Many words have been written about Pete Sampras, and perhaps, sometimes, we fail to convey the greatness of his figure. His introverted character earned him fame as cold or distant. His bombs from the service (it did not matter if he was the first or the second), his right in his career and his cold blood in the network were the biggest public statements that Sampras made. Before the era of the three Martians, Pete was king. And that status came to fruition exactly 20 years ago. Wimbledon 2000.
In an extensive BBC report, figures like his coach, Paul Annacone, They have made a tour of what that tournament meant for the figure of the American. It was an atypical, special, unique championship, with external circumstances that added even more epic to the feat but, in turn, put it in danger. What was at stake was quite clear: becoming the player with the most Grand Slams in tennis history, breaking that equal to 12 with Roy Emerson. Getting there was not easy.
In the second round, before the always dangerous Karol KuceraPete felt discomfort during a game launch. He played through the pain and solved one of the hardest pitfalls during those two weeks, four sets that could be very expensive for Sampras’ health. “We couldn’t figure out what was going on. Pete was in a lot of pain after the game, he was practically unable to walk, we didn’t know if he could play or when. Pete asked if he could take shots to kill the pain, so he could at least play the games. And that was over. being the plan “, confesses Annacone himself.
After several examinations and X-rays, it was concluded that Sampras had damaged an area of his shin, which caused intense pain in his tendons once he tried to look for low balls. So, if Sampras was already someone who did not allow himself to be seen much in the locker room beyond the game days, these annoyances caused an almost hermit-like behavior. She hardly trained or moved to the All England Tennis Club; Pete rested, and on game days I played thanks to the injections.
Despite everything, a relatively benevolent painting and the proven quality of Pete on the London mat helped him to almost reach the final. Tennis players fell like Bjorkman, Gambill or Voltchkov, but the pitfall on Sunday was going to be of a totally different entity. Opposite would be Pat rafter, who already had two Grand Slams behind him and who was embroidering grass tennis. That confrontation was going to demand much more of Sampras’ physique.
“Pete came to the track and played after not having touched a single ball in two days. Practically that is what he did until the day of the final. The day before, he said he had to try to train, hit a couple of balls. He was training for 10 or 15 minutes and he literally said to me “I can’t, this is killing me”. So we stopped training and left. ”
And the final, in fact, did not start on the right foot. Rafter emerged victorious in the first set and reaped the advantage of a mini-break in the tie-break of the second. The final was slipping out of Pete’s hands, being snatched away by someone more athletic who was applying his own medicine. However, Rafter’s nerves opened a small slit in Sampras. And there sneaked. Pete chained six of seven points in the tie-break, came from behind, won the second set and took the victory in four sets, defying logic and showing his hierarchy and tables on the most demanding stage in the world.
So, he got his 13th Grand Slam. Now he was alone, at the top. I saw everyone above. But this was not the most special success. The reason this title was truly sentimental was the presence of his parents, Soterios (of Greek origin, known as Sam) and Georgia. Was the first time that their mentors were witnessing a Pete Grand Slam title live. The pride that the player of Greek origin felt was tremendous, although over time, that lived moment also gave way to a little regret.
“That they were there was my dream. They wanted to stay away but, deep down, I missed them. They were sensitive, and I was too. I still get excited today, especially when you see that they are getting older. I wish they had been part of my success more often. My parents weren’t part of those moments enough, and I think I’m carrying that burden today, “Pete confessed to the BBC in 2017, tearfully. The education of his parents, who let the training always be carried out by the experts, and the meticulous and introverted character of Pete built that small barrier that was knocked down at Wimbledon 2000.
When that final ended, what could have been a time of celebration and celebration gave way to a modest gathering at Sampras’ house. Pete and Paul, tooth and nail, sat and reflected on their lives all night. “When he wins, Pete always has that smile on his face and is processing a lot of things in his mind. He is not one of the people who asks you for a bottle of champagne and wants a party with many people around him. We sit down and we talk all night. She had a special glow, thinking about what she had accomplished that day, about everything she had accomplished. We reflect on history; specifically, about its history. “
It had been a Wimbledon of difficulties, of adversities and of very emotional moments. That was the toll to reach the same end as on twelve other occasions: the title of a Major. Precisely this ability to concentrate is, by way of reflection, what Annacone will always highlight from her ward. “Mentally, Sampras is amazing. He may be the person with the highest concentration capacity with which you have coincided. When it comes to setting a clear goal in your mind, and from there being very clear about what you have to do to have a good chance of achieving it, there is no one better than him.
One of my main mantras as a coach is: how well do you deal with adversity? As an individual athlete, with no companions to help you, you always go out on the track a bit naked. If you are having a bad day, if you are hurt or sick, if you have lost your passport or you have quarreled with your girlfriend, whatever, you have to go out on the track and do it well. How good are you on your bad days? That is what defines you. And Pete was incredible at that. He always managed those scenarios well. “
After all, Sampras himself said so. “Everything that happened in my career, mentally or physically, happened for one reason. One way or another, I felt like I was born to win Wimbledon.” And it was not going to be fate who denied that to one of the best tennis players in history.