Born in: Washington, DC
Career: Tennis Player
Pete Sampras is an American tennis player, who has held the position of World No. 1 many times in his career. The tennis career of Sampras stretched on for a period of 15 years, during which he won a record 14 Grand Slam men's singles titles, in 52 appearances. He also holds a record for the open era, for holding the position World No. 1, on the ATP rankings, for six consecutive years. He also shares the record for winning singles title at Wimbledon seven times, with William Renshaw. With Jimmy Connors, he shares an open era record of winning five singles titles at the U.S. Open. Sampras was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in July 2007.
Pete Sampras was born as ‘Petros Sampras’ on 12th August 1971, in Washington, DC. He is the third son of Sammy Sampras, half Greek and half Jewish, and Georgia Sampras, a Greek immigrant. During his childhood, Sampras used to attend Greek Orthodox Church on every Sunday. Right from his childhood, Sampras excelled at athletic games. His first brush with tennis came when he discovered a tennis racquet in the basement of his home. He spent the next few hours hitting balls against the wall.
The Sampras family moved to Palos Verdes, California, in the year 1978. Since the place offered a warmer climate, Sampras started involving himself more and more in tennis. Right from the time he was introduced to tennis, Sampras idolized Rod Laver, whom he met and played with, at the age of eleven. Sometime later, his family joined the Peninsula Racquet Club. It was here that he was spotted by Peter Fischer, a pediatrician and tennis enthusiast. He coached Sampras till 1989 and converted him from two-handed backhand to one-handed.
It was in 1988, when Sampras was hardly 16 years old, that he turned professional. The next year, he reached the fourth round of the 1989 U.S. Open, in a five-set second round match with champion Mats Wilander. He got his first top-level singles title in February 1990, at Philadelphia. The first Grand Slam title came to Sampras at the U.S. Open, in September 1990. He beat Agassi in straight sets, at the age of 19 years and 28 days, and became the U.S. Open's youngest-ever male singles champion.
In 1991, Sampras won the first of his five career titles at the year-end Tennis Masters Cup. The next year, he reached the quarterfinals of the French Open and semifinals of Wimbledon. At the same time, he also finished runner-up at the U.S. Open, which served as his “wake-up call" of the need to become the World No. 1. The same year, he played on the U.S. team that won the Davis Cup, a feat that he repeated in the year 1995. Sampras attained the World No. 1 ranking for the first time in April 1993.
This was after he reached the semifinals of the Australian Open and reached the quarterfinals of the French Open. Three months after getting the title, Sampras won his first Wimbledon title, beating former World No. 1 Jim Courier. Soon after, he laid claim on his second U.S. Open title and ended the year as the World No. 1. By the end of the year, he had created the record ATP Tour of being the first player to serve more than 1,000 aces in a season. Sampras won three consecutive Wimbledon titles, from 1993 to 1995.
After losing to Richard Krajicek in 1996, he re-claimed the Wimbledon title and retained it for 4 consecutive years, 1997-2000. His final win, in 2000, made him break Roy Emerson's record of 12 Grand Slam men's singles titles. He also claimed two Australian Open titles, in 1994 and 1997. In 1994, Sampras won the prestigious Italian Open and followed the win with two singles matches in the 1995 Davis Cup final. He won back-to-back U.S. Open titles, in 1995 & 1996. In 1998, he lost Australian Open title, after dominating ATP tour from 1993 to 1997.
Sampras withdrew from the Australian Open in 1999 and also failed to win a title during the early part of the season. Following soon after was his 24-match winning streak, which included Stella Artois Championships, Wimbledon, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati. A herniated disc in his back forced him to retire from the RCA Championships and the U.S. Open. The withdrawal, combined with resurgence of Andre Agassi, ended Sampras' six consecutive years of finishing as the World No. 1. However, he did beat Agassi in the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup, for the fifth and final time.
In early 2000, Sampras reached the semifinals of the Australian Open and won the Miami Masters tournament. Soon came his record-breaking 13th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, which he won even while being down with a shin injury. Though he reached the finals of some tournaments in the next two years, he failed to win any. His defeat at the hands of Roger Federer at Wimbledon, in 2001, ended his 31-match winning streak. The last tournament of his career was the one in which he beat Agassi and made a record of 14th Grand Slam singles title & matched Jimmy Connors's record of 5 U.S. Open singles championships.
Retirement and Later
Sampras announced his retirement in August 2003, just prior to the U.S. Open. After his retirement, he played the first exhibition match in Houston (Texas), in April 2006, against Robby Ginepri and lost it. In 2006, Sampras announced he would be playing in World Team Tennis events. The next year, he played in Outback Champions Series and won his first two events on tour. In 2007, he lost first of three exhibition matches in Asia, winning only the last one. In 2008, he defeated Tommy Haas in an exhibition match during the SAP Open, but lost to Federer in an exhibition match at Madison Square Garden, New York City.
Sampras older sister, Stella, is also involved in tennis and is the women's tennis head coach at UCLA. His younger sister, Marion, is a teacher in Los Angeles. He also has an older brother Gus, who served as tournament director at the Scottsdale ATP event till 2007 and later, became president of the firm managing Pete's business activities. Sampras married Bridgette Wilson, an American actress and former Miss Teen USA, in September 2000. The couple has two sons, Christian Charles (born November 21, 2002) and Ryan Nikolaos (born July 29, 2005).
- 14 Grand Slams
- 11 ATP Masters Series Events
- 7 Singles Title at Wimbledon
- 5 Singles Titles at the U.S. Open
- 5 Tennis Masters Cup Titles
- 2 Doubles Titles
- World No. 1, for a record 286 weeks
- Year-end No. 1, for a record six consecutive years