of the times. It's just the kind of direction it was at Wimbledon the last couple years. The part of the court that's worn out is the baseline, not the net. So if I'd be playing today, I'd be licking my chops on grass. But it's just the way it is. It's unfortunate, but that's where the sport is going -- or it has been."
While Sampras says a return to the tour is out of the question, many feel that, knowing the Sampras ego, if the American finds success in exhibition play, an eventual appearance on the senior tour is also a likelihood.
Sampras has diplomatically failed to bristle over the last six months when asked about Roger Federer being on the road to all-time greatness. Asked about Federer again earlier this week, and the comments by Sergi Bruguera that the Swiss is "10 times better than Sampras," the American again showed he is not ready to hand Federer the all-time great reigns -- while subtly getting in a plug for himself.
"No question Federer has the best game we've seen in a long time, but I felt like I did okay myself," Sampras said. "Sergi has been around, he knows the game, but we all have our different opinions."
Once Sampras gets a few exo matches under his belt, we'll see just how violently the competitive juices start churning. One preview came from his thoughts on possibly facing John McEnroe this summer in World Team Tennis play.
"I'm not really worried about playing anybody," Sampras said, commenting on the "swagger" he's bringing as the record six-time year-end No. 1 player. "There's always swagger when I step on the tennis court. Even when I'm practicing, you know, I still want to "wow" myself. It's something that I'm still pretty good at..."
Let the webcast begin.
Richard Vach is a senior writer for Tennis-X.com, was recently awarded "Best Hard News" story writer for 2005 by the United States Tennis Writers Association, and can currently be seen on The Tennis Channel's "Tennis Insiders: Super Insiders" episodes.
04-05-2006, 11:46 PM
Sampras back in action
Tennis legend Pete Sampras will return for an exhibition match against fellow American Robby Ginepri on Thursday (US), but said that fans should not get excited and expect a full return to the professional tour.
Sampras will face Ginepri as part of the River Oaks International tournament in Houston, and is committed to playing seven matches this year with the Newport Beach Breakers of World Team Tennis.
The American has not played tennis since retiring in 2003, a year after winning the US Open, his 14th Grand Slam tournament, but told reporters in a conference call that the return to the court is merley for fun and fitness.
"I know playing this sport and coming out of retirement is a whole other animal. It's really your life, and I've already experienced life on the road," he said.
"After a few years of that, I kind of asked myself what was next.
"I need to kind of keep myself busier doing more, fulfilling things. The end of last year, I kind of opened myself up to playing this year if the right thing came to me."
Sampras has been practicing for the showdown with Ginepri, and hopes that he can show some of the form that made him one of the greatest players in history.
"I've been hitting some balls for the past month. I hope I won't embarrass myself," he said.
"It's an easy match in Houston, and hopefully it can entertain some people and have some fun."
04-05-2006, 11:50 PM
Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 April 2006, 23:54 GMT 00:54 UK
Federer has no rivals - Sampras
Former world number one Pete Sampras says he cannot see anyone in the game capable of challenging the supremacy of current number one Roger Federer.
Since Sampras retired four years ago, the 24-year-old Swiss player has won seven Grand Slams and been world number one for two years.
"I don't see anyone with a big enough weapon to hurt him," said Sampras.
"They're just staying back and Roger is able to dictate well enough. You just have to serve well and attack him."
Sampras, 34, retired in 2002 after winning a record 14th Grand Slam title, and has spent much of the intervening period playing golf and poker.
Having scarcely picked up a racket for three years, he will play Robby Ginepri in an exhibition match in Houston on Thursday and aims to play World Team Tennis, but insisted a tour comeback is not on the cards.
"When you retire you want to get as far away as possible from the game for a few years," he said.
"I'm just getting in shape and having some fun. I've been hitting some balls for the past month. Hopefully I won't embarrass myself."
04-05-2006, 11:53 PM
Sampras' tips to beat Federer
Sampras meets Ginepri in an exhibition match in Houston
London: Former World No. 1 Pete Sampras, talking about Roger Federer's supremacy, said: "Federer has no rivals in the game capable of challenging him."
