Sampras set to build on Wimbledon success

July 25, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

It has been nearly three weeks since Pete Sampras won at Wimbledon, and he still hasn't unpacked everything. His Wimbledon trophy is still wrapped up in the box at his home in Tampa, Fla.

It's a tidy conclusion to the most famous 14 days in tennis, which Sampras jokingly referred to as "the big W" before he took to the grass and mowed everybody down, winning his second Grand Slam title before his 22nd birthday.

So far, Sampras has put together a nice package. He has been ranked No. 1 since April 12. He has won 51 matches and five tournaments, more than anyone else on the IBM/ATP Tour. He won $462,044 at Wimbledon and has banked more than $1.34 million this year.

And it's still July.

"To be honest, I've been on cloud nine ever since I woke up the Monday morning after winning it," Sampras said. "Life was great. I've achieved something that not too many people have."

According to 1938 Grand Slam winner Don Budge, Sampras belongs in a class by himself.

"He does everything right," Budge said. "He's a complete player, and it's a short list. Elly Vines was a complete player. So were Pancho Gonzales, Jack Kramer and Rod Laver. But, oh, boy, Sampras looks good."

There is nothing like a victory at Wimbledon to put a player in select company.

Said Sampras: "Winning Wimbledon is very, very satisfying."

Not to mention lucrative. He already has an endorsement portfolio -- he sells watches, automobiles, sunglasses, tennis clothing and racket strings -- adding up to an annual income of about $2 million.

And since Wimbledon, his agent has fielded new endorsement opportunities that have been landing on his desk like a stream of volleys.

"Pete Sampras is becoming a household name," said Ivan Blumberg of ProServ. "Winning Wimbledon certainly helps accomplish that.

"When Pete won the [1990] U.S. Open, it really launched him, so . . . winning Wimbledon won't dramatically change his market value. What was always appealing about him will attract new and different companies, maybe those who aren't usually interested

in tennis."

The tennis, as rewarding as it has been, doesn't promise to get any easier the rest of the way. Beginning Monday, Sampras starts a four-week journey through the hard-court jungle with consecutive tournaments in Montreal, Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

All of this leads to the U.S. Open and to the question of how Sampras, who has a long history of shin splints, will hold up through four weeks of tennis on concrete.

Tim Gullikson, Sampras' coach for the past 18 months, said it's not an ideal schedule.

"I have some concerns," Gullikson said. "Four weeks in a row might be too much for him. That's a lot of tennis. But the fact is, Pete really likes to play. It's just that it's not always ideal."

As a precaution against the jarring, Sampras will be wearing new orthopedics in a newly designed hard-court shoe for the outdoor season. He said he is optimistic.

"I feel like it's going to work out pretty well," Sampras said. "Sure, it's a lot of matches, but I'm pretty well rested and I'm just going to take it one day at a time.

"Next year, I might change my schedule. Four weeks is getting on the outer limits of too much to play. I think my body should hold up pretty well, knock on wood, and my shins should hold up pretty well."

His ranking, though, might be a little more shaky. Sampras holds a 355-point lead over No. 2 Jim Courier, but Sampras is in the position of having to defend a lot of last year's computer points from the Montreal tournament through the U.S. Open.

Next week, points from the '92 tournament he won in Kitzbuhel, Austria, come off the computer. In the two weeks just before the Open, points from Sampras' victories at Cincinnati and Indianapolis come off and must be replaced with similar points from the same tournaments this year or his No. 1 is in jeopardy.

Gullikson and trainer Pat Etcheberry worked Sampras hard this week in Florida, where the main idea on the court is to fine-tune Sampras' game. Gullikson isn't spending much time on Sampras' serve, one of the best in the game. His second serve is second to none, said Gullikson, who is tinkering with Sampras' slice backhand.

"Little things, nothing major," Gullikson said. "The major thing for Pete is to continue to play totally aggressive tennis. Sure, he doesn't mind rallying a bit from the baseline, but the bottom line is he's going to win a lot of major tournaments by putting pressure on the opponent. And that means coming to the net."

Sampras knows the bottom line.

"The goal is to win major titles and stay at the top of the game," he said. "That's what I'm trying to do. Not being No. 1. I'm No. 1 now, but it doesn't mean anything. It means something if I'm No. 1 on the last day of the year."

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