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Sampras reflects on Solid Year

July 24, 1999

Appropriately, Pete Sampras, winner of a record-tying 12 Grand Slam titles, is the 12th Nike athlete/coach to have a building named in his honor at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

The facility, adorned with Sampras mementos, will be the workplace for 260 Nike employees. Sampras and family members toured the building Monday.

''There are pictures of me all over the place,'' Sampras says. ''Pictures of me when I was a kid and as an adult. There are a couple of my trophies from the U.S. Open and trophies from Wimbledon. It's kind of a history of my whole career. It's really nicely done, couldn't be better. It was a good day.''

Sampras, no doubt, will remember 1999 as a good year as well. In an awesome performance, the 27-year-old Californian won his sixth Wimbledon title earlier this month, beating Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 in an hour, 55-minute final.

''I've thought a lot about that final and how the whole year was going up to that point,'' Sampras says.

''The thing that I'm most happy with is that playing Andre, who was coming in as the hottest player on tour, I felt I played on a level that I had never been to before. I watched the tape and said. 'Wow, I really played as well as I could.' You have so many nerves that you rarely play great in that situation. When I think of all the final matches I've played throughout my career, it's the best I've played.''

Sampras, No. 3 in the world, returns to the tour Monday at a $350,000 tournament in Los Angeles. He'll also play in Cincinnati and Indianapolis before aiming for a record-setting 13 Grand Slam titles at the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 30.

''I'm not going to stress myself over the record,'' he says. ''Just being in this position is an accomplishment in itself. I'm just going to let it happen. It could happen in a couple of months or it could happen in two years. When it happens, if it happens, it'll be a moment that will go down in history. I'd love to one day win another Grand Slam title.''

Sampras says that his record of six consecutive years at No. 1, set last year, was in some ways a Pyrrhic victory.

''People say, 'Was it worth it?' I say 'Kind of,' '' Sampras says.

''I put everything I had into the last two months to achieve it. I could not stop thinking about the record. I wanted it so badly because it wasn't like I could start over and do it again. I felt this would be one record that wouldn't be touched. But I worried about how I was going to feel if I didn't get what I wanted, considering the effort I had put into it.

''When it was over, I was as drained as I'd ever been, physically and mentally exhausted, not just from tennis, but from the stress that I put on myself. It was killing me. It's amazing what happens to your body when you put that much stress on yourself. Strange things were happening to me. Losing your hair was definitely one of them.''

Several months ago, Sampras ended a two-year relationship with actress Kimberly Williams.

''It's difficult when you have two people with demanding careers,'' Sampras says.

''And it's difficult when you're trying to compete and things are tough off the court. I travel many, many weeks and that can open the door to some problems. I don't have a normal life. But I've been through it before and it's a part of life. Time heals a lot of wounds.

''I'd love to settle down and have a family, but I can't say when that will happen.''



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