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Sampras, coming to Grand Rapids, still humble

October 26, 2008
The Grand Rapids Press

GRAND RAPIDS — When he ruled the tennis world, Pete Sampras never cared about seeing his newspaper photo on the first day of a tournament. But he certainly wanted to see it on the tournament’s last day — and then only as an indication that he had accomplished his goal.

“I didn’t play for the limelight or the money, my only goal was to be the best,” said the retired winner of a record 14 Grand Slam professional titles by phone from his California home last week. “In tennis, you can’t hide behind a teammate or a coach. It’s only the great players who, if they’re not playing well, can regroup and play out of it.”

Sampras, who retired from the sport in 2002 as the only player to hold the world’s No. 1 ranking for six consecutive years, hopes to show that drive Tuesday when he’ll face Jim Courier on the fifth stop of the 2008 Miracle Match Charity Tennis Event at Van Andel Arena.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Miracle Match Foundation, a fundraising effort to assist patients with stem cell related diseases founded in 1997 by local tennis pro Bill Przybysz, who is recovering from acute monocytic leukemia (AML).

Sampras has proven to be a worthy ambassador.

“I always looked up to athletes who showed respect to their opponents and to their game,” said Sampras, 39, who counts past tennis legends Rod Laver and Ken Rosewell as early examples. “They were untouchables — they let their game do their talking. I could have caused controversy but I always felt that it would take away from my drive to be the best.”

“That’s just the way I see it and I feel there’s still room today for quiet, humble champions.”

Sampras counts golfer Tiger Woods, former basketball star Michael Jordan, and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in that group today and assumes that they, too, will handle retirement with equal grace because of the respect with which they bring to their sports.

“Some guys just get bored and miss the excitement,” is how Sampras views the comeback attempts made by any number of professional stars like bicycler Lance Armstrong, NFL quarterback Brett Favre, and even Jordan himself. “For me, I just needed a nice balance between family and golf and playing in charity events like this one.”

Finding a balance between family, golf and playing charity events are It’s part of the message that Sampras delivers in his book “A Champion’s Mind,” issued in June. But he never intended the book or his life to be a formula for personal advice.

“I just put it all out there in an open and honest way to tell the story of what it took for me to be a champion, but it’s not a tell-all” said Sampras of his book “A Champion’s Mind.” “I wanted a book that helps people in any pursuit to be their best.” That’s why Przybysz is so pleased to have Sampras as a part of this year’s Miracle Match tour.

“Events like this give area tennis clubs and professionals a chance to grow the sport with Pete as an example,” said Przybysz.

Source: Michigan Live

Filed under: Archives 2003 to 2011

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