Pete Sampras

Tennis has seen the rise and fall of many legends over the last 100 years ever since it became a popular form of sport, particularly since the start of the Open Era – some became legends very quickly but could not sustain that position for a very long time but there were some others that were just destined for greatness and in his 15 years as a professional tennis career, there was none greater than the legendary Pete Sampras, winning a then world record of 14 Grand Slam titles during that time.

Sampras was born into an orthodox Jewish family in Potomac, Maryland and has Greek roots in both his mother and father. From a very early age, he showed great skill in terms of athleticism and at the age of three, he discovered a racket and instantly fell in love with it, hitting balls against the wall and practicing all day long. He grew up idolizing another legend in the form of Rod Laver and when his family moved to California, the 11 year old Pete had the chance to meet his hero and play a tennis match with him, which according to him, changed his life completely as he began to dream of bigger things, winning Grand Slam titles and carving a name for himself in tennis folklore. He became a member of the Jack Kramer academy and from there; Peter Fischer, who coached Pete Sampras till 1989, picked him up.

By this time, the 16-year-old Pete had turned professional the previous year and in his first match as a professional, he lost to Sammy Giammalva, Jr but he ended the year with a world ranking of 97. The following year, he got his first major scalp in the form of Jim Courier, who was then ranked, 79th in the world. However, at that time, his biggest victory was against the defending champion of the 1988 US Open, Matts Wilander, who was seeded 5th in the tournament and in 1990, he finished the year as the world number 5, the fastest climber in the history of tennis. This was the year he became the champion at the US Open, in turn becoming the youngest ever champion at the tournament and this victory used in the era of Pete Sampras.

Over the next decade, he won innumerable titles, singles as well as doubles, winning two Australian Open crowns, the US Open a total of five times and the Wimbledon a record seven times. However, Pete Sampras never laid his hand on the French Open title and that is perhaps the only thing missing from his trophy cabinet. His main rival during this period was another legendary figure by the name of Andre Agassi with Sampras winning 20 of their 34 confrontations. He announced his retirement from professional tennis in August 2003, thereby bringing down the curtains to one of the most glittering careers in tennis, the likes of which will rarely be ever seen again but he has carved out a niche in the hearts of each and every tennis lover who call him as one of the greats of the world of tennis.

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