Off Court

Pete & Bridgette Interview on Connie Chung - Transcript


ANNOUNCER: And now Sampras with his new partner off the court.

CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT will be right back.


CHUNG: With all the talk lately about the Williams sisters, Anna Kournikova and women's tennis, you might have overlooked just one stunning performance at this year's U.S. Open. You're about to meet him.

But first, CNN's Josie Karp recaps just why it was so stunning.


JOSIE KARP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pete Sampras wasn't supposed to win the U.S. Open this year and he wasn't supposed to win it 12 years ago. Upsets now bookend a career built on consistency, a career spent raising expectations so high and leaving them so often that Sampras can be called the best player the game has ever seen.

1 in the world, and winning slams easily, it was -- I expected it.

KARP: From Queens to Melbourne to Wimbledon, Sampras followed the trail of vapor left by his powerful serve to six straight years as the world's No. 1 player.


SAMPRAS: To serve 125 up the middle, I'll be able to do that for the rest of my career. And that's a big weapon to have. And that will always give me the belief that I can still play this game.


KARP: The only blemish on his record is his failure to win on the clay courts at the French Open. Everywhere else, he dominated, especially on the grass at Wimbledon, where Sampras has won seven times.

SAMPRAS: It wasn't until I beat Becker here on the third time that people started to appreciate that I didn't really say or do too much and I just let my racket do the talking.

KARP: The Southern Californian rarely lost his West Coast cool. But when he did show emotion, the displays were striking: sobbing during a 1995 win in Australia; vomiting during a 1996 U.S. Open match; searching for his parents in the stands after winning Wimbledon in 2000 for his record-setting 13th grand slam title.

When Sampras arrived at this year's U.S. Open, he'd played in 33 tournaments since that dramatic moment and hadn't won a single time. He heard whispers that he should quit before ruining his legacy.

SAMPRAS: One thing I promised myself, even though I was struggling this year and hearing this and that, I deserved to stop on my own terms.

KARP: Fittingly, Sampras capped his comeback by beating Andre Agassi in their 34th meeting.

SAMPRAS: At the end, he's my rival. Borg had McEnroe. I've had Andre over the years. And he's the best.

KARP: After beating Agassi this time, he was able to share a victory with his wife for the first time.

SAMPRAS: She's a big reason why I've been able to kind of get through this tough period. It just showed me that I met the right woman.

KARP: At just the right time.

Josie Karp, CNN, New York.


CHUNG: And joining me now from Los Angeles: Pete Sampras and his off- court partner, his wife, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras.

Thank you for being with us. I'm very thrilled to have you. Congratulations, Pete. It's great.


CHUNG: All right, we'll get to tennis.

SAMPRAS: Thank you very much.

CHUNG: All right. And, congratulations, Bridgette.

We'll get to everything in a minute, but tell me how the two of you met.

Go ahead, Bridgette.



SAMPRAS: Go ahead. You take that one. I'll answer the tennis questions.


WILSON-SAMPRAS: That's no fair.

CHUNG: Come on.

WILSON-SAMPRAS: Well, should I tell the real story?

CHUNG: Yes, sure.


WILSON-SAMPRAS: Pete saw me in a movie. And a friend of his knew a friend of mine, who set us up. And here we are.


CHUNG: And where did you go? Do you remember your first outing? Where did you go?

WILSON-SAMPRAS: I actually went up to his house.

SAMPRAS: On the first date, she came to my house.


CHUNG: Uh-oh. Really? That was very good.

Pete, I know that you were -- your friend, what, was he doing P.R. for the Knicks or the Lakers?

SAMPRAS: For the Lakers.

CHUNG: For the Lakers, yes.

SAMPRAS: John Black.

CHUNG: And he set you up, right?


SAMPRAS: Yes. He helped and I delivered. (LAUGHTER)

SAMPRAS: And nine months later, we were engaged. And a year later, we were married. And now we have our first child coming at the end of the year. And it all happened pretty quickly. So we're very happy and we're looking forward to the future.

CHUNG: That's wonderful. When is the baby due?


CHUNG: Great.


CHUNG: And do you know if it's a boy or a girl? And you don't have to tell us. I'm just curious if you know.



Now, Pete, you know...

WILSON-SAMPRAS: Not to say we won't find out.

CHUNG: Right.

Bridgette, I want to know one thing that none of us know about Pete Sampras.



SAMPRAS: I hope it's not too personal.

CHUNG: No, you don't have to tell me anything personal, just one little thing that we don't know.


CHUNG: Too hard. You want to think about it?

WILSON-SAMPRAS: That's a tough question.

CHUNG: OK, why don't you think about it? And at the end of the
interview, you can...

WILSON-SAMPRAS: Yes, give me a moment. We'll come back to that one.

CHUNG: All right, OK, very good.