Since Sampras retired four years ago, the 24-year-old Swiss player has dominated the game, winning seven Grand Slams and being No. 1 for two years.
"I don't see anyone with a big enough weapon to hurt him," said Sampras. "They're just staying back and Roger is able to dictate terms. You just have to serve well and attack him."
Sampras, now 34, retired in 2002 after winning a record 14th Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open and has spent much of the time playing golf and poker. The American, who is said to have hardly picked up a racket for three years, will play Robby Ginepri in an exhibition match in Houston on Thursday.
Not coming back
Sampras also aims to play World Team Tennis, but insisted that a Tour comeback was definitely not on the cards.
"When you retire, you want to get as far away as possible from the game for a few years. I'm just getting in shape and having some fun. I've been hitting some balls for the past month. Hopefully, I won't embarrass myself," he said about his clash with Ginepri.
04-06-2006, 10:18 AM
pretty exicted for it myself Angiel
hope I can watch it at work
do i need to download anything
acnnt imagine how his first match back is on clay
i dont want hiim to get dirty & run around the court
04-06-2006, 10:03 PM
pretty exicted for it myself Angiel
hope I can watch it at work
do i need to download anything
acnnt imagine how his first match back is on clay
i dont want hiim to get dirty & run around the court
I am too my friend :worship: :angel: and I think he will be fine win or lose, him playing again, is all I want. :drool: :drool: :kiss:
04-06-2006, 10:07 PM
Sampras thinks he could solve Federer
UNION-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICES
April 5, 2006
Pete Sampras insists he is not contemplating a serious comeback and that an exhibition match scheduled for tomorrow is simply for fun.
But the 34-year-old American, who holds the record with 14 men's grand slam singles titles, said in a teleconference yesterday he knew what it would take to derail world No.1 Roger Federer.
“With Roger, the problem is with his competition today, I don't see anyone with a big enough weapon to hurt him,” Sampras said ahead of his match against fellow-American Robby Ginepri in Houston.
“They're just staying back, and Roger is able to move well enough and dictate well enough. With Roger you just have to beat him. You just have to serve well and attack him.”
Federer, 24, has taken charge of the men's game since Sampras retired after winning the 2002 U.S. Open. The Swiss has won seven grand slams and has held the No.1 rank for more than two years.
“There's no one out there that has a big enough game, a big enough serve to really put pressure on him. I would stick to my game and hopefully that would be big enough to beat him,” said Sampras.
04-06-2006, 10:12 PM
Posted on Thu, Apr. 06, 2006
SPOTLIGHT ON TENNIS
Sampras' 'return' is not a comeback
BY MICHELLE KAUFMAN
'Pete Sampras was consumed by tennis for 25 years, so when he retired after winning the 2002 U.S. Open, he got ''as far away from the sport as possible.'' He played enough golf to get his handicap to 5, dabbled in poker, traveled with his wife and two sons, and eventually got bored.
A few months ago, he pulled out his racket for the first time in more than three years and considered easing back into the sport. He is quick to stress that he is not coming out of retirement to play on the ATP Tour, but merely to play exhibitions so he can be fit and add focus to a life that needed more fulfillment.
Sampras' first match is a clay-court exhibition tonight in Houston against Robby Ginepri. The match will be webcast live on www.usta.com at 8:15. This summer, he plans to play a half-dozen matches for the Newport Beach (Calif.) Breakers of World Team Tennis.
''I just want to make this clear that me playing some exhibitions is in no way an indication that I'm coming out of retirement,'' Sampras, 34, said on a teleconference this week.
There are parts of professional tennis he misses.
``I miss the focus. I miss the structured life. I miss the preparation. I really miss the majors. I mean, the second week of Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the others. I miss that final day. . . . Come 2 o'clock on Wimbledon final Sunday, I miss it. There's no question about it.''
But there are other parts of his former life he is happy to live without.
``What I don't miss is the travel, the pressure, the stress of staying on top of the game. I feel like I had a bull's-eye on my chest for most of my career, so just kind of fending people off is something that I don't miss.''
