Pete Sampras is a former professional tennis player who is considered to be one of the best in history. Sampras focused his attention on tennis from a young age and his dedication led to him being the youngest male U.S. tennis player to win the US Open in 1990 at just 19 years and one month old. This feat was just the start of his long record breaking professional tennis career.
In his career, Sampras won 14 Grand Slams which was at the time the most wins of any male tennis player. He also holds the record for ending six seasons in a row between 1993 and 1998 at the number one spot on the ATP's year end rankings. Pete Sampras had a storybook finish to his career as well. He retired after winning his final Grand Slam in 2002 right where he first made history in 1990; the US Open.
Pete Sampras grew up in Southern California and worked hard to perfect his skills in tennis. He got help from Peter Fischer, a pediatrician turned coach who helped Pete adapt from a two-handed backhand to a one-handed one. Sampras went pro at 16 in 1988 and worked his way from being ranked 893rd to the top 100. He had a slow start for the first five years of his career except for his shocking three set 1990 US Open win against Andre Agassi who was ranked fourth.
His career peak was between 1993-2000 where Sampras won 12 Grand Slam titles. In this time period, the only year he didn't win at Wimbledon was in 1996. In addition to his seven Wimbledon titles, he also added three US Open titles in 1993, 1995, and 1996 as well as two Australian Opens in 1994 and 1997. After he won his record setting 14th Grand Slam at the US Open against Agassi again, Sampras decided it was time to retire.
Throughout his incredible career, Sampras broke records and received numerous accolades that cemented his place in tennis history books. One of his impressive achievements is the fact that the ATP and ITF named him Player of the Year and World Champion for six consecutive years starting in 1993 and ending in 1998. He also received the Jim Thorpe Tennis Player of the Year Award in 1993.
In 1997 he became the first tennis player to be named the US Olympic Committee's "Sportsman of the Year." Also in 1997, he was voted number one of the top 25 players of the last 25 years for ATP. In 2000 Sampras won the 'Man of the Year' Award in the Individual Athlete Category for GQ Magazine. To top off all of these other awards, Sampras was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2007.
Pete Sampras was born in DC but later moved to Southern California where he grew up. His parents, Sammy and Georgia Sampras have a strong Greek background. His older siblings were also very involved in tennis. One of his sisters is a coach at UCLA and his brother used to organize tournaments and manage his brother's career.
Sampras had a tough loss in 1996 when his coach and best friend, Tim Gullikson passed away from a brain tumor. Sampras got involved with the American Cancer Society's Public Awareness Council after this and started Aces for Charity in 1997. For this cause, he donated $100 dollars for every one of his famous aces he served. He also raised money for the Tim and Tom Gullikson Foundation.
In 2000 Sampras married the actress Bridgette Wilson and together they had two sons, Christian and Ryan.
The rivalry between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi is one of the most famous in tennis history. The two had very different playing styles with Sampras being very down to business and Agassi being very flashy. The two competed against each other 34 times and Sampras won 20 of those occasions. They also faced each other five major finals where Sampras won four of these finals including his first and last Grand Slam title victories.
Pete Sampras retired after his win in the US Open in 2002. At this point in his career, Sampras hadn't won a major title since 2000. He was motivated to keep playing and win one more Grand Slam. Once he achieved this goal he realized in the next six months that he didn't have much else to look forward to. He felt like playing tennis wasn't as fun as it used to be and he had achieved everything he wanted to in his career.
Pete Sampras is known to have one of the toughest serves in tennis history. In his 1993 season, he served over 1000 aces. His serve wasn't very fast, but the topspin made it difficult for opponents to return. The serve was heavier and had a higher bounce in addition to the spinning. Sampras achieved this serve by tossing the ball to the left and then turning in with his shoulder to hit the ball.
Pete Sampras' huge victory at the US Open in 2000 catapulted his career to a new level. He was ranked 136th in the world and seeded 12th before the tournament. However, Sampras proved this wrong by first upsetting Ivan Lendl, who had one eight straight US Open's before that, and then beating John McEnroe. Sampras kept shocking fans when he went on to beat Agassi, who was seeded fourth, in three sets to win the whole tournament.