Close Encounter with Pete Sampras
Location: Franklin Templeton Classic (Scottsdate, AZ)
Date: March 3, 1999
Back when my son, Jason was about 16, there was a player out there that the whole family said I should watch. They thought he looked a lot like Jason. I watched this kid from afar while being very involved with Jason. Well, when Jason started graduate school, I lost my kid to root for and decided to watch this other kid.....his name, Pete Sampras.
When we were in AZ in 1998, I got to go to my first tennis tournament in Scottsdale. Sampras, Agassi, and a bunch of the top names were there. I made a sign for Sampras (an acrostic poem made out of the name Sampras, and took my book (Legends) about him.
The first night he played, I thought I was looking at Jason. He won his match and I with my sign and book and a pen ran down to where the players were walking off. I hung over the rail and set up my sign as I held out my book. As Sampras came up to us, the lady next to me said, "Look at the sign, Pete."
He stopped right in front of me and smiled as he read the poem... he took my book and the book fell out of the cover and he had to pick it up (poor guy) then he signed it. I was so excited and so hooked.
Location: Great American Insurance Tournament (Cincinnati, OH)
Date: August 12, 1999
When I was in Cincy last year, I made a banner that said, "Happy Birthday, Pistol Pete". It was quite long and I worried that they would not let me put it up, but being an assertive person I knew had to try.
Aletha Karl, Meggan Garton and I took the banner to Pete's practice. (I have this on tape.) We held up the banner and when he took a break I started singing Happy Birthday and everyone in the crowd joined in. Pete stood there with a silly little grin on his face. When we were done he walked to the middle of the court and waved and said, "Thank you!"
Prior to his match, Aletha and I went to the ATP office and showed the picture of the banner to them in the office and asked if we could hang it in Center Court during Pete's match because it was his birthday. They asked where we were sitting and said that they would ask Paul Flory the Tournament Director and would let us know. We went to our seats and waited......
Soon the gal from the office came and said yes, it was fine -- we could hang it. We hung it in the middle of the stadium and I ran down to the ESPN camera man and said we had this banner for Pete's birthday and could they show it. He said he would tell the cameraman on the same level as the banner.
Well during Pete's match it was shown on TV which was really exciting!! As you all know, Pete won that tournament, beating Rafter. The previous year in Cincy, Pete had lost on a controversial call against Rafter -- so it was sweet revenge for him to win.
(Image capture from CNN)