Archive for the 'Pete Sampras' Category
A Tennis Racket Can Make Or Break Your Game

Tennis RacketYou are in love with the game of tennis and can not get enough of it. Starting off in school learning to play on basic gym equipment was the beginning-then in college you made sure that you took tennis as your required physical education classes.

The time has now come for you to get your own personal equipment and you want to get a tennis racket of your very own. To make a personal statement to everyone that you have come of age, are serious about this sport, and want to compete with your friends evenings and weekends.

What type of tennis racket are you going to purchase? They vary in length, weight, and head size, and you will need to figure out which one is the best for you. Think back to your beginnings playing this sport-what did you like or dislike about the different tennis rackets you used. This can be a starting point to begin narrowing down your choices.

A very important component for the tennis racket is the head size as the power behind your swings is directly affected. A larger head will give you with more power than a small head and also provides you with a larger hitting area making it a little easier to hit the ball. Generally speaking, a smaller racket head appeals to more accomplished players seeking more control, while larger rackets appeal to beginning and intermediate players seeking more power and a larger head.

They range in length from 27-29 inches with most people selecting the 27 inch ones. However, a longer handle provides more reach on ground strokes, adds leverage on serves, and slightly more power, than one with a standard length.

The weight has also been reduced making them lighter and easier to hold.
If you have friends or co-workers that also play, ask them about the type they use and why. They will enjoy talking to you about the sport and in providing you with information and advise. And, there is nothing more flattering than to ask someone for their opinion on a topic that they really enjoy and believe that they are an expert in.

Some of these people might even loan you some of their equipment so that you can try it out and find out whether or not you like it. No matter what your preference for a tennis racket is, you have to find the best one that meets your needs. This may even mean renting them and testing them out for a few games. This is probably the best way to have an opportunity to use many different types, styles, models and different manufacturers without spending a lot of money on ones that will just end up collecting dust in the closet.

Get out and play every weekend. The exercise is good, you will meet new people, and be out in the fresh air. This is much better than spending your weekend sitting in front of the television or going to the office to catch up on work.

Enjoy yourself, life is too short.

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Q&A with Pete Sampras

Samprad Federe

Last week Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch interviewed Pete Sampras for the magazine’s Q&A. The 35-year-old Hall of Fame tennis player will compete in the Outback Champions Series, an over-30 tour, in Boston from May 2-6. In July he will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. Here are additional excerpts from their conversation.

SI: What has retirement been like for you?

Sampras: Retirement is a work in progress. It’s not like you can read a book and figure it out. But I realized in 2005 that I needed to start doing something. I wasn’t structured at all. I was kind of waking up, playing golf, not really doing much. When I committed to playing a little tennis in some exhibitions, it was the best thing for me. It got me in shape. It got me out of the house. It got me doing something I love to do.

SI: You’ve committed to playing two events on this tour. Why return to competitive tennis?

Sampras: I talked to Jim Courier a lot over the past year. He was picking my brain on where I was mentally and whether I wanted to play. I just wanted to give it a shot. There’s something about playing an event. It was a process getting to a point where I could commit to it and be excited about it. I’m playing Jim and John McEnroe and guys I played during my years. I’m looking forward to it but I had to get to a pretty good place to commit to it and see how it feels. John and Jim said it was a fun week, a competitive week, but’s it not the competition I’m looking for. It’s having something to prepare for. I have something to look forward to. I can hit a little more. I can get in a little better shape. It’s a combination of all those things that give you a little focus. I’s not anything like it used to be but something like it used to be.

SI: What happens if you play at higher level in Boston than you expect? Would you be tempted to keep playing?

Sampras: That’s a good question. I’m curious myself as to what it will feel like. I will tell you that in the last months I have been hitting the ball better today then I did when I was playing. A lot of it has to do with technology. I’m using a bigger racket. Technology is taking the game to a new level and the last year or so I have taken advantage of that. I am serving just as hard. I’m hitting the ball with more control. I think my racket head has a lot to do with that.

SI: Say you were offered a wild card at an ATP tournament in the next 18 months, would you consider it?

