Sampras deserves just rewards

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 4, 2000

Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open, Reggie Jackson in the World Series, Michael Jordan in game seven of the NBA Championship, John Elway in the fourth quarter of any game and Carl Lewis in the Olympic Games.

Pete Sampras at Wimbledon should provide the same type of excitement as the above-mentioned sports heroes, but he doesn’t.

Sampras doesn’t have the charisma of Woods, the cockiness of Jackson, the flair for dramatics as Jordan, the smile of Elway or the grace of Lewis.

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Sampras is considered boring to most fans because he just goes out and gets the job done without a lot of fanfare and doesn’t like to talk about himself.

Too bad some of that doesn’t rub off on John McEnroe.

Sampras isn’t looking to be on the front of a box of Wheaties, and you certainly won’t catch him in any of those computer commercials.

But after what Sampras has done the last week at Wimbledon, he should be put in the same category as the guys above. Actually he should already be there.

Last year, Sampras became the first man in the modern era to win Wimbledon six times when he beat Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 on July 4.

With the win, he also tied the record of 12 Grand Slam titles.

While his personality is strike one, Sampras’ second strike is getting bumped from the French Open in the first or second round. He just hasn’t been able to handle that clay surface.

The French Open to Sampras is like the Super Bowl to Elway before he won it.

Another strike may be the fact American women have rebounded from past years and deservedly taken some of the spotlight.

I think the only way Sampras will get any extra attention for winning Wimbledon this year is if he has to beat Andre Agassi to do so.

The Sampras-Agassi matchup is as intriguing as McEnroe and Bjorn Borg was years ago. It takes that kind of rivalry to draw the viewers to the match.

Not many people are going to care about the men’s final if it’s Mark Philippoussis, Patrick Rafter, Alexander Poppor or Vladimir Voltchkov taking on Sampras.

But we’re talking Wimbledon here, and if Sampras is holding that gold plate high at the end of this year’s event, he will have certainly earned it.

Last Wednesday, Sampras defeated Karol Kucera 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, despite injuring his ankle in the third set. He went immediately to the hospital after the match was over where his red, swollen ankle was treated.

He has since won two more matches, using a rainout Friday for an extra day to recuperate.

The funny thing now is that some people are wondering if he was really that hurt.

In 1996, Kerri Strug lands wrong on her ankle, but still valiantly performs, vaulting Team USA to its first US Women’s Gymnastics team gold medal.

She became America’s heartthrob and there was even a television movie.

You can forget about a movie on Sampras, unless silent movies come back in style. (Some of them nowadays need to be silent).

And five years from now you still probably won’t find Sampras on the front of a Wheaties box.

Joey Martin is sports editor of The Democrat. He can be reached by calling 446-5172 exit. 232 or at