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Champs Recall Their Sacrifice

September 27, 2007

CHARLOTTE, NC – Serves, Pete Sampras knew. Running forehands, Sampras knew. Dating, Sampras didn’t know. So early in his pro tennis career, he turned to his buddy, Jim Courier, for a lesson in “Get a Life 101.”

“I remember going to Pete’s room, helping him select clothes” for a first date, Courier said. “I told him, `Make sure to pay for the meal and open doors for the lady.’

“You can’t worry about going to the prom if you want to be No. 1. You have to put everything else aside at 16, 17, 18, because that’s how you become that good.”

They were both that good. Courier preceded Sampras as the world’s top singles player, holding the distinction for about a year. Then Sampras dominated as no one ever before, holding the top ranking for six consecutive years (1993-98).

Now retired from the main tour, Sampras, 36, and Courier, 37, headline the eight-man field for this week’s Outback Champions event at The Palisades development in south Charlotte.

How do you get that good at anything? How do you stay that dominant? And what are the life tradeoffs to be so virtuoso?

“You reduce everything to what’s most important,” Sampras said of the ordered, Spartan way he lived atop the tennis rankings. “I didn’t party, I didn’t go out, I didn’t chase girls. I have kind of a low-key personality anyway, so that worked for me.”

It was life according to tennis, not the other way around. He once joked the best thing about retirement would be expanding his diet beyond the pasta-chicken-fish regimen. There weren’t a lot of colors on his palette

Filed under: Archives 2003 to 2011

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