02-25-2006, 07:08 PM
Unwilling Self-Negation
My Mother is fortune; My Father generosity and bounty; I am joy, son of joy, son of joy, son of joy… - Maulana Rumi

Sampras Salute
January 29, 2006

I grew up playing tennis. Hitting balls against minivans with wooden rackets in third world countries. Sneaking out at six in the desert mornings of Arizona to play with the senior 70+ crowd because they were willing to pay for courts. High school tennis with crushing six hour trips during which college applications were filled and where college recruiters were spoken to, and then recreationally from there on (I decided not to play at college). Through my love of the game (to which I will make a tribute some other day), I became a fan of the great Pete Sampras. From 1990 to 2002, I believe that I watched every single quarter-final, semi-final and final Sampras played in (which was televised). Not only that, but I taped most of these and spent hundreds of hours replying those matches. Such was my obsession that my younger brother could recite most of the commentary made on those matches by John McEnroe and Dick Enberg of NBC. Those were twelve happy years.

Since 2002 I have not watched a single grand slam match. I have watched a few matches here and there — most notably Agassi’s last year run at the U.S. Open final. Aside from that I now watch women’s tennis. The cause for all of this? Two words: Roger Federer. Who has just won his seventh grand slam title in Australia and third straight grand slam final. The last person to win three straight slams was, you guessed it, Pete Sampras. To be very direct, I hate Roger Federer.

I shouldn’t, though. Sampras, shortly before retiring (and losing to Federer at Wimbledon), said that Federer was the next Sampras. Federer’s certainly turned out to be that. At the age of 24, Federer is already half-way to Sampras’ 14 slam title. This fact, more than any other, causes me chagrin. Simply put, I do not want the immensity of Sampras’ accomplishment matched or threatened. This has very little to do with how much (or how little — very little) I care about Roger Federer (these guys like him). To me, Roger could be anyone. A cute red-fez wearing monkey. Zeus. Doesn’t matter. My dislike has everything to do with the iconic status I attributed to Sampras; the enthronement of his accomplishment in my mind; my unwillingness to accept that anyone might equal it.

Sampras was, in very uncertain times of my life, the only certainty. Even when everything seemed to point to the fact that he would simply flicker and disappear like the stolen cable on which I watched him, he remained. When I looked around me and saw no familiar faces after having left yet another home behind, I could turn on the television and find him, dolphin snout down, walking one end of the court to another, adjusting strings as Santana does the guitar, crouching down, hitting a shot, straightening up, switching sides, hitting, and winning. Repeat. He showed up when he had no right to be there. Sometimes you saw him stuffed into the backhand side, his singular weakness exposed, his opponent ready to hit one cross court, so at four in the morning you yelled at the television, “cover the damn forehand!” and somehwere in Australia he heard you, and managed to get across the lines, hitting the patented running forehand; a flash on the screen; a winner. He was there when he had no reason to be. When he hit aces in the Melbourne night, with tears streaming down his face because he found out during the match that his best friend had cancer. When he grew ill on the court in the New York night and then hit second serve aces against Corretja to seal that memorable quarter final. When you saw him struggling at Wimbledon and he needed notes from his wife to get him out of his seat. When, year after despicable year, he faltered in the red sands of Roland Garros in Paris, broken and defeated at the hands of midget tricksters and an unforgiving surface. Everything changed; nothing remained the same; sometimes it was a blizzard outside, and sometimes it was loneliness inside, but somewhere there was Sampras, managing to get through his tribulation. Yet, the whole time, I was not even aware that he had thalassemia. In other words, he existed for me, lived for me, won for me — all to assure me that in the upheavels of life some things were certain and unchanging. He did this all without ever exposing his own weakness.

I never got to see him. I had my chances but I always declined. I knew that if I saw him it might shake the aura of permanence I had given to him. My mortal eye might spy mortality . His farewell ceremony I could not watch because I have not yet accepted the fact that he is gone. I broke off relations with people who in passing compared something about me to Pete Sampras’ attributes – because I didn’t like the idea of competing with him. You don’t compete with permanence. You always lose. That was the best thing about Sampras; that he was an unabashed winner. In the singular most individual game of the modern era, he stands singularly alone at the top. (Give it a second to load). Not only that, but that he accomplished so much by being nothing more than what he was at the age of forteen. Tennis technology changed and improved but he stuck to his kevlar Wilson racket from 1984, strung at obscenely high tension. The era of the serve and volleyer ended, but he just kept coming at the net because that’s how he played as a kid. He never permitted his parents to come to his matches and they never did (save once). If someone hit a winner off his serve, he served to them at the same place again.