Sampras: The offer is not the problem. It’s the desire for me to do it and the grind of it all. People have mentioned to me: You should come back. There’s not many great players today and it would be exciting, and give the sport a real shot in the arm. But they haven’t walked a mile in my shoes. Realistically, I only play one way. That’s to win. I won’t jeopardize that feeling to come back just to come back. It has to be for a reason. My competitive side and curious side, I have thought about it. Realistically, it’s not going to happen.

SI: You played against Roger Federer once at Wimbledon 2001.

Sampras: And lost 7-5 in the fifth.

SI: Federer will top out at how many majors?

Sampras: I see him getting to 17, 18 or 19 majors. I really do. Who knows how far he can go? He’s winning these majors with pretty much ease. He’s not challenged much. He’s obviously playing great. If there were three or four guys who were pushing him to five sets or beating him a few times over the past year, then anything could happen on the day. But I just find him with that extra gear that no one can hang with him for a long period of time. He can win 17, 18 or 19 majors. He’s in the middle of his career and I don’t see him slowing down or anyone slowing him down.

SI: What would be your game plan to beat him?

Sampras: I would try to take his timing away and come in and use my serve and aggressive style. He does great things when guys stay back and he can kind of dictate from the back court. I would not want to get into many exchanges like that. I’d try to come in, attack his second serve, really just try to take his rhythm away. That’s what I tried to do against all the great baseliners like Courier and Andre Agassi. I would try to overwhelm them with my power and shot-making ability. So I would serve and volley on both serves. I would attack his backhand, which is his weaker side, and go from there. Unfortunately, we don’t have anyone who can do that today so he can out-athletic these guys from the back court because of what he can do on the run. Nobody is looking to come in and I think that’s the way to beat him.

SI: Would you be okay with Federer passing your Grand Slam majors record?

Sampras: Sure, you would love to have that record but it’s true: Records are made to be broken. Players are better today and I believe Roger is going to break my record, Tiger Woods is going top break Jack Nicklaus’ record and Barry Bonds is going to break Hank Aaron’s record. Unfortunately for me, Roger would only have given me the record for about eight years. But I don’t believe in not rooting for him. I’ve never believed in that. I believe the record will be broken and the person who will break it is a phenomenal player. He is someone who I would want to see do it because I think he is a credit to the game. I think he’s a nice guy. He handles himself well on and off the court. He has good temperament there. Those are the things I like in an athlete. He doesn’t transcend the sport because of where we are today and all the controversy people want.

SI: When is the last time you spoke with Federer?

Sampras: I talked to him a few days after the Open. I sent him a text to congratulate him. Then we spoke a little bit after that. We had some people who were curious about putting together an exhibition. It ended up not working out but we talked a little about the exhibition and in general. I told him, "Look, I don’t know you well but want to tell you I respect your game, the way you handle yourself and that you are credit to the game." I think he gets respect from the media and the fans and I wanted him to know that I was a part of that.

SI: Who do you think is the more dominant athlete: Tiger Woods or Federer?

Sampras: Good question. As far as pure domination, it’s hard to say because I find golf harder to dominate than tennis. For Tiger to do what he has done, he has to worry about a field of players but he’s not as much in control of how it goes compared to Roger. For Roger, it’s just one on one. He has to worry about seven guys and seven guys only. Tiger has to worry about some floater guy shooting 62. Tiger is not as much in control so it tells you what Tiger has done might be more impressive. But at the same time Roger has lost like five matches in the last 18 months. Something ridiculous like that. It’s hard to say whether tennis is harder to dominate than golf. I think a lot more crazier things can happen in golf than tennis so I’d lean a little toward Tiger but at the same time Roger has won more than Tiger.

SI: How often do you talk to Andre Agassi?

Sampras: I talked to him a little after the U.S. Open. He invited my wife and me to his foundation dinner so we went and talked and hung out. We promised each other we would stay in touch. I think we have been through too much together and do get along quite well. We both have a wife and two kids. We have a lot in common at this stage in our lives.

SI: Would you describe you and Agassi as friends today?