Now, Pete, you know, we are going to get into tennis a little bit now, because you did have a drought period from about -- for about two years, September 2000. And people were saying that it had to do with your relationship with Bridgette. And I just think that's awful. I think that's very nasty and not nice.

However, I did realize, of course, that Andre Agassi had sort of a drought as well when he was first married to Brooke Shields. So, to what do you attribute your sort of problems that you had for a couple of years there, because I know you don't attribute it to Bridgette?

SAMPRAS: No, it's more -- yes, I broke the record a few years ago, my 13th major. And something came out of me after I did that. I just -- I didn't feel like I had the week-in/week-out dominance that I once had.

It took a lot out of me. And I did struggle for a little bit. And I got to the finals of the last two Opens, so I was still playing fine. I just didn't have it week in, week out. But this year has been a big struggle. Wimbledon was a huge low point. When I got back from that trip, there were moments that I was thinking about stopping. And it wasn't fun anymore. And it was kind of a burden on our marriage a little bit.

But, fortunately, I met the right woman, who supported me through a very tough time, a great family who helped me out. And everything just worked out at the U.S. Open. It was a tough tournament. But I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my wife and my family and all those people that supported me through a very tough time. And that's why this one is the sweetest one. I really worked hard for it. And it all worked out well at the end.

CHUNG: And it's so great. You know, I think all of us were rooting for you in a big way.

Pete, how important was it for you to have a win to show Bridgette -- I mean so that she could be right there?

SAMPRAS: Well, she was -- I was struggling a little bit. And she was not being blamed, but it was about me being married. And it just felt good to kind of really show people wrong. And it just kind of felt good that we did it as a team. And it -- she's a big reason why I'm here today, having won this last major, because, like I said, I did have moments of stopping.

But she supported me and was positive. And those are the moments that you need someone. And so she was my rock that kept me going. And it really is -- it's something special, because I internalize a lot. I don't speak a lot about my marriage. But I will say that I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my wife, because she knows how miserable I was this year and the day-in/day-out kind of misery that I was going through.

She was there for me. And that -- it was why I married her. She's very selfless and will do whatever she can for me and has put her career aside for me. And it's really remarkable. And I'm still pretty amazed by it.

CHUNG: Bridgette, it's so great, isn't it?

WILSON-SAMPRAS: Going to make me cry over here.


CHUNG: I know. I know. It is so great when a man loves a woman and feels just free to tell everyone, to tell the world, and is so happy. It even makes me want to cry, too.

Bridgette, you put...


CHUNG: You put a little note in your husband's gym bag the day of the finals. What did you say to him?

WILSON-SAMPRAS: What did I say?

SAMPRAS: Well, she -- well, you want to -- just saying that she was proud of me, and I've worked hard to get here, and to take it to him, and enjoy it out there and enjoy the atmosphere playing against someone like Andre. It just -- it was good to read it.

Right before I walked out, I read it and just -- it was nice to step away a little bit from what I was doing and just appreciate my wife and what she was saying. And it's nice having those notes to read before you go out. And it's just always at the right time or the
right place.



WILSON-SAMPRAS: That's the most important thing for me, though, is just that he allows himself to enjoy it. There are so many moments. There's so much pressure. There's so many things going on, that to just to have a little sort of quiet moment that allows our intimate or special relationship to have its place, and then go out there and
do it, but have it be just right there keeps it -- it's nice.

CHUNG: That's so nice.

Pete, I need to actually ask you -- which everybody is asking you -- about retirement. And you said you needed to wait a couple of months before you really kind of decide. You have a full schedule next year. So what do you think?

SAMPRAS: I'm still weighing that up a little bit. I'm still enjoying what happened last week. I will tell you, I love to compete and I love to play. And it's fun again. It's fun playing the way I did last week.

And I plan on being back next year and having a full schedule and enjoying Wimbledon one more time. And I didn't want to end it the way it ended this year. So I plan on being back. It's what I love to do, but still thinking about it. But there's a good chance I'll be back.

CHUNG: Good. Good.

Bridgette, just five seconds left. Did you ever think of anything that we don't know about Pete?

WILSON-SAMPRAS: I knew you were going to ask me.



WILSON-SAMPRAS: I knew you were going to remember.

CHUNG: Forget it. I'll call you later and you can tell me.



SAMPRAS: I need air-conditioning when I sleep, you know?


CHUNG: Oh, there you go.

WILSON-SAMPRAS: Yes, that's true. He sleeps in a meat locker.

SAMPRAS: Yes, I do.


CHUNG: All right, good.

Well, our studio will be perfect for you, Pete, because it's really cold here, just the way it is on "David Letterman." And you know how cold his studio his.

All right, thank you so much. Pete Sampras and Bridgette, we appreciate your being with us.




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