Pete retires. [Archive] - MensTennisForums.com

Pete retires.

angiel
03-24-2007, 08:50 PM
Pete Sampras Retires

By Adam Swiderski

In the world of tennis, you usually only get attention for off-court shenanigans or weird behavior. So Pete Sampras had to get his props the old fashioned way – by winning. And so he did, taking major tournament after major tournament and quietly racking up one of the most successful careers the sport has ever known. That career ended on the first day of the 2003 U.S. Open, when Sampras officially announced his retirement. So now he goes to live in his huge mansion with his gorgeous wife and his swimming pools filled with money. Not a bad way to spend the latter half of your life, eh?

pj80
03-25-2007, 08:26 AM
yeah no shit he retires...why dont u tell us something we dont know?

angiel
03-26-2007, 05:48 PM
yeah no shit he retires...why dont u tell us something we dont know?


You know pj80, you are getting on our nerves now, and you better watch your language here Mr.:devil: :devil: :mad: This is Pete thread not your:eek: and what do you want to know??? please tell:o :o what we post here is for others who want to know about Pete Sampras, not you, so please take your dirty mouth somewhere else, will you.:o :o :sad:

angiel
04-17-2007, 09:20 PM
Farewell to the ace of aces
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The, Aug 26, 2003 by HOWARD FENDRICH

Farewell to the ace of aces

Sampras leaves, 'at peace with it'

By HOWARD FENDRICH Associated Press

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

New York -- Pete Sampras carried his 9-month-old son instead of a racket bag as he walked off center court to one last standing ovation.

No more titles to win.

No more matches to play.

Sampras delivered a formal farewell to tennis Monday night at an on-court ceremony and earlier news conference at the U.S. Open, not quite one year after he won the tournament in what turned out to be his final match.

"The process is now over. I'm 100% retired," Sampras said, his voice cracking. "I'm at peace with it. It's time to call it a career."

Sampras, 32, leaves with 64 singles titles, including a record 14 at Grand Slam tournaments: seven at Wimbledon, five at the U.S. Open and two at the Australian Open.


"I will never sit here and say I'm the greatest ever," he said at the news conference on the first day of the Open. "I've done what I've done in the game. I've won a number of majors -- I think that's kind of the answer to everything.

"I don't know if there's one best player of all time. I feel my game will match up to just about anybody. I played perfect tennis at times, in my mind."

Later, he was honored in a half-hour ceremony between the two night matches in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The crowd treated him to three extended standing ovations, while fellow major champions John McEnroe, Boris Becker and Jim Courier delivered speeches.

"I tried to serve like you. I couldn't do that. I tried to hit a big forehand like you. I couldn't do that," McEnroe said. "I also tried to act like Pete. Needless to say, I failed at that."

Sampras, known for his mild-mannered demeanor off and, usually, on the court, wiped away tears during the tribute, which also included a three-minute highlight video with clips from each of his major final victories and taped words from Andre Agassi.

Sampras was given a plaque with a photo of him in his trademark pose of jumping for an overhead smash, with a red superhero's cape superimposed.

He finished at No. 1 in the rankings a record six years (1993- '98) and held the top spot a total of 286 weeks, another record.

Sampras forever will be associated with Wimbledon, where his skills translated perfectly to grass, and where he went 56-1 while winning seven titles in eight years.

Speaking about the All England Club, three-time Wimbledon champion Becker said: "Before you were around, I used to own the place. . . . Seven titles later, you stole my keys."

Still, the National Tennis Center made a perfect setting for Sampras' goodbye: He won his first and last major titles at the Open.

In 1990, Sampras beat Agassi in the final to become, at 19, the youngest champion in tournament history. Last year, he beat -- guess who? -- Agassi to become, at 31, the oldest Open champion since 1970.

"I'm not retiring because I'm married or I have a son," he said. "I'm retiring because I have nothing to prove to myself."

PETE SAMPRAS FILE

Age: 32 (born Aug. 12, 1971, in Washington, D.C.)

