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Sampras Ready for Davis cup

October 27, 2001

The reports coming out of Stuttgart, Germany, were ominous last week. Pete Sampras was losing his temper, losing his serve and, finally, losing his latest tournament. Even worse, his arm hurt, no thanks to a frightening-sounding condition called "dead arm." It appeared as though dead arm equaled dead end.

Hardly. Sampras was openly optimistic in an interview this week, making plans for next year, talking about consulting with a Dodger pitching coach about his sore arm, which has given him trouble through the years. More revealing was his sudden willingness to play Davis Cup for the first time since 2000.

The United States will play Slovakia in the first round, Feb. 8-10, possibly in Southern California. Sampras last played against the Czech Republic at the Forum, so why not play against the other half of the former Czechoslovakia?

"The last couple of years, it's becoming more difficult to get up for certain events at certain times of the year, and I must say, Davis Cup means something," he said.

"You dig deep. You're playing for your country. You're playing for your teammates. You just turn it on like it's a [grand] slam. "I think the reason why I struggled a little bit this year was, I had a hard time at certain parts of the year, finding that inspiration. I'm excited to make that commitment. As adamant as I've been, to try to put pressure on the ITF [International Tennis Federation] and USTA to change, [the format] is not going to change while I'm playing. With that being said, I've got to do what I've got to do and use it to be inspired." Sampras told Patrick McEnroe, U.S. Davis Cup captain, of his availability in a recent phone conversation.

Sampras played for John McEnroe against the Czech Republic in April 2000, clinching the 3-2 victory for the U.S. by defeating Slava Dosedel in the decisive match. He had an often-tumultuous relationship with John--who hasn't?- -but Patrick, who attended Sampras' wedding last year, has a decidedly moderate personality.

"He's someone I know very well, a friend of mine, knows the game," Sampras said. "He's got a good personality. He can mold himself around a lot of different people. It's a different mixture ... with [Andy] Roddick and James Blake and [Jan-Michael] Gambill. It'll be inspiring."

Sampras said he plans to play more in 2002, possibly adding a U.S. clay-court event before traveling to Europe in the spring. He is done this year, having pulled out of next week's Masters Series event in Paris because of the arm problems. The arm, he said, bothered him near the end of the U.S. Open.

"There's nothing structurally wrong with my shoulder," he said. "When you serve as hard as I do, with a tight racket, at times, it can be bad. It has given me problems over the years, almost to the extent of wanting to talk to a pitching coach about some of their exercises, routine, how much they pitch on off days. I've masked it by taking Advil and stuff, you don't want to rely on that."

Despite his compelling run to the U.S. Open final--which included consecutive victories over Pat Rafter, Andre Agassi and Marat Safin-- Sampras has continually faced retirement questions, partly because he turned 30, and because he has not won a title since Wimbledon in 2000.

"It got carried away," he said of the speculation. "I know it's a story, but I never ever once gave the impression I was stopping anytime soon. Retirement was something I never considered. I just want to set the record straight. I want to play for many more years. I don't know how many. ... It just depends where I'm at in my life and my tennis. "I love what I do. You're playing a sport for a living and once it's over, it's over. People I meet just around L.A., they say, 'Don't stop. Keep on playing."'



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