Sampras elected to Hall of Fame

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 18, 2007

Associated Press

As a tennis history buff, Pete Sampras can’t wait to walk around the sport’s Hall of Fame when he goes there for the first time this summer.

He’s especially looking forward to seeing his own plaque.

Sampras was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Wednesday, joined in the 2007 class by Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Sven Davidson and Russ Adams.

“It’s kind of icing on the cake for having a good career,” Sampras said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “It’s an honor to be included with (Rod) Laver and the older generation, (John) McEnroe and (Jimmy) Connors. All those guys.”

Sampras has never visited the Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., but he’ll get a chance when he’s there for the July 14 induction ceremony. He’ll also participate in an exhibition the next day.

“I’m looking forward to being able to walk through the halls and check out the displays they have,” the 35-year-old American said. “It’s a time to reflect on what I did and appreciate what I did. I’m looking forward to the whole weekend, and sharing it with family and friends. In your everyday life, you don’t think about your career, but at that time, I’ll stop and I’ll do it.”

Thanks to a superb serve, dangerous forehand and big-match brilliance, Sampras owns a record 14 men’s singles Grand Slam championships and was ranked No. 1 for a record 286 weeks, including 102 in a row from April 1996 to March 1998.

The man known as Pistol Pete won a total of 64 singles titles, including his haul of majors: seven at Wimbledon, five at the U.S. Open and two at the Australian Open. Sampras won the last match of his career, beating Andre Agassi in the 2002 U.S. Open final.

His singles record was 762-222, and he earned more than $43 million in prize money, a mark that still stands.

What’s he most proud of?

“The longevity that I had. Year in, year out. Years at No. 1 — being able to stay at No. 1, fend off guys trying to knock me off,” Sampras said. “And the bigger the match, the better I played. I felt like I rose to the occasion more often than not.”

Current No. 1 Roger Federer is closing in on Sampras’ record for major singles titles. Federer is seeking his 10th at the Australian Open.

“I did all I could do. I’m happy with 14 majors,” Sampras said. “If he breaks it, which I’m sure he will, I just don’t believe in rooting against someone. … I sent him a text (message) after he won his last Open. I respect his game and the way he handles himself on and off the court.”

Sanchez-Vicario won three French Opens and was the first Spanish woman to win the U.S. Open singles title in 1994. In addition to those four major singles titles, she won six doubles and four mixed doubles Grand Slam championships.

She finished with 29 titles in singles, 67 in doubles. In 1995, she was ranked No. 1 in both singles and doubles.