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Close Encounter with Pete Sampras

Location: Canadian Open
Date: Summer, 1995

I went to the outside courts between the midday and night sessions as I was told that the players would hit out there. I was surprised to find Sweet Pete with Paul Annacone with - would you believe it, NOBODY watching! I watched most of his practice session all by myself!

About midway through the session, I told to myself that I must figure a way to get his autograph, so I went to buy this white Nike cap and borrow a felt pen from the boutique's manager. I still don't know how I managed to run all across the site and back that quickly. Adrenaline, I guess!

When I came back, he was almost finished. I caught him walking casually toward the exit and asked him for his autograph. I was so nervous. I forgot to hand him the pen! I remember, 'cause he asked me, seemingly amused: "Where's your pen?"

Instead of handing him the pen immediately, I nervously answered that it was right here, in my right hand! What did I expect? Did I think he was about to take it if I did not hand it to him? I don't know!

I finally gave him the pen, he did the little writing on the cap thing, and I managed to gather my senses back in order to ask him a few questions (How are you feeling? Your thoughts on tonight's match... ) and wish him best of luck for the US Open, (which he won in the most extraordinary fashion one could imagine!)

A great moment I will never forget. The most impressive thing is how REAL he looks in person. He seems much smaller than on TV, but he seems authentic, relaxed, kind and easy to approach. Quite unlike AA, who was practicing on a screened court...

I never thought I would get so nervous when meeting him in person. I was not even that young (18...) I still have the cap. I am not that sure, but I think it somewhat glows in the dark...

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