Pete Sampras: all-time great Tennis star

Known for his precise and powerful serve, his exceptional all-around game enabled him to win 14 Grand Slam tennis singles titles. This remained a record among male players until it was broken by Roger Federer in the 2009 Wimbledon final.
Star player Pete Sampras turned professional at the age of 17. In 1990, he won his first Grand Slam at the US Open, beating Andre Agassi in the final, becoming the youngest player to claim the title at 19 years and 28 days.(Illustration: Gajanan Nirphale)
Star player Pete Sampras turned professional at the age of 17. In 1990, he won his first Grand Slam at the US Open, beating Andre Agassi in the final, becoming the youngest player to claim the title at 19 years and 28 days.(Illustration: Gajanan Nirphale)
Updated on Sep 02, 2019 11:51 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent

Born on August 12, 1971 in Washington, DC, he was the third of four children. His parents, Soterios and Georgia Sampras, are of Greek descent. He spent his early years in Potomac, Maryland, where his father worked as an aerospace engineer for the US Air Force. The family moved to Rancho Palos Verdes, California where he grew up along with his brother Gus and sisters Stella and Marion.

Childhood

When he was eight, his parents invited pediatrician and tennis coadPeter Fischer, a pediatrician and tennis specialist, to coach their son. By 12, Sampras had played in the higher division for 14-year-olds and notched up victories. Fischer is credited with improving his monster serve. At 16, he entered the US Tennis Association Boys’ 18 tournament and was placed second in singles and first in doubles.

Career

He turned professional in 1988 at the age of 17 and, having started at rank 893, climbed up to 97th that year. In 1990, he won his first Grand Slam at the US Open, beating Andre Agassi in the final. In April, 1993, he attained the world no. 1 ranking and stayed there for a record 286 weeks. Later that year, Sampras won the first of seven Wimbledon titles beating Jim Courier in the final. His last title at Wimbledon was in 2000, in which he defeated Patrick Rafter. It enabled him to break Roy Emerson’s record of 12 Grand Slam titles. He also won four consecutive Wimbledon singles titles, second only to Borg and Federer (who have five consecutive titles each).

Other titles

He won Australian Open titles in 1994 and 1997. Only the French Open title has eluded him, preventing him from completing a career Grand Slam. He won the US Open five times and also topped the Association of Tennis Professionals rankings in 1993 and held it through 1998. He won 11 major titles and was a member of the US team that won the 1995 Davis Cup. He is the only player to win the seven Wimbledon finals he played. In terms of most finals won in a single Grand Slam tournament, he is second to Rafael Nadal in the Open Era (who won all 12 of French Open finals), and tied with Novak Djokovic (who won all seven of his Australian Open finals).In 2000, he married actress and ex-Miss Teen USA Bridgette Wilson.

‘Stoic’ full of emotions

In 1995, Sampras faced a personal crisis in front of the spectators at the Australian Open. Prior to his quarterfinal against Jim Courier, Sampras learnt that Tim Gullikson, his coach, had terminal brain cancer. Down two sets to none, a fan called out “Come on, Pete do it for your coach.” Sampras staged an emotional comeback to defeat Courier in five sets.

Achievements

Australian Open: 1994, 1997

Wimbledon: 1993-1995, 1997-2000

US Open: 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996 & 2002

1991: Won ATP World C’ship

1997: Conferred US Olympic Committee Sportsman of the Year award, a first to a tennis player

2005: Tennis magazine named him the greatest player from 1995-2005 on its list of 40 Greatest Players

2007: Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Interesting facts

1. In 1990, Sampras beat Agassi and became the youngest player (19 years, 28 days) to win the US Open. In 2002, he defeated Agassi in his last match, and became the oldest (31 years) to win the Open.

2. From 1988 to 2002, he won 762 of the total 984 matches in which he played. He captured 64 singles titles including a record 14 Grand Slam victories, with eight of them won in straight sets.

3. His precise, powerful serve earned him the nickname ‘Pistol Pete’, and was known for his accurate 209 kph serve. In 1993, he became the first player to serve over 1,000 aces in a season.

4. Until age 15, Sampras played with a two-handed backhand. His coach, Peter Fischer, made him convert to a one-handed backhand because he believed it would increase his chances at Wimbledon.

5. In Nov 2010, Sampras reported that many of his trophies and memorabilia had been stolen from a West Los Angeles public storage facility. Most stolen items, have since been recovered.

Sources: wikipedia, encyclopedia.com, tennisfame.com, ATP Championstour Tour, britannica.com

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