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Sampras’ plans affect USTA [Dec 22, 2002]

Pete Sampras is back at least through Wimbledon. After that, we’ll see.

After three months of deliberating the rest of his life, the man who might be the greatest tennis player decided he wasn’t quite ready to retire, at least not until he properly says goodbye at the Grand Slam he has won seven times.

Friends say Sampras deliberated long and hard over the decision not to leave the game just yet. Once his son was born last month, life seemed less complex.

He’ll not go to Australia, which will give him an extra month to help his wife reorganize the family’s agenda, then fly up to the San Francisco Bay Area from Los Angeles to play San Jose in early February.

He’ll stay on the West Coast for Scottsdale (early March), followed by Indian Wells and then come to Key Biscayne. He is not, however, setting an agenda for the clay court season and it wouldn’t be surprising if he played only one or two clay court events before the French Open.

I think the short-range plan is to say goodbye at Wimbledon, if he makes the final there. If not, he continues on to the U.S. Open to defend his title.
Wherever Sampras finally calls it a career, he will not play past 2003. That seems clear.

Sampras had a chance to leave the game at the top as Rocky Marciano and Sandy Koufax did after winning the Open to extend his record number of Slam titles to 14.

But he felt a need to go back to London for a proper farewell, and of course he will get it from a British public that idolizes him not only for his play but for his demeanor. He is, nationality aside, the very paradigm of a British sportsman.

Sampras’ decision impacts heavily on the USTA because his longtime coach, Paul Annacone, has quit as director of High Performance to return to the c
ourt with Pete. This is a monumental loss.

USTA Executive Director Rick Ferman is going to have to find someone to match Annacone’s ability and expertise only 15 months after hiring him.

You can say Annacone quit because Sampras asked him back. But it’s my belief Annacone would have remained at the USTA if the organization had not snowed him under with countless frustrating demands to rethink ideas and concepts.

Annacone explained in an interview last September that his decisions and views as High Performance director were constantly being routed through myriad USTA offices, then sent back for massaging, which is so typical of the USTA.

They hired Annacone with the understanding that he was the expert needed to push the USTA development of young players in a decisive direction. Yet he found himself too often having to sell his plans to board members who are rank amateurs in the area of player development.

As a result, the program has been slowed and the only definitive action to come out of the last 15 months was the signing of a 10-year lease with a new athletic complex in Carson, Calif., in Los Angeles County, where the USTA will set up a West Coast training center.

That will give the USTA training centers in L.A. and at Key Biscayne. What it won’t have is Annacone and some of the USTA board members can kick themselves for the loss.

Second serves

The British Lawn Tennis Association is looking for someone to run its professional development program and they’re looking in the U.S. for a successor to Patrice Hagelauer, who quit to return to France as assistant to Davis Cup captain Guy Forget. …

Monica Seles is injury free and was in Key Biscayne for a few practice days. She’ll begin her season with the Hopman Cup, a mixed-gender team event that doesn’t count on the WTA won-lost sheet. After that, she’ll play the Australian Open. …

Patrick Rafter will not play the Australian Open and if he won’t play in his home country, you can assume he’s not making a comeback in 2003. …

Marat Safin signed his seventh coach in the last three years: Denis Golovanov of Russia. His previous associations: Rafael Mensua of Spain, who was his junior coach, Alexander Volkov of Russia, Mats Wilander of Sweden, Amit Naor of Israel, Marc Rosset of Switzerland, and Andrei Chesnokov of Russia. Now that’s diversity.

By: Charles Bricker

Source: Sun Sentinel

Filed under: Archives 2003 to 2011

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