Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Sampras was the third son of Greek immigrants, Sam and Georgia Sampras. From an early age, Pete showed signs of outstanding athletic ability. The young Pete discovered a tennis racquet in the basement and spent hours hitting balls against the wall. In 1978, the Sampras family moved to Palos Verdes, California, and the warmer climate there allowed seven-year-old Pete to play more tennis. The Sampras family joined the Peninsula Racquet Club, where they played a great deal of tennis together. It was here that Pete's ability became apparent. At the age of 11 he had already learned the solid serve and volley tactic that has become the hallmark of his game.
On September 30, 2001, Sampras married American actress Bridgette Wilson.
Sampras has thalassemia minor, a mild form of an inherited disease that causes anemia. Sampras' older sister Stella is head coach at UCLA and his younger sister, Marion, is a teacher in Los Angeles. His older brother, Gus, is tournament director at Scottsdale ATP event.
Sampras's pro career began in 1988 at the age of 16. His first victory in a Grand Slam tournament came at the US Open in 1990, when he defeated, among others, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, and in the final, an up-and-coming young player named Andre Agassi. At only 19 years 28 days, Pete Sampras was the youngest tennis player ever to win the US Open Men's title. The rivalry between Agassi and Sampras lasted throughout the 1990s. Sampras dominated Wimbledon for much of the 1990s, taking the title there in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000. In 1991 Pete won the IBM World Championship and in 1992 played on the team that won the Davis Cup. Pete set a new ATP Tour record in 1993 when he became the first player to serve over 1000 aces in a season. He has been very successful at Queen's Club.
Whereas the grass courts of Wimbledon played to Sampras's strengths, his only real weakness was on clay, where the slow surface tended to negate his natural attacking serve-and-volley game, and he never progressed beyond the semi-final stage at the French Open. His businesslike attitude during play and cautious handling of the press led critics to bemoan his lack of charisma, but his natural talent and work ethic meant that Sampras was always able to let his results speak for themselves.
He was known for his good all-round game and a strong competitive instinct. He holds the record for the most wins in Grand Slam men's singles events, having won a total of 14 (7 Wimbledon, 5 US Open, and 2 Australian Open). Sampras led the world tennis rankings for six consecutive years, from 1993 to 1998. After a period of time during which he, by his own admission, lacked the drive and hunger needed to remain at the top, Sampras officially retired on August 25, 2003.
Sampras was known for several extraordinary facets in his game, in particular:
- an accurate and powerful first serve;
- a second serve just as powerful as his first, possibly his most dangerous weapon;
- a stellar forehand, in particular his "running forehand" (a forehand hit on the run) was considered the best in the world;
- a phenomenal net game (Sampras' volleys were fabulous and arguably the best overhead smash in the history of the men's game. His slam dunk smash was an effective way to demoralise his opponents);
- a decent one-handed backhand (something increasingly rare among top players).
His game strategy was quite simple. When serving, he was a "serve-and-volleyer": he hit a hard serve, forcing a bad return; he then typically ran up to hit the ball on the volley for an easy putaway. When not serving, he usually employed a "chip-and-charge" strategy: just chip back the return and run up to the net, waiting for a volley. These strategies work best on "fast" surfaces like concrete (and grass in particular) and are weak on "slow" surfaces like clay. As a result, he dominated Wimbledon (played on grass) and never won the French Open (played on clay).
Records and Trivia
- Sampras won a record 14 Grand Slam titles over his career.
- He finished the year as No. 1 on the ATP Rankings for a record 6 years. He was also the only player to finish as No.1 for six consecutive years (1993-98).
- He was No. 1 ranked player in the world for a record 286 weeks.
- He was in the world top ten for 12 years; Only Connors, Agassi and Lendl stayed in the top ten for more years.
- He finished his career with a record $43 million in career prize money.
- He captured 64 titles over his career, which makes him 4th in the all time list of players with most career titles.
- He won 11 Masters Series titles, which places him 2nd after Andre Agassi to win the most number of such tournaments (since 1990).
- He appeared in at least one Grand Slam final for 11 consecutive years (1992-2002), winning in eight straight (1993-2000).
- He and Ken Rosewall are the only men to win Grand Slam titles as a teenager, in their 20s and in their 30s.
- He won at least one title for 11 straight years (1990-2000) and 12 of 13 (except 2001).
- He captured the Tennis Masters Cup (ATP World Championship) a record five times in Germany (1991, '94, '96-97, '99). He shares this Open era record with Ivan Lendl.