Sampras seemed chattier than during his playing days and addressed a variety of topics:
• The demise of serve and volley: ``The art of serve and volleying is pretty much extinct. Everyone stays back and trades [groundstrokes]. I miss the contrast. I miss one guy coming in and the other guy defending. I think that's the best tennis. If I'd be playing today, I'd be licking my chops on grass.''
• Roger Federer's dominance: ``No question, Federer has the best game we've seen in a long time, but I felt like I did OK myself.''
• Andre Agassi's recent struggles: ``I think Andre is trying to get himself ready to play, give it a push. If the push isn't good enough and he has a setback and if it's not going well, I think I do see him probably calling it a career. It is tough to accept, and especially really tough to accept when we can't control it.''
Sampras has been hitting with tour player Justin Gimelstob and the UCLA men's team and hasn't forgotten how to play.
''There's always swagger when I step on the tennis court,'' he said. ``Even when I'm practicing, I still want to wow myself. It's something that I'm still pretty good at.''
04-06-2006, 10:17 PM
April 5, 2006, 11:51PM
Retiring wasn't easy for Sampras
By DALE ROBERTSON
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
So there were regrets after all, it appears. Although Pete Sampras did what few great athletes do — he said goodbye from the rarefied air of the mountaintop — the script was never as neat and tidy as we assumed.
Because Sampras put down his racket after winning on the biggest tennis stage his country has to offer, he was roundly cheered for knowing when to say when. The only thing he could have done better, it was suggested, would have been to tell the world he was retired as soon as he had beaten his rival, Andre Agassi, to win the 2002 U.S. Open.
After all, Sampras surely couldn't have fathomed playing on after such an impossibly perfect, career-capping moment? Surely, given the repeated indignities he suffered for two seasons leading into that Open, he must have understood he was obliged to walk off among the clouds after reviving his reputation so spectacularly.
Actually, he didn't understand that at all. Quite the opposite. Sampras admits
today, as he prepares for a match against a fellow pro in front of paying customers for the first time since that magical moment when Agassi went down in the gloaming of Arthur Ashe Stadium, he wishes he had gone ahead and taken a long, smug, celebratory victory lap.
"Remember, I didn't predict I'd win the Open, then ride off into the sunset," says Sampras, who faces Robby Ginepri in a best-of-three-sets exhibition at River Oaks Country Club tonight. "It just happened. I'd been struggling for two years; then I came through for those two weeks. It had been so tough, those two years — a burden on me personally and a burden on my marriage.
"So I wish I'd won that event, then had the heart to keep going because the pressure would have been off and the tennis would have been fun again. I'm not one to walk into a press conference and say, 'I told you so,' but a big part of me wanted to do that."
In other words, it never crossed Sampras' mind that he was finished after Agassi had been swept aside. Sampras debated the matter internally for months, never entering a tournament but not officially conceding he wouldn't play again. His uncertainty lingered until it came time to start preparing for Wimbledon the next summer.
Heart tells him no
"People say I should have retired right there, on the court (at the Open)," he said. "It's not that easy. I had to go through all the emotions that go with leaving a game that I'd dedicated my life to, that I'd been playing since I was 7. You don't set a timetable. You just leave. Once I won the Open, I really wanted to continue. But my heart wasn't in it.
"Going out and playing at 2 on Sunday at Wimbledon — that's the easy part. It's the preparation, the running, the working out, the travel, being away from your family that's the hard part. A lot more happens than just picking up a racket and playing a match.
"But it still took me until Wimbledon the next year, when I couldn't make myself get ready to go again, that I knew I was done. That was when I realized I had nothing left in the tank."
Sampras officially retired in August 2003, and once he decided to stick his rackets in the closet, they stayed there. Other than to play occasionally with his son, Christian, a toddler who wasn't much of threat to the old man, he never ventured near a court. If he felt like playing something, he headed to the golf course. He admits he has played "a lot" of golf, enough to have acquired a 5-handicap.
