Peter "Pete" Sampras (born on August 12, 1971, in Washington, DC), is a former World No. 1 tennis player from the United States. He is widely considered to be one of the best male tennis players of all time, having won 14 Grand Slam men's singles titles (once a record) and finished the year as No. 1 for a record six consecutive years. He won the men's singles title at Wimbledon seven times. He also won the US Open five times and the Australian Open twice. However, the one major championship which eluded him during his career was the French Open.
Sampras was born in Washington, DC, and is the third son of Sam and Georgia Sampras, Greek immigrants from Sparta to the United States. From an early age, Sampras showed signs of outstanding athletic ability. The young Sampras discovered a tennis racquet in the basement of his home and spent hours hitting balls against the wall. In 1978, the Sampras family moved to Palos Verdes, California, and the warmer climate there allowed seven-year-old Pete to play more tennis. The Sampras family joined the Peninsula Racquet Club, where they played a great deal of tennis together. It was here that Pete's ability became apparent. At the age of 11 he had already learned the solid serve and volley tactic that would become the hallmark of his game. He was spotted by Dr. Peter Fisher, a pediatrician and a tennis enthusiast, who became his mentor for a long part of his career. He oversaw his training and arranged coaches. Fisher was later convicted for child molestation charges, but Sampras maintained that Dr. Peter Fisher's behaviour towards him was normal and straightforward.
Sampras turned professional in 1988 at the age of 17. He won his first top-level singles title in February 1990 at Philadelphia. In August that year, he captured his first Grand Slam title at the US Open. He defeated Ivan Lendl in the quarterfinals and John McEnroe in the semifinals, to set up a final showdown with another up-and-coming American player, Andre Agassi. Sampras beat Agassi in straight sets to become the US Open's youngest-ever male singles champion at the age of 19 years and 28 days. The rivalry between Agassi and Sampras was to become the dominant rivalry in tennis in the 1990s, and Sampras would win 20 of the 34 matches they played.
1991 saw Sampras capture the first of five career titles at the year-end ATP Tour World Championships. In 1992, he finished runner-up at the US Open and played on the US team which won the Davis Cup (he would help the US win the cup again in 1995).
In April 1993, Sampras reached the World No. 1 ranking for the first time. His rise to the No. 1 spot was controversial at the time as he had not recently won any Grand Slam titles. But he justified the ranking three months later by claiming his first Wimbledon title, beating former World No. 1 Jim Courier in the final. This was swiftly followed by his second US Open title. He finished the year as the clear No. 1 and set a new ATP Tour record that year by becoming the first player to serve over 1000 aces in a season.
Sampras dominated Wimbledon for the rest of the decade following his breakthrough title in 1993. He won three consecutive titles in 1993-95. He had a surprise quarterfinal loss in 1996 to Richard Krajicek, who went on to win the title that year. Sampras then followed this by winning four consecutive titles in 1997-2000, to become the most successful male player in Wimbledon history. His win in 2000 also allowed him to break Roy Emerson's record of 12 Grand Slam men's singles titles.
Sampras' best surface was undoubtedly the fast-playing grass courts. However he was also known for his good all-round game and a strong competitive instinct. He won back-to-back US Open titles in 1995-96. He also won the Australian Open twice in 1994 and 1997. Sampras' only real weakness was on clay courts, where the slow surface tended to negate his natural attacking serve-and-volley game. His best performance at the French Open came in 1996, when he reached the semi-finals, and his failure to win that title is the one blemish on his otherwise exceptionally impressive career record.
After winning Wimbledon in 2000 Sampras did not win another title for two years. He reached the US Open final in 2000 and 2001, but losses to up-and-coming players each year (Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt, respectively) led many to speculate that Sampras would never capture another major title. However, after a disappointing summer in 2002, Sampras made an amazing comeback at the US Open. He defeated two young and upcoming tennis stars in Tommy Haas in the fourth round and Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals. He then defeated Sjeng Schalken in the semifinals to reach his third straight US Open final. This time he faced Andre Agassi, whom he had met in his very first Grand Slam final 12 years earlier. After a four-set battle between the two veterans, Sampras emerged the victor and claimed a record 14th Grand Slam title. The tournament was the last of Sampras' career. He played no tour events in the following 12 months, and officially announced his retirement in August 2003.
Sampras played the first match since his retirement on April 6, 2006 in Houston, Texas against Robby Ginepri. Ginepri won the exhibition match 6-3, 7-6.
During his career, Sampras won 64 top-level singles titles (including 14 Grand Slams and 11 ATP Masters Series titles) and two doubles titles. He was ranked the World No. 1 for a record 286 weeks, and was year-end No. 1 for a record six consecutive years from 1993 to 1998. Sampras is considered to have one of the best second serves in history. He uses a classic eastern forehand grip and a similiar grip for his one-handed backhand.
Sampras' business-like attitude to tennis and cautious handling of the press led critics to bemoan his lack of charisma, but his natural talent and work ethic meant that Sampras was always able to let his results speak for themselves.
Personal and family life
Sampras' older sister Stella is head coach at UCLA and his younger sister, Marion, is a teacher in Los Angeles. His older brother, Gus, is tournament director at Scottsdale ATP event.
On September 30, 2000, Sampras married American actress Bridgette Wilson. On November 21, 2002, son Christian Charles was born to him and Wilson. On July 29, 2005, the couple welcomed their second son, Ryan Nikolaos.
Sampras has thalassemia minor, an inherited disease that causes anemia.