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Slammin' Sampras

Monday, June 21, 2004
More Info on Pete Sampras
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

Signature Game

Sept. 9, 1990 - Pete Sampras shows youth will be served. Or, in this case, it's that a brilliant serve can carry a 19-year-old to the U.S. Open championship. Against Andre Agassi, who recently had made a camera commercial noting that image is everything, Sampras shows reality is a well-placed serve at 120 miles per hour.

In becoming the youngest male U.S. Open champion, Sampras breezes to a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory for his first Grand Slam title. Sampras deals 13 aces, belts another 12 service winners, has only one double fault and loses just 17 points in 13 service games. He never allows Agassi to even reach deuce on his serve. "I've got a heater and a changeup," says Sampras.

Agassi says, "It was a good, old-fashioned street mugging. I got my butt kicked."

Sampras hits 27 winners while Agassi has just 10. Approaching the net 62 times (compared to seven for Agassi), Sampras wins 39 points.

Sampras, who had been No. 81 in the world when the year started, rises to No. 6 with the victory. Sports Illustrated puts him on its cover with the headline, "A Star Is Born."

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Sampras' first match against Agassi came when Sampras was nine and Agassi 10 at a tournament in California. They were both small for their age and Sampras recalls that Agassi toyed with him, using a lot of trick shots. "He was kind of a hot dog," Sampras recalls.

  • As pros, Sampras held a 20-14 edge over Agassi, including 6-3 at Grand Slam events, through September 2002.

  • Sampras was taught to keep his emotions in check. Growing up, whenever he and his parents saw John McEnroe on TV throw one of his tantrums, Sampras was embarrassed.

  • Sampras' record at the majors through 2002 was 203-38 (.842). He was 45-9 at the Australian Open, 24-13 at the French Open, 63-7 at Wimbledon and 71-9 at the U.S. Open.

  • Three-time Wimbledon champ Boris Becker on Sampras: "He was always the most complete player. He has the power, he has the speed, he has the touch. He is the best player ever."

  • At the funeral of Tim Gullikson, his coach, in 1996, a weeping Sampras presented his first Wimbledon trophy to the coach's family. He tried to give a eulogy, but broke down.

  • Sampras won the most tournaments in the 1990s, going 61-17 in finals.

  • His record from 1993-98 was 415-84 (.832), including 43-11 (.796) in finals.

  • His favorite book is "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger. "I thought Holden Caulfield was pretty cool," Sampras says. His favorite line from the book: "Don't ever tell anybody anything."

  • In "Tennis" magazine in 1995, Sampras listed SportsCenter as his addiction.

  • He is coached by Paul Annacone, who reached a career-high No. 12 in 1986. Annacone took over when Tim Gullikson became ill in January 1995. Sampras fired Annacone after the 2001 season but rehired him in July 2002.

  • Minutes after Sampras vomited in winning his 1996 U.S. Open quarterfinal match against Alex Corretja, McEnroe told Sampras' then girlfriend, Delaina Mulcahy, "I don't have that much guts."

  • Sampras' record in Davis Cup matches is 15-8 in singles and 4-2 in doubles.

  • Dr. Pete Fischer, a pediatrician who was Sampras' coach as a youngster, pleaded guilty of sexual molestation charges in 1997 in California. Sampras says he never saw a hint of unseemly behavior from Fischer during his nine years with him.

  • Sampras married actress Brigette Wilson, who was Miss Teen USA in 1990, on Sept. 30, 2000.

  • Sampras had lost U.S. Open finals in 2000 (to Marat Safin) and 2001 (to Lleyton Hewitt) before he defeated Agassi in 2002.

  • With the win, Sampras joined Jimmy Connors as the only five-time U.S. Open winners in the Open era, and at 31 years, 28 days, he became the oldest winner since Ken Rosewall in 1970 (35 years, 10 months).

  • A final word from Sampras: "I never wanted to be the great guy or the colorful guy or the interesting guy. I wanted to be the guy who won titles."

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