But around last Christmas, Sampras looked in the mirror and saw a man who, at 34, was becoming bored, who needed some structure and focus. Truth to tell, he needed tennis again. With wife Bridgette's blessing, he began to explore ways to scratch the itch without becoming consumed by it.
"I opened myself up to playing a little," Sampras said. "Whatever made sense for my family and my schedule I'd look at. I just wanted to get back in shape and get the competitive juices flowing again."
River Oaks' proposal was the best one to come across his desk: a single match in a lovely setting, with a magnificent golf course right next door. OK, the tennis surface would be clay — "a little ironic, given my history on the stuff," he mused — but it gave him a chance to return to a place he remembered fondly, if only vaguely, from his adolescence. Although he'd lost to Richey Reneberg at River Oaks in 1988, when Sampras was an ashy, gangly 17-year-old, he received a warm welcome from the club members. Such things tend to make an impression.
Keeping it fun
And beginning this evening against Ginepri, a formidable opponent for anyone coming off a 3 1/2 -year hiatus — even Sampras — the sport will never not be fun for him again.
"I want to entertain the people and not get hurt," Sampras said. "It's not a comeback. It's more about being competitive and getting to do something again that I used to be really good at. In tennis, at least I know where the ball is going when I hit it. Not like golf."
Just the same, the man who won seven Wimbledons in eight summers and deserves serious consideration as the game's greatest player ever expects to be nervous, at least initially, in front of the crowd.
"I think there will be (butterflies)," he said. "I don't know what to expect. I told everyone it's like riding a bike, but ...
"Robby's a tough draw, a real grinder on clay. Still, I'm excited to get out there and hit a few balls for the people."
Practicing with purpose
After he signed his contract, Sampras began training in earnest, practicing with Justin Gimelstob and the UCLA varsity. He says he has been spending two hours on the court four to five days a week. He is Pete Sampras after all. There are high standards, unique expectations.
"There's always a swagger when I step on the tennis court," he admits. "Even when I'm practicing, I still want to wow myself."
Sampras remembers only too well what it felt like to have people look at him in 2001-02 and shake their heads, questioning why he was trying to hang on in such a reduced state. Then came the U.S. Open and, with it, redemption, vindication and storybook closure.
"I don't miss the pressure, the stress of staying on top," Sampras said. "I feel like I had a bull's-eye on my chest for most of my career."
Of course he did. Winning 14 Grand Slams doesn't come without a price.
04-06-2006, 10:23 PM
Catch Pete on the Net
Pete Sampras is going to be visible on a tennis court again tonight – not on TV, on the Internet.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion is to play an exhibition match against Robbie Ginepri, starting at 5:30 p.m., as a herald to the River Oaks International in Houston. The match can be witnessed by tapping into usta.com.
It's the first time a match in this country will be available live and exclusively on the Web, according to Jeffrey Volk, director of advanced media for the USTA.
Sampras, 34, has been away from competitive tennis since winning the U.S. Open in 2002. He said his appearance in Houston doesn't mean he is planning to come out of retirement. He is not entered in the Houston tournament, a clay-court event. Ginepri is playing in it.
Sampras also has agreed to represent the Newport Beach Breakers in a World Team Tennis season scheduled to begin July 6.
Jerry Magee: (619) 293-1830; firstname.lastname@example.org
04-08-2006, 07:19 PM
April 7, 2006, 12:49AM
Sampras would be foil to Federer
Grand Slam king had service game, aggressive style to upstage No. 1
By DALE ROBERTSON
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
he torch didn't pass the day a teenage Roger Federer beat Pete Sampras in the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2001, ending Sampras' 31-match winning streak on the lawns that had become so sacred to him.
Just 19, Federer was lost in the tennis woods, a terrific physical talent who couldn't keep his focus from one match — or sometimes set — to the next. He would be beaten in the quarterfinals by local hero Tim Henman, after which he failed to escape even the fourth round of the next seven majors before inevitably breaking through at Wimbledon in 2003.
That's the day the torch passed. That's when the talk, and the counting, began. Less than three years later, the greatest debate has become a rumble, approaching a roar.
