Sampras now feeling effects of Open title
Back to the rigors of the professional tennis tour after a whirlwind of interviews, exhibitions and a few rounds of recuperative golf, Pete Sampras concedes he is still in awe of his U.S. Open championship.
Sampras, 19, came out of nowhere two months ago to become the youngest male winner of the grand slam event. Combining a cool exterior with a flaming serve, he overpowered John McEnroe in a semifinal and Andre Agassi in the final.
''I'm just starting to realize fully what I accomplished,'' Sampras said after struggling to a first-round victory in the Paris Open. ''There's only a handful of U.S. Open champions, and I'm one of them.''
But the proverbial party is about over for Sampras as expectations - from himself and others - begin to build.
He pulled out of events in Berlin and Lyon, France, because of back pain,
lost to Germany's Boris Becker in a Stockholm Open semifinal last week and
showed considerable rust in struggling to a 7-6 (10-8), 3-6, 7-6 (7-2) victory
against Germany's Carl-Uwe Steeb in his Paris opener.
''I expect so much more out of myself since I played at the level I did at the Open,'' he said. ''I know if I can play for two straight weeks, there's no reason I can't play like that all the time. And if I can, the sky's the limit.''
For the soft-spoken Sampras, dealing with the limelight can be more difficult than dealing with opponents.
''I walked out of my hotel to get a bite to eat, and I couldn't because all these people were following me,'' he said. ''For the first time, I didn't feel good about the situation.''
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