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Samprasfanz » Archives 2003 to 2011 » For Pete’s Sake, What Is Going On?

For Pete’s Sake, What Is Going On?

[May 20, 2003 BUD COLLINS]

No re-Pete?

The suspense and suspicions of eight months without Pete Sampras showing his face or feet on a tennis court seem to make it apparent that one of the most brilliant racket-flapping careers has come to a close.

Or has it?

After playing hide-and-seek — rather than tennis — with himself, curious reporters, and his large constituency of fans, the lately mysterious Sampras was overtaken by journalists in his lair, Los Angeles, at a Lakers game the other night.

“What’s up, Pete?” was the obvious question.

Like the spin doctor he has become — topspin, slice, take your pick — Pete confessed that he would not be at three forthcoming tournaments he had entered: the French Open, Queen’s Club in London, and his Eden, Wimbledon. However, as to the future: “I’m not 100 percent going to close the door.”

Pete has dropped tournaments like Madonna strewing suitors — 10 that he has entered this season.

Obviously the guy is confused. Ever a champion of impeccable sportsmanship, Pete is being a naughty boy. He owes his public a press conference, stating one of three courses:

1. I quit. I’m thankful for a wonderful run.

2. I’m not quitting. I’m too young, and my US Open victory last September certified that I’ve still got plenty left in the tank. I’m enjoying fatherhood, but will need some time to get tournament-fit again.

3. I’m conflicted, mixed up, trying to sort things out. I’ve never reached this crossroad before. Give me until the US Open, and I’ll get back to you.

My hope is No. 2. That’s probably selfish because I enjoy his fluidity, the smoothness that has made him Silky Sampras, his flair and daring as the paragon of a virtually extinct breed — a serve-and-volleyer surrounded by the conservative gang of baseline backboarders.

There are those who feel he should walk away at the top, having solidified his male record of major singles titles, the 14th last autumn in New York. Pete must be considering that. How many athletes have a top to walk away from, perched on an Everest-size wallet?

As he told the Los Angeles Times, “I know what it takes to be competitive — training, preparation, dedication — and I’m just not there right now.” He was never an especially rigorous trainer, getting by handsomely on superior skill, a highly competitive heart, and certainly dedication to be the best. Whether those qualities can be reheated (or even matter to him anymore) is questionable.

Pete turns 32 Aug. 12. Of his five US championships, the first and last, 1990 and 2002, were the most unlikely. As a 19-year-old he became the youngest to go all the way, coming out of the pack to beat Andre Agassi in the final. Twelve years later, he broke a 33-tournament drought — and Agassi again — at Flushing Meadow to become one of the oldest winners. No American had bridged such a US gap with titles, 12 years apart, although the Aussie wizard, Ken Rosewall, won in 1953 and 1970.

Whatever Sampras decides, his place among the all-time greats is assured: the main man of all at Wimbledon with seven titles

Filed under: Archives 2003 to 2011

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