Groundswell for Swiss
And support is tilting toward Federer. Most recently Sergi Bruguera, the two-time French Open champion and a Sampras contemporary, declared Federer to be the superior player.
"It's hard to compare generations," he said, taking the diplomatic track. "I missed (John) McEnroe, (Bjorn) Borg, (Rod) Laver and Roger when I was in my prime. It's hard to say how I would have done against any of them."
Regarding Bruguera's comments, Sampras said: "Everyone's got their opinion. Sergi's entitled to his."
People favor Federer, it would seem, because he's on the court now and because he has kept his boot on the necks of his rivals since late 2003 like no player before him. The Swiss who rarely misses has won seven of the past 11 Slams while losing only 12 of his past 200 matches. Sampras went 6-for-12 in the majors in 1993-95, but during the height of his powers, he never won the secondary events with Federer's frequency.
But that fact doesn't prove Federer's superiority.
"Roger is head and shoulders above everyone, and there are many good players today," Sampras said. "But I think there are fewer great players than there were 10 years ago. Down to 50 to 70 (in the rankings), it's probably deeper, but the guys two through seven aren't as strong as the players I was having to beat to win Slams."
Agassi pushed Pete
In 1995, arguably Sampras' finest season because he won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and was the runner-up in Australia, second-ranked Andre Agassi also reached the pinnacle of his Hall of Fame-worthy game.
Agassi was tough enough that year to hand Sampras three of his 15 losses, including the Melbourne final.
No. 3 was the Austrian clay court titan, Thomas Muster, the Rafael Nadal of his day. Boris Becker, Michael Chang, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Thomas Enqvist rounded out the top seven, followed by Jim Courier, who by then had collected four Slams. Becker was a three-time Wimbledon champion with U.S. and Australian titles, too; Chang and Kafelnikov were past and future French Open champions, respectively. Kafelnikov also would prevail Down Under.
Today, with Agassi, 35, and the slumping Lleyton Hewitt having fallen out of the top 10, the players near Federer in the rankings have just two major titles between them — Nadal's French and Andy Roddick's U.S. Open.
Most significantly, none of them has a weapon, much less weapons, capable of neutralizing Federer's all-around excellence. It's for this reason Sampras says, "I think Roger will wind up being No. 1 for as long as he wants to be."
It's going to take Federer four more years, the current one included, to tie the record for year-end No. 1 finishes Sampras shares with Ivan Lendl. As for the Grand Slam race, Federer claimed his seventh at the Australian Open, leaving him halfway to Sampras' record 14 roughly six months after turning 24. Sampras had turned 24 only a month earlier when he got his seventh at the 1995 U.S. Open, his 26th Slam. After falling short in his first 16 majors, Federer is 7-for-27.
"Roger has taken over the tour," Sampras said. "He's winning matches even when he's not playing well, making it look effortless. I know he doesn't get the respect in the U.S. he deserves, but I definitely have the utmost respect for him."
Back to that nagging question, though: Could Sampras, playing his best, have beaten Federer, playing his best?
Yes, absolutely. Because Sampras had the weapons — a killer first serve plus a bedeviling second serve — plus the attacking style Federer's leading rivals lack, as buried behind the baseline as they tend to stay.
"I'm probably in the top two or three (of all time), with Borg and Laver or Roger," Sampras suggests, answering as candidly as he can. "It's hard to pick out one No. 1.
"All I can say is that when I was playing my best, I did feel unbeatable against anybody I had to play against."
Which, to be sure, is how Federer feels in 2006.
04-08-2006, 07:25 PM
Sampras Is Not Coming Back
April 7, 2006 8:00 p.m. EST
Shaveta Bansal - All Headline News Contributor
New York, NY (AHN) - Pete Sampras insists he is not contemplating a serious comeback and that an exhibition match scheduled for Thursday was simply for fun.
In a teleconference, the 34-year-old American said that he knew what it would take to derail world No. 1 Roger Federer. Federer, 24, has taken charge of the men’s game since Sampras retired after winning the 2002 U.S. Open.