Permanence. Someone once asked me if I would slice off with a sword the head of the person I most love in the world to become permanent. Most people answer no, because they have never felt the grandeur of permanence in their life.

Most people haven’t seen Pete Sampras.

02-25-2006, 07:41 PM

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02-25-2006, 07:49 PM
Great Moments in U.S. Open Finals

At age 31, few gave Pete Sampras a chance heading into the tournament. But the Los Angeles native put a Hollywood ending on his U.S. Open career, besting longtime rival Andre Agassi in four sets to claim his fifth title and record 14th Grand Slam.
Bob Martin/SI

02-25-2006, 07:51 PM

02-25-2006, 07:53 PM

02-25-2006, 07:57 PM


Pete Sampras admitted after winning the US Open title he had been struggling against tiredness in the third set as Andre Agassi lifted his game.

"I was feeling it. I was definitely feeling a little bit of fatigue. I just hung in there the best that I could at the end and got it done," said Sampras.

"He started picking it up, especially his return of serve - he made me work real hard, then broke me. I was still up a set, I still felt pretty good out there.

"I just hung in there, got through some tough games at 2-1, down a couple break points. 4-3 down a couple break points. Then picked it up there to serve it out. It all happened pretty quick."

He was happy to bask in the pleasure of his win, but admitted he would soon be contemplating where to take his career from here.

"Just, you know, I don't know where I'm going to go from here; I really don't. Gonna take some time to enjoy it, reflect a little bit and kind of see where I'm at."

He picked out holding his serve in the fourth game of the fourth set as the key to breaking Agassi's momentum, which had built so compellingly in the third set.

"It was a massive game. The momentum definitely switched there in the third. The crowd was getting into it. He had a couple break points there. I managed to squeak it out.

"It was a huge turning point just to kind of hold on to serve there. I still felt like I was in it. So there's some big points there I got through."

Agassi also reflected on that turning point, and said the match was as close as any the pair had ever fought out over their long careers.

"It was close," Agassi said.

"But you certainly come here to try to get the job done. (I) felt like I had a good opportunity to do that.

"I feel like a first loser, if that makes sense," said Agassi, who converted only two of his 12 break points while Sampras was successful four of eight.

"It's disappointing, there's no way around that. (But) I think I've been more disappointed in my career."

He took a moment to contemplate his own immediate future.

"I suppose I'll sit down and assess (my plans for the rest of the year)," Agassi said.

"I mean, I'm obviously scheduled to play the big tournaments that are still left, so I'll go from there."

Sampras summed up the moment when reflected on whether the two, who have been playing each other since they were up-and coming stars, would ever meet again in such a high-profile match.

"It's hard to say what the future is going to hold for us," Sampras said.

"You know, to meet in major finals, players are too good today - where we were five years ago when we were dominating, now, this could be it for us.

"But maybe next year we'll do it again."

02-25-2006, 07:58 PM


Pete Sampras has now won a record 14 Grand Slams in his illustrious career.

His latest triumph came on Sunday night against his celebrated foe, Andre Agassi.

It was against Agassi, coincidentally, whom Sampras beat to claim his first major back in 1990 at Flushing Meadows.

Sampras made the cover of Sports Illustrated and the caption for the picture - a youthful looking Sampras hitting one of his famed overheads - reads A Star Is Born.

Here is a look back at the King of Swing's momentous triumphs.

1 - 1990 US Open - Sampras makes the first of 18 appearances in a Grand Slam final and breezes past Agassi 6-4 6-3 6-2. It was an symbolic tournament in terms of the changing of the guard. Sampras knocked out former US Open champions Ivan Lendl (quarter-finals) and John McEnroe (semi-finals).

2 - 1993 Wimbledon - The All England club did not know it at the time, but it was witnessing the player who would go on to become its greatest champion. Sampras, facing American stalwart Jim Courier, survived a couple of tie-breaks before triumphing 7-6 (7/3) 7-6 (8/6) 3-6 6-3. Again, Sampras had to overcome a who's who list of opponents, beating Agassi in a quarter-final and then eliminating former champion Boris Becker in straight sets in the last four.