Sampras: I would. Not anything where we stay in touch week to week, but if he were ever in L.A. or I were in Las Vegas, I think we would reach out to one another just to get together or have our kids play. The great thing that happened with us is that everything we went through, completing for major titles, I think we came out better friends than when we went into it. It’s a credit to who we are and what we represent.

SI: How much tennis memorabilia do you own?

Sampras: I have some trophies and eight of my old St. Vincent Wilson racquets. That’s about it. I have the net at Wimbledon when I broke the record. But it’s in storage [laughs].

SI: Have you ever looked up your wife’s (actress Bridgette Wilson-Sampras) page on the IMDb Web site?

Sampras: Absolutely. And I’ve Googled her.

SI: Before or after you were married?

Sampras: After [laughs].

SI: The one stroke from any player in history you would like to borrow for one match?

Sampras: How about Goran Ivanisevic’s serve? On grass. That was pretty rough.

SI: You can be one other athlete for one day, whom do you choose and why?

Sampras: If I could pick anyone I would say Michael Jordan, hitting his last-second shot against Utah in Game Six of the 1998 NBA Finals. That was a great moment and he did in Utah, which was even sweeter.

SI: What’s a typical day like for you these days?

Sampras: I’ll get up either 7 or 8 and spend some time with my kids before they go to pre-school. Then at 10 to 11 I’ll go to the gym and lift some weights or do a run. I might play golf from noon to 4 or 5. Then I’ll get back and spend a few hours with my kids before they go to bed. That’s kind of a typical day. But I do hit the tennis ball three days a week, maybe from 1:30 to 3. Twice a week I play basketball. I have a little hoop at my house so I’ll bring eight guys over to play a little four-on-four. That’s a great workout. And I play poker in a home game once a week. I spend a lot of time with my kids. I like taking my older son out to lunch. We go to Beverly Hills to have lunch and we have that time together.

SI: You’ll be enshrined in the Hall of Fame in July. Have you started on your speech?

Sampras: I have not started on the speech, but I am thinking about ideas and things I want to say. For me, it’s kind of thanking everyone that got me to this point. I’ll talk about how I looked at my tennis, different coaches, my family and wife. I have not officially put something down on paper but I want to talk about what the sport meant to me and how I looked at the sport.

SI: Can you go as long as you want?

Sampras: You can as long as you want. I see something like five to 10 minutes.

SI: That seems short.

Sampras: They told me Jimmy Connors did something for 5 to 10 minutes and McEnroe did 40, which is a little long. I want something short and sweet so I can nail some important points.

SI: Would you and your wife ever consider posing for the SI Swimsuit Issue?

Sampras: I don’t know. Maybe it’s not for us [laughs].

SI: I know you believe Roger will win the French Open. What would that win mean for his career?

Sampras: It would complete it, and not that it’s not already complete today. But he was born and raised on clay. The closest I came to clay as a kid was Play-Doh. It was foreign to me. I think his game suits clay pretty well. So I think it is just a matter of time. It’s tough because there are really a lot more good clay-court players today then there were 10 years ago. It will be as challenging as it was for me but I think he’s more comfortable on clay because he grew up on it.

SI: If we were to ask your friends to describe you in a sentence, what would they say?

Sampras: Kind of a dry sense of humor, sarcastic, a little guarded at first, but once you break that barrier, he’s friendly.

SI: Justin Gimelstob wrote a column for saying he thought you were playing today at a level as high as anyone except Federer.

Sampras: We were talking about the game and the sport. James Blake is No. 6 in the world and I wonder what it would be like to play him at this stage of my life if he gave me a few months to prepare. The serve is something that I still possess and I felt pretty hard to break.

SI: You are 35 — not that old.

Sampras: It is true. Look at what guys are playing with today. It is crazy the amount of power a guy like Fernando Gonzalez can get from that racket. It has made mediocre players better and it has made the great players that much better. It’s something I’ll always think about.

SI: Have you ever played golf with Tiger?

Sampras: No, just a few hands of black jack. We were in Las Vegas doing an interview for ESPN and we played black jack and had dinner together

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