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Sampras shows his playful side

By Kathleen Nelson, St Louis Post

July 25, 2007

Tennis has crept back into the life of Pete Sampras since he retired almost five years ago.

He dipped his toe back in a year ago, playing a limited schedule of World TeamTennis. He returned for a second season with the Newport Beach (Calif.) Breakers, who lost 22-18 to the Aces before a sellout crowd of 2,000 Tuesday night at Dwight Davis Tennis Center in the final match of the season.

“I was pretty rusty last year,” Sampras said. “But I’ve been pretty consistent this year, playing more events.”

Last year’s foray led to appearances this spring with the Champions Series and a return to team tennis for four matches with the Breakers.

“I want to play well, but I can be a little more lighthearted, have fun with fans,” Sampras said. “I still want to serve well. When people come to see me play, they want a taste of what it used to be like.”

Sampras showed his playful side, voicing mock displeasure with the musical selection. “Is this the 1980s?” he said and ripped an ace, one of three against Andy Ram.

The public address announcer responded: “Do you have any requests, Pete?”

Sampras defeated Ram in the opening set 5-3, but he and Rick Leach lost 5-4 in men’s doubles to Ram and Jonathan Erlich.

“Young guys playing in team tennis are a little more eager, a little more hungry. I don’t know their games as well,” Sampras said. “As a result, I’m not playing all that well. I’m playing OK.”

Sampras played a lot better than OK in his 15-year career, winning a record 14 Grand Slam singles titles. He finished six consecutive seasons ranked No. 1 and was in the top 10 for 12 straight years.

His body of work earned him a spot in the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Sampras, 35, spent much of the induction ceremony two weeks ago in tears.

“It gets pretty emotional reflecting on your career, your life staring you in the face,” he said.

Sampras’ schedule has changed from the first few years following his retirement, which were devoted to sharpening his golf and poker skills, playing husband to Bridgette Wilson and dad to his sons, Ryan, 2, and Christian, 4.

“When I first retired, I didn’t want to see tennis, didn’t want to read about tennis, didn’t want to play tennis,” he said. “But after being away from it, I’ve enjoyed playing. I’ve enjoyed watching. There’s still a part of me that misses Wimbledon or the U.S. Open. But I’m very content with my life today, playing a little tennis, my wife and two kids.”

Sampras will take one more break from family life this year for a three-match exhibition series with Roger Federer, scheduled for November in Asia.

“I’m looking to make it competitive. He’s in his prime

Filed under: Archives 2003 to 2011

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