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Sampras in Media Spotlight

July 10, 2000

Pete Sampras, the quiet American, has always been shy of the kind of media focus which surrounds great athletes and other achievers. He dutifully gives his post-match press conferences, but is much happier between tournaments fading into the background and enjoying a quiet life, when he has the rare luxury of spending some time at home. But following his history-making triumph at Wimbledon last Sunday, when he captured not only his seventh Singles Title but broke Roy Emerson’s long-standing record of winning 12 Grand Slams, Sampras agreed to do a whistle-stop media tour of New York City. Organised jointly by the ATP Tour, USTA and Sampras’ management company, AMG Sports, they were all eager to show off their supreme champion while he was in the mood!

Arriving from London on Monday afternoon, Sampras’ first interview was for the New York Times, where reporter Liz Robbins and two sports editors conducted an extensive Question and Answer session for the following day’s edition of the Sports section. This was accompanied by several photographs, including one taking up nearly the whole of the front page. These followed an even larger photo in Monday’s edition, which dominated the front page of the main section of the newspaper. Pete’s next stop was a chat with Charlie Rose for his talk show on PBS. Boasting a loyal audience for the popular show, Rose pronounced it ‘a great interview’. So he must have the knack necessary to get through the unassuming 28 year old’s usual reticence.

The following morning started early for Pete, which is not the best way of catching him in a good mood! His interview by Katie Couric for The Today Show started at 7.30 am. NBC, who air this most popular of the US morning news shows, had created a tennis court on set, where Katie gamely traded a few shots with the Champ. This succeeded in relaxing him enough to show the fun side of his character, as he good-naturedly laughed at some of her attempts to retrieve his serves. For many people, this showed Sampras – usually so serious on court when he’s there to win – in an entirely new light.

Those who don’t bother with breakfast or can’t find America’s much-loved Wheaties in their local store may be surprised to know that it’s considered pretty prestigious to appear on this celebrated cereal box. The announcement at Pete’s next press conference that the makers of Wheaties were to accord him this honour generated a considerable amount of media interest. Hosted by the Midtown Tennis Club and attracting representatives from 40 different media outlets, there were calls for extra time to interview both Pete and his attractive fiancée, the actress Bridgette Wilson.

But the unprecedented attention for Pete was far from over. The couple headed for CBS TV, where a Satellite Media Tour projected Pete to a dozen major US cities in five- minute one-to-one interviews. Then, before heading home to LA, there was one last chat, with Dan Patrick for ESPN Radio.

The tennis world has long known all about Pete Sampras’ amazing achievements. But at last, after allowing himself to bask in a little glory from what he described as his ‘most defining victory ever’, a different and very likeable side of Pete has been shown to a wide audience.

Source: J. A. Adande for LA Times


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