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A Brush with Greatness

In this week’s Mailbag by Jon Wertheim, one of the readers “TJH” of California shared an encounter with Pete Sampras!

Thought you might appreciate a recent “brush with greatness” my son and I had. After my 11-year-old boy completed his first-round match in a local tennis tournament, we decided to celebrate his 9-8 victory (brutal to watch as a parent I might add!) with a burger at a local joint called “Fatburger’s.” After placing our order and taking a seat, I did a double take when I noticed a familiar figure sitting alone at a table who was waiting for his food. I looked again and then asked my son if he recognized that person sitting alone. He immediately said, “Hey Dad, that’s Pete Sampras!” Scanning the restaurant I noticed that it appeared that no one else recognized Pete as we were the only ones gawking at him. I quickly ran out to my car, grabbed a tennis ball and a pen and went back inside. I told my son, “Let’s ask him to sign the ball, what do you say?” My son J.J. hesitated, all of the sudden getting shy. He said, “Let’s eat lunch first and then ask him.” Right at that moment, Pete’s name was called and he went up to the counter and picked up two bags of take-out food and turned to leave. The moment had come. We stood up and he immediately saw us (my son and I were both dressed in tennis duds), and he walked over. I apologized, told him we were huge fans and asked him if he wouldn’t mind signing the ball for my son. He said, “No problem at all,” set his food down, and signed the ball. At this point, I could have easily “detained” Pete by asking for a picture, mentioning that we play at the same club that he played at as a junior, name-dropping people that I play with that played with him as a junior, etc. Instead I chose to go the “get in, get out and be grateful” route. We thanked him again for the autograph and I said, “Enjoy the Fatty’s (great burgers by the way!),” and he responded, “Picking up food for the family”, and he was out the door and gone. It was a great way to end the day with my boy winning a nail-biter of a tennis match, grabbing an awesome burger, and spending a random moment with one of our tennis heroes!
–TJH, Redondo Beach, Calif.

Filed under: Headline, News, Pete Sampras

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