Posted on: August 01st, 2002
Pete Sampras- A Class Act: WatchTime magazine August 2002- petepage
With a world record 13 Grand Slams to his credit, Pete Sampras is arguably the greatest tennis player in history. MATTHEW MORSE interviewing the legend concerning Formula 1 racing, Movado watches, golf, and, of course, the game of tennis.
Pete Sampras started getting noticed on the tennis circuit in 1988 as a 16-years-old qualifier. Although he played a game they called "dangerous" it took him two years to reach the top tem. His first Grand Slam title was the U.S. Open, which he won in September of 1990 with a power serve that blew the other player's hair back, including Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe. At age 19, Pete became the youngest player to ever win the U.S. Open Cup.
Since then he went on to become the #1 ranked player for a record six consecutive years (1993-1998) and in 2000 he became the first man ever to win 13 Grand Slam titles. With a smooth demeanor that belies his unquestionable talent the only feather missing from his cap has been the French Open - where his full-blooded serve gets absorbed by the clay court.
In the last 12 years the 31-years-old has racked up over $40 million in prize money but the truth is that he's been in it for something more than the money...or the fame. Call him bland all you want, his inspired playing - and his record - speaks for itself. The following telephone interview took place while Pete was in Rome for the Italian Open.
WatchTime (WT): I read somewhere that you're a fan of Formula 1 racing. How did that come about?
Sampras: For the last 14 years I've spent a lot of time on the tour in Europe. I don't know why but it seems like when you're in Italy, France or Germany that the only things on TV are the Grand Prix races, and somehow I got caught up in the rivalry between Michael Schmacher and Damon Hill. The sheer speed of the cars is pretty incredible. The sound...the color...it's addictive.
WT: They do seem to go a little nuts for motor sports in Europe. Have you ever had a chance to drive a Formula 1 car?
Sampras: No, but I did get to meet Damon Hill once. I actually sat in his car and watched him test it a bit. It was pretty awesome to see his car zip by so close.
WT: Is Damon Hill your favorite driver, or are you more of a Schmacher fan?
Sampras: I don't really have a favorite driver. I just happened to meet Damon Hill because he was in London during Wimbledon one year.
WT: What kind of cars do you personally drive?
Sampras: I like sports cars, so I have a Porshe Turbo S and I just got a BMW Z8.
WT: How fast do you like to take these machines?
Sampras: You know I live in Los Angeles and there's quite a bit of traffic, but there are a few spots I know of in Beverly Hills where I can give it a good push.
WT: What do you look for in a car? The styling? The handling?
Sampras: Speed. I like speed and handling. Obviously, when it comes to sports cars you usually sacrifice a bit of physical comfort...but my Z8 is very comfortable and it's a convertible, which is nice to have in LA.
My Porshe Turbo is pure speed. It just gives you a really good rush. I also like the fact that they only make cars like these in limited series. It makes them a little more special, and I plan to keep them as long as they're running.
WT: And when it comes to watches what do you like?
Sampras: Of course Movado has sponsored me since 1990, so that's pretty much all I wear. They've been extremely loyal to me, and I've been with them longer than I've been with anyone else, including Nike, Wilson and Giorgio Armani.
WT: What kind of watch did you wear before you were sponsored by Movado?
Sampras: Just a Timex.
WT: Of course you're in Movado's magazine advertisements, but is there any other work that you do for them?
Sampras: I did a television commercial with them once, and of course I also show up at autograph sessions before the U.S. Open gets into full gear.
WT: Do you wear a watch when you play tennis?
Sampras: No, never...not even when I'm training. It would feel completely foreign to me. I mean most tennis players don't wear watches when they're on the court because you want your skin to fully breathe. But when I'm off the court I wear a watch practically all of the time. I'm one of these people that needs to know what time it is.
WT: Which Movados do you own?
Sampras: You name it, I have it. The Museum watch, the Eliro Chronograph, the Vizio, the Elliptica, the Sports Edition, the SE Chrono....
WT: Do you prefer bracelets or leather bands?
Sampras: To be honest, I usually prefer leather bands. I'm a little on the hairy side and a leather band doesn't pull...but there are some bracelets that are tight enough that they don't give me any problems.
WT: Do you also get watches to give to your wife and family?
Sampras: Tons. My family, my wife, her family...Movado has been very generous to me. Christmas shopping is pretty easy.
WT: What's your relationship with time during a tennis match?
Sampras: During competitive play I'm so focused on the match that everything seems to go by pretty quickly. But sometimes I like to know how long a match lasts, because they can go anywhere from an hour and fifteen minutes to four hours.
WT: I understand that when you're under a lot of stress you're actually pretty aware of having an accelerated heart rate. What do you do when you're feeling nervous and want to dial it down a bit.
Sampras: You know, it's not something I really think about too much. Sometimes I take a few deep breaths. Nerves ar
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