Family: Wife Bridgette Wilson, son Christian (9 months old)

Residence: Los Angeles

Career highlights: Turned pro in 1988. . . . Won first pro title in 1990. . . . Won first Grand Slam title in 1990, beating Andre Agassi at the U.S. Open and becoming Open's youngest men's champ at 19 years 28 days. . . . Finishes with 14-4 record in Grand Slam finals, most titles ever. Won Wimbledon in 1993, '94, '95, '97, '98, '99 and 2000), U.S. Open in 1990, '93, '95, '96 and 2002 and Australian Open in 1994 and '97). . . . Spent six straight years atop world rankings (1993-'98) and held No. 1 ranking a record 286 weeks in all. . . . Won 64 titles and two Davis Cup championships. . . . Singles match record is 762-222, including 203-38 in Grand Slam matches (45-9 Australian Open, 24-13 French Open, 63-7 Wimbledon, 71- 9 U.S. Open). . . . Won $43,280,489.

angiel
04-24-2007, 07:37 PM
http://www.liputan6.com/files/old/olahraga/img/260803dSampras2.jpg

angiel
06-07-2007, 11:22 PM
A Grand farewell
Pistol Pete takes his final bow on center court

By WAYNE COFFEY, DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
August 24, 2003


Pete Sampras, who won 2002 U.S. Open as No. 17 seed,officially announces his retirement tonight.

Fifteen years ago in Philadelphia, before a midweek, midafternoon crowd of maybe 75 people, a 16-year-old high school dropout from Los Angeles made his pro debut against an ATP Tour veteran named Sammy Giammalva Jr.

The event was the U.S. Pro Indoor Championship, the site the Spectrum, the month February. Giammalva, a strong returner whose ranking went as high as No. 30, had little problem dispatching the kid - 6-4, 6-3 - and little doubt that Pete Sampras would not be losing matches for very long.

"I walked off the court and knew I'd played a great player, and that it would be just be a matter of time," Giammalva said.

Sammy Giammalva owns a racket club in Houston these days. He talked about Sampras Saturday night, after playing in a father-son tournament with Sammy III, age 6. He will watch with admiration tonight, when the U.S. Open commences with closure, and a salute to the newly retired Sampras, owner of a record 14 Grand Slam titles, the last of them coming 50 weeks ago on the same hardcourt where he will be honored tonight, in a scintillating victory over Andre Agassi.

It turned out to be Sampras' final match. Sampras grew up idolizing Rod Laver, appreciating the serve-and-volley artistry and graceful comportment of the greats from the past. The idea of finishing up with a title, with a splendid match against his greatest rival, was too perfect to resist. The symmetry - he won his first Grand Slam at the Open in 1990 by beating Agassi - wasn't easy to top either.

The victory made Sampras the youngest Open champion, at 19 years, 28 days. Agassi calls playing against Sampras "the greatest opportunity I'ver ever had - something that is never promised to any athlete no matter how great your career is, which is somebody to have a rivalry with.

"I'll never forget all our matches. We've played in the finals of the Australian, the finals of the U.S. Open three times, the finals of Wimbledon. We've been everywhere together, and now that will no longer be the case."

Jim Courier is another contemporary of the 32-year-old Sampras. His first vivid memory of Sampras came in a junior Davis Cup camp in Santa Barbara, Calif., Courier 15, Sampras a year younger. The players had to begin each day with a 7:15 a.m. run. "He was always the last one out of bed, and had the most swollen eyes," Courier said. "Everyone made fun of him."

Courier would go on to be a top-ranked player himself, a winner of four Slams, including two French Opens - the one major title that would elude Sampras. As much as he appreciated Sampras' stunning athleticism and deft volleys, Courier was most taken by Sampras' serve - and not just the first one. One of the foremost weapons in the history of the game, Sampras' serve wasn't just about its pace. It was about where he'd put it, and when.

"He was a great pitcher, and he knew he could put the strike on the outside corner when he needed, too," Courier said. "That was a large part of his genius - not only having the shot, but having the confidence to go for it at a big moment."

Big moments, indeed, were what drove Sampras. He was forever talking about the majors, about how they were the ultimate definition of greatness. In his career, his non-Grand Slam record was 559-184, a .752 winning percentage. In Slams, it was 203-38, or .842. At the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, Sampras' favorite tennis place of all and where he won an unsurpassed seven titles, his record was even better (134-16,.893).

