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Sampras shows signs of old self

By Dale Robertson, Houston Chronicle

Oct. 24, 2007 – The Pete Sampras who will be knocking tennis balls around in Beaumont a week from Friday in the Christus Pro/Celebrity Classic is a very different player from the one who launched his post-retirement “career” in Houston in the spring of 2006.

At 36, Sampras may not be the powerful and leonine record-setting Grand Slam champion of yore, but he’ll be a reasonable facsimile thereof.

When Sampras took his first, halting steps back into the fray against Robby Ginepri at River Oaks Country Club, he hadn’t played competitively in more than three years, and his weight had ballooned to almost 200 pounds. Now he’s back down to where he was in his prime, the mid-180s, and he has his racket and strings so finely tuned that “I’m probably hitting the ball better than I did in my prime because of the (improved) technology.”

The catch?

“I haven’t quite captured the explosiveness I used to play with,” Sampras concedes. “I’m not as limber. But I’ll be a lot better (in Beaumont) than I was in Houston. It’s been fun to get back in shape and to figure out my racket and my strings.”

Sampras, unbeaten in three starts on the Jim Courier’s Outback Champions seniors tour, is playing with the Wilson racket first made popular by Roger Federer and using the popular gut-Luxilon combo.

“I regret not trying this 10 years ago, especially on clay,” Sampras said. “I’m telling you, it makes a world of difference in my control.”

Sampras, preparing for a series of three exhibitions against Federer in Asia in late November, will be joined at Beaumont’s Ford Arena Nov. 2 by Anna Kournikova, Justin Gimelstob and Louisiana native Chanda Rubin, along with television journalist Stone Phillips and former NBA star and coach John Lucas, subbing for an injured Dr. Phil McGraw.

The event, presented by Texas State Bank, was originally scheduled for September but postponed by Hurricane Umberto.

Tickets are priced from $29 to $79 and can be purchased at the Ford Park box office (5115 I-10 South), through all Ticketmaster outlets, or by phone in Houston by calling 713-629-3700.

The doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the tennis starts at 7:30.

Source: Houston Chronicle

Filed under: Archives 2003 to 2011

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