Pete savouring induction into Hall of Fame
Posted on Wednesday, July 11, 2007 - 14:33
On the eve of his induction into the Hall of Fame, Pete Sampras had admitted it was the boredom of retirement which drove him back to tennis on his own terms.
The 35-year-old who quit in 2002 after beating Andre Agassi in the US Open final, has over recent years begun dipping his toes back into the sport that he once dominated.
His latest lark was the July World TeamTennis season with the Newport (California) Beach Breakers.
Sampras said that after three years of improving his golf, expanding his family and wondering what to do with weeks of free time, something was missing.
"I realised when I played a few exhibitions here and there that I enjoyed it, I enjoyed getting in shape. I enjoyed playing tennis again," said the man whose all-time record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles is now under serious threat from Roger Federer with 11.
"It's not a crazy schedule, I'm not playing every week, but every couple of months, I need something to look forward to, to focus on."
Sampras is due to play a series of exhibitions in November in Asia against Federer, whom he got to know in March during a few hitting sessions at the older man's Beverly Hills mansion.
"I'm playing Roger in Asia and I'm looking forward to that.
"(Playing) keeps me sharp; it keeps me in the game. It's not anything I need to kill myself over, but I still want to play well and perform well," he explained.
Sampras said that he has now begun making tennis a part of his daily life.
"When I'm home, I just want to wake up in the morning, hit a few balls and get myself in shape.
"And it's good for every man to get his hands dirty, and I needed to kind of get back to work a little bit.
"I didn't do anything for three years, and after the third year, I was getting a little bit restless. Playing tennis gives me a focus; it's something that I still love to do."
Sampras, who started his world-beating career with a US Open title at age 19, said that his Hall of Fame ceremony at the weekend "hasn't really hit me quite yet."
"I've always enjoyed the history of the game. It's a sentimental time, to reflect on your career, look back over the years that I worked hard and had a really good career and put up some good numbers.
"I'll have my family there, it's an emotional time.
"This will gives me time to really stop everything and look back and appreciate what I've been able to do.
"You can lose sight of your identity at times, so this will be a chance to appreciate it.
I'm looking forward to being officially inducted, it's a great honour. I'm looking forward to the weekend."