"He's certainly the greatest player in the modern era, and you can put him in a conversation with Rod Laver as the greatest player ever," Courier said.

Emotionally restrained and almost clinical in his brilliance, Sampras was often accused of being boring, an automaton beneath his bushy eyebrows and hangdog bearing. He was never as dashing or charismatic as Agassi, and Paul Annacone, the coach he reunited with just before making his final Open run last year, is convinced his fluid style and unfaltering restraint made people underestimate not only his greatness, but his intensity.

Indeed, it wasn't until Sampras became vulnerable, until his record streak of six straight years (1993-98) as the year-end No. 1, that people began to warm to him. His unlikely Open triumph last year - as the No. 17 seed - ended a title drought of more than two years, and elicited more affection from fans than he'd ever had before.

Though deeply private, Sampras has a wry sense of humor, and an appealing regular-guy persona. Courier compares him to Joe DiMaggio in the way he'd prefer to let his bat/racket do his talking.

"It's not the era we live in. We live in the sound-bite generation," Courier says. "I think it's a bit of a pity that only in hindsight will his genius be fully appreciated." He paused and laughed. "We don't know what we got till it's gone, baby."

The reluctant genius will make a return tonight, and at last be fully celebrated. Sampras will be there with wife, Bridgette, and their 10-month-old son, Christian. Even Sampras' parents, Sam and Georgia, will be there, after skipping almost all of the big matches of his career, because watching made them too nervous.

As the most prolific champion in history officially says goodbye, the man who beat him in his first match 15 years ago will take it in, glad that his forecast was correct, and that adulation will be directed to someone who has richly earned it. "He brought a class and grace to the game," Sammy Giammalva said. "Tennis players didn't have that good of an image when he came along, and he changed that. He's a tremendous champion who has been tremendous for the sport."

angiel
06-12-2007, 01:11 AM
Look At This Photo,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,



http://www.tennisreporters.net/tr_net_photos_art/SAMPRAS_fm_us_03_son_comp.jpg


http://www.tennisreporters.net/sub_PS_082503.html

angiel
06-13-2007, 09:35 PM
Tennis: New York triumph may be fitting end for Sampras[/COLOR[COLOR="Blue"]]
Independent, The (London), Sep 10, 2002 by John Roberts at Flushing Meadows


BRIDGETTE WILSON'S diary, if she keeps one, would be a good place to research the agony and the ecstasy of life with a struggling superstar. The actress married Pete Sampras on 30 September 2000, less than two months after he achieved a record 13th Grand Slam singles title by winning his seventh Wimbledon championship.

From that moment until the elation of his triumph against Andre Agassi, his career-long rival, at the United States Open here last Sunday night, Sampras had laboured through 33 tournaments without winning a title of any kind.


The 31-year-old multi-millionaire's professional pride was hurting, and those of us who are not fit to string his rackets were urging him to retire before the regular losses became an embarrassment on the scale of this summer's second-round defeat on Court Two at Wimbledon by George Bastl, a "lucky loser" from Switzerland.

Some wondered if marriage had made Sampras too comfortable to meet the demands of his status in the sport. "Bridgette's support is a big reason why I've been able to get through the adversity," he said, having made his way up the steps of Arthur Ashe Stadium to give her a hug. "She lives with me every day. Trust me, it's not easy. When you're struggling, you're not having fun, it's a burden. It just showed me that I met the right woman, and now we're going to have a child. That's what life's all about."


Sampras also embraced his older sister, Stella, and his coach, Paul Annacone, with whom he was reunited a few days after the low point of losing to Bastl at Wimbledon. "Whatever is next, it's Pete's choice," Annacone said. "He can continue on the path he started last month and get better, or he could walk off into the sunset."