Sampras said he had been playing a lot of golf and started to get into poker when he felt the itch to pick up a racket again.
Sampras also plans to play World Team Tennis this season but said it was no way an indication that he was coming out of retirement.
04-08-2006, 07:43 PM
Interviews with Pete Sampras and Robby Ginepri
4/7/06 10:30 PM
The Return. The Drama. The Tiebreak.
Pete Sampras returned to the tennis court in dramatic fashion on Thursday night, April 6th to take on Robby Ginepri in an exhibition at River Oaks International - and LIVE on USTA.com. The 14-time Grand Slam Champion showed off much of the arsenal that made him arguably the greatest the sport has ever seen.
Prior to our live Webcast, USTA.com sat down with both Pete and Robby to talk about a variety of topics. Please enjoy these excerpts and watch out for more to come in the near future.
USTA Encourages Players To Return In New Ad Campaign
By Tennis Week
On the day Pete Sampras made his return to tennis at the River Oaks exhibition, the USTA launched a promotional campaign urging lapsed players to get back into the game and encouraging existing players to hit the court more often.
" Find a Court, Find a Partner, Find a Program, USTA.com...It's Your Game" is the USTA's call to action and tagline for the campaign that will feature five public tennis courts throughout the country with text focusing on recreational players' emotional connection to the court and the game.
Print ads will debut in eight national publications, including: Newsweek, ESPN The Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, Tennis, Runner's World, and Ski Magazine. In addition to mainstream media, the campaign will also appear in multi-cultural outlets such as Black Enterprise, Sports Illustrated Latino, ESPN Deportes, Univision.com, Yahoo! En Espanol, and ESPN Deportes online. The ads will also appear on the internet on Yahoo!, AOL, ESPN.com, and Weather.com.
Courts featured in the print/internet campaign, produced by Hill Holiday, New York, include public facilities in Hemenway Park (Boulder City, Nev.), St. Andrews Rec & Parks (Los Angeles, Calif.), Daffin Park (Savannah, Ga.), Loyola Park (Chicago, Ill.) and Kaiser Park (Crown Point, Ind.). A 30-second television spot, featuring a father and daughter strengthening their emotional bond while playing tennis on the court, will air during U.S. Open Series and U.S. Open telecasts on CBS Sports, ESPN2 and USA Network as well as other tennis broadcasts on The Tennis Channel.
The spot will also air on the Outdoor Life Network (OLN) during this weekend's Davis Cup tie between the United States and Chile. In addition to the image campaign, a revamped USTA.com launched earlier this April. The new site is the ultimate portal for everything tennis. USTA.com will now offer a range of new services and data bases that will help consumers find a local court, a playing partner or seek a variety of tennis programs.
"The new image campaign and re-design of USTA.com provide a great one-two punch to help grow the sport of tennis," said Kurt Kamperman, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA. "This strategy allows us to reach existing and lapsed players and establish the USTA as a true resource for the game."
The coordinated advertising campaign and new web site, follows the 2005 release of the USTA/TIA (Tennis Industry Association) Tennis Participation Study. Research findings identified a 4.1% increase in participation vs. 2004 and 5.8 million new players who began playing the game last year, bringing the total number of participants to 24.7 — the most players in 13 years.
The study also concluded that consumers were interested in more programs, ranging from instruction to league play and a centralized resource to get information in order to improve retention and increase their frequency of play
04-11-2006, 12:14 AM
Where are They Now?
Retirement, It’s a Dirty Job
By Peter Dopkin
For arguably the greatest player of all time, stepping away from the game might have been a difficult thing to do. But for Pete Sampras, who rode intothe sunset after winning his 14th and final Grand Slam title, it was also the right thing to do. Waiting for him on the other side was rest and relaxation—well, that and an endless supply of dirty diapers. Like most fathers of young children, your career accolades don’t mean very much when a soiled 1-year-old comes acallin’.