- He compiled a 19-9 career Davis Cup record (15-8 in singles) and member of winning teams in 1992 and '95.
- He served a career-high 1,011 aces in 1993 to lead ATP circuit; also led in 1995 with 974 aces.
- He won a career-high 10 titles and compiled a personal-best 29-match winning streak in 1994.
- He won a career-best 85 matches in 1993 and on Apr. 12th became 11th player in history of ATP Rankings to hold No. 1.
- He was the youngest US Open men's champion at 19 years, 28 days in 1990.
- He compiled a 40-2 match record on Centre Court at Wimbledon and 63-7 overall at All England Club.
- He compiled a 762-222 record during his years on the circuit - winning more than 77 percent of all the matches he played in 15 years.
- ATP Player of the Year six straight years from 1993-98.
- U.S. Olympic Committee "Sportsman of the Year," first tennis player to receive award in 1997.
- Named GQ Magazine's Individual Athlete Award for Man of the Year in 2000.
- Selected No. 1 player (of 25 players) in past 25 years in a panel of 100 current and past players, journalists and tournament directors to commemorate 25th anniversary of ATP in 1997.
- Voted 48th athlete of Top 50 Greatest North American Athletes of ESPN's SportsCentury (also youngest on list).
Some of the most famous matches Sampras played include the following:
- U.S. Open 1990 Final: defeated Andre Agassi, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, Sampras' first Grand Slam tournament victory.
- Wimbledon 1995 Final: defeated Boris Becker, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2, in a clash of two of the top grass-court players of their generation.
- Wimbledon 1996 Quarter-final: lost to Richard Krajicek, 7-5, 7-6, 6-4, Sampras' only loss at Wimbledon between 1993 and 2000 inclusive.
- U.S. Open 1996 Quarter-final: defeated Alex Corretja, 7-6, 5-7, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6, after being physically ill on the court, and coming back from being match point down. Sampras vomited twice during the match and required half a gallon of intra-venous fluids after the match.
- ATP World Championships 1996 Final: defeated Boris Becker, 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(4), 6-7(11), 6-4, in a four-hour-long match, Sampras and Becker struggled against typical season-end fatigue on the indoor carpet in Hannover, Germany. Sampras had the match point in the fourth set tie break but was unable to capitalize as Becker came back with the crowd behind him and forced Sampras to play a final set. Many thought Sampras was physically exhausted and mentally beaten, but he came back stronger than ever and won one of the most difficult matches in his career.
- U.S. Open 1997 Fourth Round: lost to Petr Korda, 6-7, 7-5, 7-6, 3-6, 7-6, an upset victory for Korda.
- Wimbledon 1998 Final: defeated Goran Ivanisevic, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, in a thrilling 5-set final.
- U.S. Open 1998 Quarter-final: lost to Patrick Rafter, 6-7, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, in a sign that his dominance was fading.
- Wimbledon 1999 Final: defeated Andre Agassi, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, in what Sampras called one of his best matches ever.
- Australian Open 2000 Semi-final: lost to Andre Agassi, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-1, in an exciting match.
- Wimbledon 2001 Fourth round: lost to Roger Federer, 7-6 (7), 5-7, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-5, which ended his 21-match winning streak. Another sign of his gradual decline, especially the fact that it came on his best surface. It is also notable because it was a harbringer of the future dominance of Federer.
- U.S. Open 2001 Quarter-final: defeated Andre Agassi, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6, a classic duel that featured a remarkable zero breaks of serve.
- US Open 2002 Final: defeated Andre Agassi, 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, in yet another memorable battle with his long-time rival. As it turned out, this was his last competitive match; he did not play in any subsequent tournaments before making his retirement official.
Grand Slam titles (14)
1990 U.S. Open Andre Agassi 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 1993 Wimbledon Jim Courier 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 1993 U.S. Open Cedric Pioline 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 1994 Australian Open Todd Martin 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 1994 Wimbledon Goran Ivanisevic 7-6, 7-6, 6-0 1995 Wimbledon Boris Becker 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 1995 U.S. Open Andre Agassi 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 1996 U.S. Open Michael Chang 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 1997 Australian Open Carlos Moya 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 1997 Wimbledon Cedric Pioline 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 1998 Wimbledon Goran Ivanesevic 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 1999 Wimbledon Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 2000 Wimbledon Patrick Rafter 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 2002 U.S. Open Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4
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