It would be hard for Sampras to find a sunset as perfect as the one over Flushing Meadows on Sunday, where he defeated Agassi, 6-3, 6- 4, 5-7, 6- 4, hitting 33 aces - one, it seemed, for each of the tournaments that eluded him during his two years of anxiety. Even then, a case could be made for Sampras as the greatest player the men's game has seen, even allowing for the supreme serve-volleyer's inability to win on the slow red clay of the French Open. Securing a 14th Grand Slam at this point in his career, and in an era when the grind of travel and tournaments is more demanding than ever, strengthens the argument.

Wimbledon may prove to be too strong a magnet for Sampras to resist. "Hopefully, my last Wimbledon will be on Centre Court and not Court 13 or Court Two," he said, grinning.

So he is not ready to call it a day? "I'm going to have to weigh things up in the next couple of months to see where I'm at," Sampras said. "I still want to play. I love to play. But to beat a rival like Andre in a major tournament, at the US Open, a story-book ending, this might be a nice one to stop."

There was pause. "But", he continued, "I still want to compete. Right now my head's spinning. I'm sure in the next couple of weeks I'll reflect on it, see where my heart's at, and my mind, and decide what to do in a few months' time. I wanted to stop on my own terms. That was one thing I promised myself, even though I was struggling this year and hearing this and that. I deserved to stop on my own terms.

"And I've done too much in the game to hear the negative things. There was a point I was believing it, but having my family, my wife, and Paul, kept me positive. I could step away from the game and feel really good about what I'd done. But I still felt like I had one more moment, maybe a couple more moments. And it happened today.

"I never thought anything would surpass what happened at Wimbledon a couple of years ago, but this one might take the cake. This might be my biggest achievement so far. The way things clicked for me today, it was awesome. I had to play five matches in seven days. That was a lot of work. I peaked at the right time against Andre. I had to."

Sampras has won 20 of his 34 matches against Agassi, who was on the other side of the net when the Californian won his first Grand Slam title as a 19-year-old at the 1990 US Open. During the course of that tournament, Sampras hit 100 aces. On reflection, he says he "just had a hot two weeks" and that his game was not mature enough for such an early success. He hit 144 aces this time.

The 32-year-old Agassi's renowned return of serve did not threaten Sampras until midway through the third set, when the momentum of the match began to switch, leading to a dramatic fourth set in which Sampras hung on as weary legs took a toll on both players. Agassi would probably have been favoured in a fifth set, but he did not get that far.

"No disrespect to anyone I've played over the years," Sampras said, "but Andre's the best I've ever played. He has an extra gear. He brings out the best in me. He's made me a better player. He's forced me to add things to my game. He's brought moments to my career that are like Borg and McEnroe."

Greg Rusedski, who, after losing to Sampras in five sets in the third round, said the American was a step and a half slower than he used to be, barely rated a mention at the end of the day. "Greg's got his own issues," Sampras said. "His issues have issues. We're talking too much about the wrong guy."

[B]SAMPRAS THE GOLDEN OLDIE

The US Open men's final between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi was the first between two players over 30 in the Open era. Agassi is 32, Sampras 31. The final was also the first between over-30 players in Grand Slam competition since the 37-year-old Ken Rosewall defeated the 36-year-old Mal Anderson to win the 1972 Australian Open. Sampras is now the oldest Grand Slam champion since Arthur Ashe won Wimbledon in 1975 at 31 years, 11 months, and the oldest US Open champion since Rosewall won in 1970 at the age of 35. Sampras was 31 on 12 August 2002.

Sampras's record in Grand Slam finals

1990 US Open: bt A Agassi, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

1992 US Open: lost to S Edberg, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2. 1993 Wimbledon: bt J Courier, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3. 1993 US Open: bt C Pioline, 6-4, 6-4, 6- 3. 1994 Australian Open: bt T Martin, 7-6, 6- 4, 6-4. 1994 Wimbledon: bt G Ivanisevic, 7-6, 7-6, 6-0. 1995 Australian Open: lost to Agassi, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-4. 1995 Wimbledon: bt B Becker, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. 1995 US Open: bt Agassi, 6-4, 6-3, 4- 6, 7-5. 1996 US Open: bt M Chang, 6-1, 6- 4, 7-6. 1997 Australian Open: bt C Moya, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. 1997 Wimbledon: bt C Pioline, 6-4, 6- 2, 6-4. 1998 Wimbledon: bt Ivanisevic, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. 1999 Wimbledon: bt Agassi, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5. 2000 Wimbledon: bt P Rafter, 6- 7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2. 2000 US Open: lost to M Safin, 6-4, 6- 3, 6-3. 2001 US Open: lost to L Hewitt, 7-6, 6-1, 6-1. 2002 US Open: bt Agassi, 6- 3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

All-Time Grand Slam winners' list

angiel
06-13-2007, 09:40 PM
Sampras's boring perfection

By Richard Hinds
August 24, 2003



Pete Sampras's professional career spanned 14 years. He won a record 14 grand slam singles titles. He won Wimbledon seven times in eight years. He was world No.1 longer than Paul Keating was Prime Minister. So, as he finally gets around to announcing his retirement in New York tomorrow, it shouldn't be difficult to recall a favourite Sampras moment.

For sentimentalists it will be the misty-eyed victory over Jim Courier in the quarter-finals of the 1995 Australian Open. Sampras came back from two sets down the day after his coach Tim Gullikson had returned to the US suffering inevitably fatal brain cancer.

For statisticians, it will be the seventh Wimbledon win in 2000, over Pat Rafter. The one that allowed him to break Roy Emerson's grand slam record and become numerically - if not actually - the greatest player in the majors. Rafter said he choked. Actually, Sampras choked him.

For romantics, it will be his victory over Andre Agassi at last year's US Open. The unexpected triumph settled the score in their historic rivalry. The final tally was Sampras 20, Agassi 14. Sampras won four of their five grand slam finals. It would also allow Sampras to go out at the top of his game. Eventually.

For sadists - guilty here - it will be the sight of Sampras sliding clumsily across the red dirt in a vain attempt to capture the final leg of his career grand slam. Sampras on clay was like sumo wrestling on ice. (Hopes cruelly raised by his lone semi-final appearance at Roland Garros in 1996, he didn't make it past the third round in six subsequent Quixotan tilts at the title.)

For anyone who doesn't like tennis, it will be the time when his actress wife Bridgette Wilson started turning up at matches. That meant the camera lenses were drawn away from the court and into the court-side box - something of a relief for those tired of gazing upon Sampras' doormat eyebrows.

But whatever way you look at it, it is an impressive list of achievements. Yet, the great Sampras question remains: Was he really that boring?

At a time when tennis needed someone to fill the post-McEnroe charisma void, Sampras's numbingly powerful game and passive demeanour were not exactly what the promoters had in mind. After all, he never did anything but play tennis better than just about any human had ever played it.

Sampras never, for example, read novels at the change of ends as Jim Courier did. Visitors to Rancho Sampras in California were more likely to find him with a remote control or a golf club in his hand. Agassi practiced with monkish devotion. Sampras practiced during commercial breaks.

He was never particularly controversial. He could be prickly if his performance was questioned. But generally a Sampras press conference had all the life and wit of a parliamentary budget estimates committee. He wasn't unequivocally the greatest player of all time. Rod Laver won the grand slam either side of a five-year prime-time absence from the majors - admittedly at a time when three of the four were played on grass. Sampras' 14 majors gives him a shot at the title, but certainly not clear-cut "greatest ever" status.

He wasn't pretty to watch. Caveman tennis mostly with the occasional feather-light touch. Sampras was a man of his era. Frankly, it wasn't the easiest era on the eye. He won so much that his matches were usually only newsworthy when he lost.

This year's Wimbledon finalists, Mark Philippoussis and Roger Federer, had both previously had their most memorable wins over Sampras. He was the dominant player of the "age of depth". The age where any player was supposed to be able to beat anybody else. Except Sampras. He is, already, the type of player whose achievements will not be fully appreciated until well after his career. Yes, he won a lot of praise for winning all those grand slam titles. But as has been the case in golf where Tiger Woods is chasing Jack Nicklaus, the real perspective will not come until someone strives to break his record.

