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Close Encounter with Pete Sampras

Location: UCLA (California, USA)
Date: February 29, 2000

I have finally accomplished something at UCLA...

It has been the most incredible day. I saw Pete practicing at the UCLA tennis courts with Paul Annacone, which apparently was his first time practicing there.

That day I took a different route back to my apartment. I was complaining about having to walk uphill to the housing office to sign some form about my housing termination. It just goes to show like Pete said that everything happens for a reason...I noticed some people standing by the bleachers when I was about to walk by. I walked closer and stood amongst the people at the top and I peered down and thought I saw Pete. Then I figured I must be hallucinating. So I was going to make sure and ask the girl next to me. But nope, I didn't need to! As the player flicked his hand over his upper lip to wipe off sweat - that was all the confirmation I needed. He was practicing with Paul and his sister Stella was sitting on the bench.

I walked all the way down and sat in the very front with my heart racing so fast that I thought it was going to jump out of my chest. The stupid kids sitting across from me were wondering who Paul was, and thought he was just some ball guy! Pete was wearing dark green shorts and a white Nike T-shirt. I couldn't believe I was even there. Then they walked over to the bench, I thought maybe Pete was going to leave, but then Paul changed his shirt. And I was desperately hoping Pete was going to follow suit. But he didn't. Then they resumed while I sat there in disbelief, in sheer joy, in amazement. I also bonded with two other students who were just as enthralled as I was. One girl, Pam had been watching him since the 4th grade. The other, Jason, a tennis player himself had been watching Pete play for eight years.

I didn't even have anything memorable to give him to autograph. I was ready to get my shirt or jeans signed so I got out my UCLA notebook with all my lecture notes and a pen ready to go. Then at the end, someone shouted out if he could get an autograph and Pete said, "Yeah". Jason and I had already made a plan that no matter which exit Pete took we would run after him. It turned out that all ten of us went running after him on the tennis court. I was the second person to get his autograph. While I just took in being right next to him, I kept walking and bumped into him. I could barely breathe. I had just gotten Pete's autograph, and for some reason I still kept running with everyone else as he kept signing on his way to the men's gym. Anyway, I feel that I have finally accomplished something being here at UCLA and I don't care if I never see any "celebrities" during the rest of my time here...It was such a wonderful experience and I still can't believe it.



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