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At least for one more year.


Grand Plan
Sampras will play at least one more year on the tour but will miss
Australian Open.

By Bill Dwyre, Times Staff Writer

Tennis star Pete Sampras ended the speculation Tuesday. He will play at least one more season on the tour, his 16th, but will skip the first major of 2003, the Australian Open in Melbourne in mid-January.

"I'll start in February in San Jose," he said, "and then go right from there to tournaments in Scottsdale, Indian Wells and Miami."

He is skipping the Australian because the timing of his decision to
keep playing won't allow him to properly prepare for the tournament. But after he begins in San Jose, he said it will be business as usual. He will play the three remaining Grand Slam events, the French in May, Wimbledon in June and the U.S. Open in September, and schedule other tournaments as his health and inclination dictate.

He said he does not want his 2003 season to be viewed as some sort of farewell tour.

"I'm just going to see how it goes, just kind of ride the wave and see how far it takes me," he said.

Until he won his 14th Grand Slam event title at the U.S. Open three months ago, the only retirement talk involving the 31-year-old was by the media. Before the Open, he had not won an event, much less a major, since making men's tennis history with his 13th Grand Slam title in the 2000 Wimbledon, a span of 26 months.

As the losses piled up, most of his postmatch news conferences were dominated by gently worded questions about whether he was near the end.

"The last couple of years were tough," he said Tuesday. "It took a lot out of me, emotionally, to not play well and to have to talk about it all the time."

But once he shocked the sports world with his dramatic U.S. Open victory over Andre Agassi in the final, the euphoria of that 14th major title — two more than any other man — was such that he agonized about ending his career on that high.

"Of all the majors, that was the sweetest," he said. "It was just hard to top that. There were many moments when I seriously talked about stopping. Once I won, I felt like I had wiped out two years of criticism in two weeks of tennis."

He has not played a competitive match since beating Agassi, and that inactivity fueled speculation that he would retire. He used the time to ponder his future at home in Beverly Hills and said his closest advisors were his wife, Bridgette Wilson, the actress who recently gave birth to their first child, son Christian; plus his father, Sam, and his brother, Gus.

"I kept looking for something to tell me, for somebody to give me an answer," he said. "But there wasn't one moment, not any one
conversation, some quote or even something I heard on TV. Sometime last week, I just decided. The talk of not playing seemed a little scary, and I've kept playing enough around here since the Open to know that I still enjoy playing.

"And now that I've decided, that I'm announcing it and letting people know, it feels good. I'm relieved. And the goals are the same as they were 10 years ago, to win majors."

He will make one concession to age. He will go from his old Wilson racket with 85 square inches of hitting surface — the smallest used by anybody on the men's tour — to another one, specially made for him by Wilson, with 90. The usual club player's racket is 110 square inches.

"I've played with the same racket since I was 14," he said, "and the technology on the old one has about run its course. I need to try something a little upgraded. My arm was getting sore last year.

"I understand that, week in and week out, I don't have what I had when I was No. 1 in the world (1993-1998). To do that, to stay there, it has to be your total life, you have to live and breathe it. But that doesn't mean I can't still win the big ones. That's why I play."

When it is time for him to retire, there are business interests already in place. The new Carson sports complex, being built by Phil Anschutz and scheduled to be finished this summer, will be home to the Pete Sampras Tennis Academy. And he also has an investment interest in the Tennis Channel, scheduled to debut this spring.

"My name is on it [the tennis academy], and so I'll be there," he
said. "I'll play exhibitions and have a presence. That will be more of a focus as I wind down."

But for now, the only winding down Pete Sampras will be doing will be after more big matches in more big tournaments.

3,527 Posts
great news,indeed! :)

752 Posts
For Pete fans :)

Posted 1/2/2003 5:59 PM Updated 1/3/2003 9:48 AM
USA Today

Sampras winds down, but not ready to go

Before assessing the future, you should attack the past, cover it from baseline to net, and so Pete Sampras recently slid in a tape of his U.S. Open quarterfinal triumph against tennis' "It Boy," Andy Roddick, a flattened bug on the windshield of high-speed fate. This rewind through the most improbable individual sports tale of 2002 emboldened the man who would be the most deserving individual sports star of 2003, a champion ready to say goodbye just when America was letting him in the door.

"The end is near," Sampras said by phone, but that end has been postponed on account of greatness and grit. He watched that straight-sets destruction of Roddick and saw his New Age opponent overwhelmed by the magnitude of some Old School majesty, by the bright lights and big stakes that defined the greatest tennis player of all time and a 31-year-old athlete who couldn't stuff his career inside his racket bag when there was one more Sunday to seize.

"I didn't retire because I still believe I can win majors, and the day I don't believe that is the day I'll stop," Sampras said. "In big moments, in big events, I still like my game against anyone else's."

He's passing on the Australian Open, and his heart still says he'll win his 15th major in 2003, the combined totals of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. As a kid, Sampras never believed it possible. What young slugger would agree that he'd someday match the combined Grand Slam cuts of Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth?

But despite the fact that one Tiger Woods trophy case (eight majors) plus one Michael Jordan trophy case (six majors) equals one Pete Sampras legacy, the nation's sporting public never fully embraced its humble and historic son.

Sad but true: Ozzy Osbourne's America prefers its weekend warriors to mimic the push-the-envelope likes of Jeremy Shockey and Terrell Owens. Back in the day, it was Connors and McEnroe.

The new year should bring a new appreciation for Sampras, a serial winner who never should've forfeited points for refusing to berate and belittle others while bathing in his own glory. In what likely will be his final year "If I'm a betting man," Sampras said, "I'm not 100% this is my last year but it definitely could be" he deserves an appropriate victory lap, the profound respect and affection he was finally granted while winning the Open after 26 title-free, demon-filled months, a grim period punctuated by Greg Rusedski's claim that his third-round Open conqueror was a washed-up bum.

"If McEnroe or Andre (Agassi) or someone I actually respected said that, it would've motivated me," Sampras said. "But when someone like Greg says that, you have to look at the source. I do feel great satisfaction that those remarks will stick with Greg the rest of his career.

"I never felt so vindicated in my life because I knocked out one and a half years of criticism in two weeks. I had the last word. I was getting down on myself, talking about quitting, thinking the media was right and that I should ride off into the sunset. But my wife, Bridgette, wouldn't hear of it. She kept me going through the toughest part of my career and was the one who said I had to go out on my own terms.

"That's why I went up into the stands to be with her after I beat Andre in the final. She took so much grief in the media, from people pointing out I hadn't won since I got married, and I thought that was grossly unfair. I wanted to show the world how important she was to me."

Bridgette Wilson, actress, just gave her husband a son. If Christian Sampras hasn't changed his father's game, he has completely altered his father's world. "He spits up on me, and I don't care," Sampras said. "It's an amazing feeling to hold him, to know I'd do anything in the world for this person."

Mother and son will travel with Sampras on a farewell tour that will start at the French, the one that's gotten away. Sampras will be packing a bigger racket this time and even bigger dreams. "Maybe destiny and fate will meet at the French this time," he said. "Who knows?

"In a romantic way, I want to finish off better at Wimbledon. People say there can't be a better way to go out than beating Andre at the Open, and even I had those thoughts in the moments before that final. But I still love playing, and I still feel I'll win another major. Once I start playing, I'll know where my heart is and how long I'll take this. I already know I'm living proof that if you believe in yourself, you can do anything."

You can even say goodbye when America is just learning how to say hello.

Ian O'Connor also writes for The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News

24,904 Posts
thanks kalforpete and lily :)

don't go, Pete, you canstill play many more years :(
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