At 33, Andre Agassi has eight grand slam titles and no hope of catching up. Of the others with even a notional chance of emulating Sampras's 14 titles, Lleyton Hewitt leads the charge. He has two. But the bottom line. Was Sampras boring? Usually. But then perfection - even near-perfection - sometimes is.

rhinds@smh.com.au

angiel
06-19-2007, 11:30 PM
GOD OF BIG THINGS


"The higher you soar the smaller you appear to those who cannot fly." - Friedrich Nietzsche

THE man called Joker was right. Pete Sampras is history. Greg Rusedski was right. Pete Sampras is done. The Canadian-born Briton was right. Pete Sampras is slow. Rusedski was on the mark. Pete Sampras is old, a father to be soon.


He was, after all, giving voice to a belief that he shared with a lot of other players on the tour, an opinion that many a critic has brought to print, has aired on television.

They were all right. As a Grand Slam champion, Pete Sampras is history.

Is this the same Pete Sampras who, last fortnight, at age 31 and in front of a passionate crowd at the National Tennis Center in New York beat one of the all-time greats of the game - Andre Agassi - in the US Open final and then climbed into the stands to share an intimate moment with his heavily pregnant wife Bridgette Wilson Sampras?

Of course, it is. Yet, Greg Rusedski and all the others who swore that such an event would never happen again in Sampras's career were all right.

They were right because they said what seemed logical from their point of view. They were right because, they judged within the ambit of their own knowledge and experience. They were right because, given their limitations, they could not have said anything different.

That the Rusedski point of view is pedestrian is besides the point. That he - and all the others who sought to write off the greatest tennis player that ever lived - knows nothing about surpassing genius is hardly relevant.

What is relevant is this: it takes a touch of greatness to peek into the soul of the sort of greatness symbolised by Sampras and see it for what it is, see it for what it is capable of, see it for its timeless quality and transcendental brilliance. Average men with average thought patterns like Rusdeski's will never enjoy that privilege.

Then again, to hell with Rusdeski and his ilk. We are not here to bury them. We are here to praise one of the greatest athletes in the history of sport, to celebrate one of the greatest moments of his remarkable career, to marvel at a revival that is nothing short of the epic.

Who would have believed this was possible? Who - other than the great man himself - would have thought that an ageing legend who had lost to George No Name (Bastl) in the second round at Wimbledon last June and then sat slumped in his chair staring at the turf for a long, long time would win a fifth U.S.Open title 12 years after his first as a 19-year-old?

During the fourth and fifth sets of that match, Sampras pulled out a note written by his wife to inspire him and read it again and again. "My husband, 7 time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras," began the note. It was a touching moment but it failed to save Sampras ignominy on that day.

Long years spent in the trenches of sportswriting provide a person with an armour of impassivity. While you readily describe an event with passion and hold a mirror to the emotions played out on a sports field, you seldom let the events shake you up. You feel, yet you don't feel. You are moved, yet you are not moved.

In my career, that afternoon at Wimbledon was an exception. I simply could not believe something like that could have happened to Sampras, that the lord and master of lawn tennis could be so humbled by a man who made the main draw as a lucky loser after being eliminated in the qualifying rounds. Later that evening, in the press mini bus that drove us back to Central London, an Italian journalist said to me: "I guess this is it. Pete will never come back here again. It's all over."

I flashed a wan smile and said to myself, "Maybe he is right." Yet, as the hauntingly poignant image of the great man sitting, shoulders slumped, on the No.2 court played itself out again and again in my mind, I was hoping against all hope that the great man would somehow author a miracle.

But, then, truth to tell, for all the elements of the unexpected contained in the dramatic events of the second week at Flushing Meadows, Grand Slam title No.14 for Pete Sampras was no miracle. It was just that the great man finally overcame the biggest slump of his career, and did so against all odds.

It would have been a miracle if a lesser man had done what Sampras did, go without a single title for more than two years and then beat players of the calibre of Tommy Haas, Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi to win the U.S.Open.

But Sampras needs no miracles to win. He just needs about 80 per cent of his game. Yes, 80 per cent. Not even 100 per cent.