However, when you’ve earned over $43 million in prize money, you’re in your mid-thirties, your athletic and a perfectionist, what better activity is there to take up than golf? You can never be good enough and there is always something to work on. Plus, if greens fees aren’t an issue, it is a nice way to spend a day (especially if you’ve been playing tennis non-stop since you were seven). Sampras hits the links four or five times a week, and has managed to get his handicap into the single digits (although we won’t disclose how low . . . it can fluctuate from time to time). Also, with his newfound time off, Sampras was able to take vacations, and travel without his racquets.
After a few years of golf and a little bit of poker, Sampras was looking for something a little more rewarding. It’s been unsatisfying for the 34-year-old Sampras to spend his time as if he were someone who retired after working for 50 years. So he has started to get involved in World TeamTennis, joined a group of investors (which includes the publishers of TENNIS and SMASH Magazines) in keeping the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, and he’s playing an exhibition in Houston.
“I think it is more than just playing an exhibition,” Sampras says. “I think what I needed was a sense of focus, and a sense of preparation in my everyday life. You get to a point when you’re not doing anything, you’re playing golf, and you feel a little bit empty. Deciding to play and making that commitment was the biggest hurdle. Once I did that the next day I started going for a run, hitting a few balls, and I think that was what I was looking for. It’s not necessarily that I was dying to be competitive and beat these guys, whoever I’m playing. I think it was more about a daily life that gave me more focus than I’ve had.”
Sampras added, “When I’m playing, I have no idea what that is going to feel like. I’m playing in two weeks in Houston and I’m playing this summer, and I don’t know how that’s going to be. I could dread it. I could love it. I have no idea. But I think the preparation and the focus, and waking up in the morning and having some sort of structure in a day is something that I really needed that I had all my life—and cold turkey, I left it. So it’s not easy letting all that go. It was fun at first for a couple of years. But after those two years I was ready to do more than play some golf and play some cards. I’m still a young guy and every man needs a sense of purpose. And tennis is something that I love, and it is very easy for me to get back into it.
“I’m not killing myself, but I hop in the gym three, four days a week, I hit a few balls three, four days a week. I can still go out and play golf and have some fun. But at the end of the day you want to feel as though you accomplished something, you did something. . . . I’ve worked my whole life and I’m looking forward to getting on the road a little bit and doing something that I was pretty good at.”
It is sometimes hard to imagine athletes as anything other than athletes, especially the greatest ones. It’s hard to believe that Sampras has had a full career, then had his fun in retirement—and he’s still only 34 years old. But this California native is ready to fill the void left by uncertainty, and make his mark in his new life. Whether that’s on the court, in business ventures, or finally reaching the end of the diaper trail, if Sampras is half as successful as he was on the court, he’ll be one lucky man.
The only reason to get excited about Pete Sampras returning to play one exhibition is if this leads to many more appearances, such as World Team Tennis and the seniors tour. He's not coming back to the ATP Tour, although the prideful Angelino has to be somewhat tempted given how many "how would you match up against Roger Federer" questions would be better than questions he's getting.
"The problem with competition today is that I don't see anyone with a big enough weapon to really hurt Roger, like a real attacking player," said Sampras, who will play Robby Ginepri at River Oaks on Thursday, which will be web-cast on USTA.com at 5:15 PST. "I think Roger and everyone, they're just kind of staying back, and Roger is able to dictate and move well enough and dictate the ball anywhere he wants to because he moves so well. Against Roger, you just have to beat him. You have to serve well and attack him, be selective. But I put myself on the court against him and see the game and see there's no one out there that has a big enough game, a big enough serve that can back it up and really put pressure on him. The bigger server, Roddick, stays back. That's an uphill struggle for him. I would stick to my game and hopefully be good enough to beat him."
Pete will play for the Newport Beach Breakers this summer is thinking seriously about playing at least one Champions Cup event for Jim Courier. Speaking of which … Goran Ivanisevic will be the eighth player at the Champions Cup - Boston, April 27-30 at the Bosse Sports Club in Sudbury, Mass. Ivanisevic will join John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Mats Wilander, Pat Cash, Mikael Pernfors, Todd Martin and Aaron Krickstein.