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SECOND SERVE: Pete Sampras

by JAMES MARTIN Oct 01 ’05

A year ago, Pete Sampras couldn’t even contemplate picking up a tennis racquet. The years at the top of the game had taken their toll, and he was burned out.

Funny how time changes things. When we caught up with him recently, the 34-year-old Sampras, who’d just moved into a new house in Beverly Hills, Calif., said that he was contemplating getting back into the game. Not that he’ll have a ton of time on his hands: He has a 2-year-old son, Christian, and a newborn, Ryan Nikolaos, with his wife, Bridgette Wilson.

Are you going to play the senior tour?
“I’m reasonably open to it. I’m not practicing, not really training, but I think at some point I do see myself playing senior events in the States. It’s taken me awhile to get to the point where I can even entertain the idea, but now I see playing as a way to keep me busy and focused.”

There’s a lot of new blood on the senior tour-players who take it more seriously. Is that part of the reason you’d like to compete again?
“Actually, no. I don’t want to get into a situation where I’m grinding out matches. I just want to do it for fun. To grind out matches against someone like Jim Courier, who’s a rival-and we’ve had competitive matches in the past-that’s out of me. Those days are over. I don’t have the competitive juices like some of the guys on the senior tour. But it’d be fun to see everyone again, though I wouldn’t go to play to win.”

So what have you been doing with your time?
“I’m playing a lot of golf and I’ve gotten into the poker craze. It’s taken me a couple of years to get to the point where I think I’ve played enough golf and poker. Now it’s time to find other things that are more fulfilling, like tennis. [Golf and poker] are fun for a while, but you come to a point where they get a little thin. I’m not going to get a job. But most professional tennis players, after they retire, eventually go back to tennis-it’s what they do, it’s who they are. That’s the road I’m heading down.”

What’s your golf handicap?
“Six. I’m basically an athlete playing golf, not a golfer.
I don’t have all the nuances of my stroke fine-tuned. I play for fun, sometimes I have a little bit of a gamble. But I’m not like Mark McGwire, who has a hitting coach. I thought about getting really serious about golf, but it didn’t seem fulfilling enough.”

What’s your poker game?
“Texas Hold’em. I used to see poker on ESPN years ago and I’d ask, ‘What is this doing on TV?’ But I started to get interested and learned the game, and now I play a house game once a week.”

Would you be interested in doing some commentating on TV?
“Potentially. I’d want to be good at it. I’d have to work at it. I’d like to do Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. I do miss Wimbledon. But I’m not ready to do a lot of traveling, going over to Europe-that’s one trip I don’t miss. But I will go back to Wimbledon.”

Do you follow the pro game?
“I watch the majors. I’m up to date, but not on a week-to-week basis.”

What are your thoughts on Roger Federer?
“He’s head and shoulders above everyone else. He’s got a great game, great attitude. He’s all about winning and letting his racquet do the talking.”

Can anyone touch him?
“I don’t see anyone challenging him. Safin-he’s got the game. When he’s on, he can hold his own against Federer, but mentally he’s years behind. Hewitt, Roddick-they’re not good enough.”

Copyright (c) 2005 by Miller Sports Group LLC.

Filed under: Archives 2003 to 2011

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