Pete Sampras has been enjoying his retirement, but now he says it’s time to man-up and get back to work.
Sampras, who won one of three Asian exhibition matches off Roger Federer last year and narrowly lost to the world No. 1 this year in Madison Square Garden, announced he will for the first time compete on the European senior tour, the ATP-run Blackrock Tour of Champions.
“I have two kids — a five-year-old, Christian, and a 2-year-old, Ryan, and it has been a lot of fun to see them grow and spend time with them,” Sampras told the Blackrock Tour of Champions podcast. “But, at the same time I feel like a man should work, maybe I’m a little old-fashioned. It took me a while to get to the realization that I would like to play again and get back into the sport. When I was 26, I never thought I would want to play Champions tennis. But, as time goes on, when you’re playing golf, taking some trips here and there and maybe putting on a little bit of weight, you just kind of feel a little bit unfulfilled as a man. That’s how I felt.”
Sampras will play two Blackrock tournaments in 2008: the Grand Champions Brasil in Sao Paulo on May 21-24, and the year-ending BlackRock Masters Tennis event on Dec. 2-7 at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
The former No. 1 says he likes the laid-back senior tour atmosphere.
“I used to be so focused that I would just see the hotel and the courts and that was it,” Sampras said. “I had the feeling that I was expected to win and then there was all the pressure that I put on myself. Today, I still want to play well and still want to win but if I don’t it’s not the end of the world. It’s a totally different feel. I was pretty serious when I played but now I’m a little more relaxed. At the same time, people do want to see competitive tennis, they want to see the real deal. The crowd still want to see me serve and volley the way I used to and pull off my shots, but with a slightly lighter atmosphere.”
With the competitive juices flowing, can a Wimbledon wildcard be far behind for the man who promised fans he would be back after a second-round loss in his last appearance in 2002? Last year Sampras won titles at all three events he competed in on the primarily U.S.-based Outback Champions senior tour.
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