Having watched him from the time he beat a resurgent John McEnroe in the semifinals and then Andre Agassi in the final to win his first Grand Slam title in New York in 1990, having watched him win seven Wimbledon titles and two Australian Open titles, one can say this much with conviction: Sampras at 80 per cent will beat Andre Agassi at 100 per cent in five sets on a fast court. And he only needs to be at 70 per cent to beat any of the other active players in the game!

And what happens when Sampras plays at 100 per cent? As Agassi, his greatest rival, said after losing the 1999 Wimbledon final in straight sets, Pete walks on water.

A majority of tennis critics and a vast majority of fans have a natural tendency to favour matches of intense drama. Five set epics stay in the mind longer. The Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe classic of 1980 at Wimbledon, the Goran Ivanisevic-Pat Rafter thriller last year... these are the kind of matches that appeal to many.

But, in my mind, there is no greater match than the one in which Sampras outclassed an inspired Agassi in the 1999 Wimbledon final. From the time he was challenged on serve (down 0-40) midway in the first set to the time that he eased on the pedal just that bit late in the third set, Sampras put on an exhibition of tennis that would have been impossible even to dream of, if it had not actually been enacted in front of our eyes.

As the great man probed the very limits of athletic and artistic excellence, you sat in awe, often pinching yourself, and still wondering if it was a dream from which you'd soon wake up.

"Can anyone really play tennis like this" asked a French tennis writer, eyes wide, in the press box.

Well, Pete Sampras can. Pete Sampras did. And it was precisely because of that it was hard to digest the events of the last two seasons when the great man huffed and puffed to defeats against mere mortals.

Looking back, for a couple of years, Sampras has had a problem. After winning a record 13 Grand Slam titles, after winning a record seven Wimbledon titles, after finishing No.1 for a record six years, there was no new peak to scale, no one to beat, nothing to prove, no challenge to meet.

What does a mountaineer do after conquering the Everest? Everything else begins to look meaningless, pedestrian, unworthy of great effort.

And what does a tennis champion do after becoming the winningest Grand Slam champion of all time, after spending more weeks at No.1 than anyone else in history, after having dominated the spiritual home of tennis - Wimbledon - like no other player?

Maybe simply ease his foot off the pedal, find the woman of his dreams to marry, chill out a bit and soak up life outside the cauldron of tennis.

Sampras did just that. But, then, not much later, he wasn't the Sampras we knew anymore on a tennis court. Tom Who, Dick What and Harry Who's That started stepping on the court believing they can beat the great man. And many of them did too as Sampras went without a title in 33 tournaments over 26 months.

In Grand Slam after Grand Slam, as he said that he still felt he had another major or two left in him - after losing to lesser men - few were willing to believe him. It looked like the great man was chasing rainbows.

But like Muhammad Ali in another era, through all the traumatic events in the twilight of his career, Sampras continued to believe in himself, sure in his mind that he can recreate the magic of the past at least one more time.

After making the quarterfinals in New York, beating Haas, Sampras was asked for his reaction to Rusedski's comments following their third round match. And the great man said, "The things which Greg says don't faze me. I know what I can do out there. I don't have to prove people wrong. That's not why I am playing. I am playing to challenge myself and see if I can do it again."

That, dear readers, is the one true sign of surpassing greatness - how successfully you can challenge yourself when all other challenges have been met and mastered.

Ernest Hemingway trying to write a book that is even better than The Old Man and the Sea, the painter Vincent Van Gogh trying to come up with a work of art that can surpass the Sunflowers... the self-surpassing process is the ultimate yardstick of greatness.

This is a business that is bloody tough for an athlete with a limited shelf life. For, by the time you have begun to challenge yourself - after having overcome every other challenge - your legs are weary, your motivation runs low and the sportsman's biggest enemy, Time, is ready to take its pound of flesh, so to say.

Then, suddenly, you are back in the trenches again, as Sampras was. In the strange business of life, just when you think you have nothing to prove, it turns out there is everything to prove, to yourself more than others.

And, at New York on that Sunday, the greatest tennis player that ever lived did prove a point - to himself. He proved that he can challenge himself and come out on top. Surely, it was his greatest victory. For, on that day, Pete Sampras beat Pete Sampras. And, to Pete Sampras now, that is the only player worth challenging, and beating !



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