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Posted on: July 07th, 2006

Bored and restless, Sampras returns to the court

- petepage

By Steve Ginsburg, Reuters

WASHINGTON - Bored, restless and looking to add a little structure to his life, Pete Sampras returns to the tennis court next week but the 14-times Grand Slam champion has no thoughts of coming back to the ATP circuit.

The 34-year-old will dust off the mothballs to his game on Monday when he plays a World TeamTennis match for the Newport Beach Breakers who host the St. Louis Aces.

TeamTennis features teams playing sets of singles, doubles and mixed, a relaxed atmosphere compared to the high-pressure of the big-money ATP circuit.

"I think end of last year, I was getting a little bit restless, maybe a little bored trying to figure out what was next for me," Sampras told a conference call on Thursday.

"I kind of opened myself up to playing this year, just to give me a little bit of a structure in my day, a little bit of a focus."

Sampras, who retired in 2002 after winning the U.S. Open, will play seven matches for the Beach Breakers over the next two weeks.

The American has no plans to return to the big stage or enter the coaching ranks. He considers his fitness as "okay."

He said: "I'm not killing myself out there, but at the same time I probably hit three, four days a week for about an hour and a half, getting to the gym for a little bit, just to get my body used to hitting some serves, moving around.

"Nothing like I used to be, but enough to get through some matches."

Sampras has "no idea" how he will react when he returns to competition. "I'm just going to see how it goes," he said. "What I want to do is play well and not hurt myself. I think that's my main concern.

"I'm a competitive person, especially on the tennis court. I'll want to do well and win. But it's not the cut-throat tennis that I used to be a part of."

Sampras said he is "a fan" of the current top-ranked player, Roger Federer, and expects the Swiss to eclipse his record of 14 Grand Slam titles.

Federer is on track to claim his fourth straight Wimbledon title and at the age of 24 already has won seven Grand Slams. He has been ranked number one since February 2004 and might ultimately topple Sampras's record of 286 weeks as the world's top player.

"Records are made to be broken," said Sampras. "I'm pretty confident that he's well on his way to not only breaking the No. 1 ranking, but this Grand Slam record.

"I just think he's got all the tools, he's got the demeanor. He really has the whole package to do it."

Few players today use the serve-and-volley tactic that Sampras deployed during his reign as the world's top player in the 1900s. On Monday, Sampras will go with what he knows best.

"I will die serving and volleying," he said.

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