In our series on the best players of the past 50 years, we look at the calm Californian who was world No 1 for six straight years
Hollywood endings are exceedingly rare among even the greatest champions. Muhammad Ali fought 10 more times after the hellfire of Manila left him with nothing more to prove, finally quitting after a bleak defeat to Trevor Berbick that was staged in the Bahamas because no US state athletic commission would license him. Michael Jordan came out of retirement for two meandering seasons with the Washington Wizards rather than ride off into the sunset after his game-winning jumper to clinch a sixth title with the Chicago Bulls.
No one can accuse Pete Sampras of not knowing when to leave the party. He entered the last tournament of his prodigious career, the 2002 US Open, on a career-worst run of form: no titles in 33 events, more than two years removed from his most recent major championship, and still smarting from a loss to the world No 145, George Bastl, in the second round of Wimbledon, the tournament that he had made his birthright. But the quiet Californian fought his way through the draw as the No 17 seed to reach the final at Flushing Meadows, where he saw off his epochal rival Andre Agassi in four gripping sets, pounding a career-high 84 winners in a performance he described afterwards as the “highest level I’ve ever played”.
Written by Bryan Armen Graham
This news first appeared on https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/jul/07/the-greatest-pete-sampras-cool-head-with-a-weapons-grade-serve under the title “The greatest: Pete Sampras – cool head with a weapons-grade serve”. Bolchha Nepal is not responsible or affiliated towards the opinion expressed in this news article.