3 - 1993 US Open - Sampras could not have had it any easier, dropping just two sets in his entire tournament and clinching his second crown at Flushing Meadows with a 6-4 6-4 6-3 hammering of Cedric Pioline of France.

4 - 1994 Australian Open - The Pete Sampras show won for the first time Down Under, but only after surviving a five-setter against then rising star Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia on his way to the final. He snatched victory thanks to a 9-7 win in the deciding set. Later, in an All-American final against Todd Martin, Sampras claimed a 7-6 (7/4) 6-4 6-4 success.

5 - 1994 Wimbledon - Goran Ivanisevic helped set up a match of limited break opportunities but in the tie-breaks Sampras proved more formidable. Twice he beat Ivanisevic in tie-breaks before wrapping up a 7-6 (7/2) 7-6 (7-5) 6-0 win.

6 - 1995 Wimbledon - Few players got the better of Boris Becker in SW19 and lived to tell about it, but Sampras was the exception. Having beaten the German on the famed courts two years earlier, the German appeared to be ready to exact his revenge. He won the first set in a tie-break but Sampras's class showed as he fought back for a 6-7 (5/7) 6-2 6-4 6-2 victory.

7 - 1995 US Open - Presented with a rematch, Agassi did not take advantage. Sampras dropped one set but prevailed 6-4 6-3 4-6 7-5.

8 - 1996 US Open - In danger of finishing a season without a Grand Slam, Sampras showed up at Flushing Meadows and reasserted himself as the game's dominant force. He struggled against Jiri Novak in the second round, needing five sets. He then, despite getting sick and vomiting on court, beat Spaniard Alex Corretja in a fifth-set tie-break for a quarter-final win. That match lasted four hours, nine minutes. In the final, he hammered Michael Chang 6-1 6-4 7-6 (7/3).

9 - 1997 Australian Open - Dominik Hrbaty and Albert Costa made Sampras work in five-set showdowns but he cleared both hurdles. In the final, Carlos Moya provided little resistance as Sampras won 6-2 6-3 6-3.

10 - 1997 Wimbledon - On Centre Court where he truly had no equals, Sampras laid waste to Pioline again, this time winning 6-4 6-2 6-4.

11 - 1998 Wimbledon - Ivanisevic's disappointment grew as Sampras this time had to work for a five-set victory. Sampras won 6-7 (2/7) 7/6 (11/9) 6-4 3-6 6-2.

12 - 1999 Wimbledon - Mark Philippoussis looked a good bet to knock Sampras out and he gained the earlier initiative in their quarter-final by winning the first set. But the giant Australian suffered a serious knee injury and had to retire from the match. He lost the first set against home favourite Tim Henman but hit back for a four-set win. Then against Agassi, who had looked an unstoppable force in the tournament, Sampras took a 6-3 6-4 7-5 win.

13 - 2000 Wimbledon - Pat Rafter, twice a winner at the US Open, looked to add the grass court Grand Slam to his CV but Sampras denied him. In a match that lasted into the early evening hours, Sampras won 6-7 (10/12) 7-6 (7/5) 6-4 6-2.

14 - 2002 US Open - Having endured a Grand Slam drought in 2001, Sampras appeared to be a spent force and no one gave him a chance at Flushing Meadows. Even Greg Rusedski wrote off Sampras after the American had won their encounter. But Sampras made the Briton's predictions look ridiculous, beating Tommy Haas in the fourth round, Andy Roddick in the quarter-finals, Sjeng Schalken in the semis and then his long-time rival Agassi yet again in the final, 6-3 6-4 5-7 6-4.

02-25-2006, 08:03 PM
U.S. OPEN 2002


02-25-2006, 08:11 PM
WIMBLEDON 1995, Salute to the King.

02-25-2006, 08:27 PM
U.S. OPEN 1990 - A star Is Born.

02-25-2006, 08:31 PM,,57588,00.jpg

SMILING AT WIFE BRIDGETTE IN THE STANDS _ 2002 U.S. OPEN. :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship:

02-25-2006, 08:38 PM
:worship: AUSSIE OPEN 1997, SALUTE GREAT ONE. :worship:

03-07-2006, 10:48 PM
Big Up, Big Up.

:bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :smash: :smash: :smash: