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A Champion's Mind: Lessons from a Life…

A Champion's Mind: Lessons from a Life in Tennis

by Pete Sampras, Peter Bodo (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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The tennis fan who followed Sampras' glorious career will enjoy reliving that journey through the eyes of the player himself. There are the expected colorful vignettes, and odd insights into Sampras' thinking at important and memorable moments on the court. As an example, tennis aficionados will recall the famous 1995 Australian open quarterfinal against Jim Courier, in which Sampras wept his way through the final set, having just learned of his long-time coach Tim Gullikson's illness, which would ultimately kill him. What is less known is that Courier's words from the other side of the net, which to most listeners sounded consoling and playful, struck Sampras as irksome and irritating, motivating his victory.

The book is a sincere effort to lay forth his attitudes, his approach to his career, his history. There are many places in which the language seems more that of the co-author, tennis writer Peter Bodo, than Pistol Pete's. Would Sampras describe a sky as "leaden"? I doubt it.

I doubt too whether this is a book for the general reader, even the sports reader. I think one has to care about Sampras and tennis to begin with for this to hold one's interest. The uninitiated reader seeking an understanding of the sport of professional tennis has many other illuminating and more engaging choices. Gordon Forbes' A Handful of Summers and John McPhee's Levels of the Game come to mind. As do the insightful essays of the ever-brilliant (and tragically lost) David Foster Wallace. Or Steve Flink's The Greatest Tennis Matches of the Twentieth Century.

But for the tennis fan following the game, A Champion's Mind will offer its satisfactions. ( )
4 vote stellarexplorer | Sep 21, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pete Samprasprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bodo, PeterAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Deakins, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my wife, Bridgette, and boys, Christian and Ryan: you have fulfilled me in a way that no number of Grand Slam titles or tennis glory ever could
First words
A few years ago, the idea of writing a book about my life and times in tennis would have seemed as foreign to me as it might have been surprising to you. After all, I was the guy who let his racket do the talking. I was the guy who kept his eyes on the prize, leading a very dedicated, disciplined, almost monkish existence in my quest to accumulate Grand Slam titles. And I was the guy who guarded his private life and successfully avoided controversy and drama, both in my career and personal life.
Players like John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and Boris Becker won legions of fans because they so freely vented their emotions. I understood that they needed to do that to play—or feel like they were playing—their best tennis. And, of course, it always made good copy, and added an extra layer of interest to the personalities of those guys. I never begrudged or envied that. But I also felt that the media could have done more to appreciate that I was the yin to their yang.

In tennis, you always have two opponents out there—the other guy and yourself. You can’t worry too much about the other guy, other than dealing with the shots he sends your way. The most important guy you have to beat is yourself—the part of you that’s prone to doubt, fear, hesitation, and the impulse to give up. If you’re too busy struggling with yourself, like some players, you can hardly be expected to beat your opponent.

If you want to be great, get your own issues out of the way and play with a clear mind—then it’s just a constant struggle for mastery of your opponent. The John McEnroes of this world are the exception rather than the rule. Like most players, I always took emotional outbursts by my opponents as opportunities. When a guy started losing it out there, I knew I’d gotten to his game or his mind.

I also was less interested in being appreciated or understood than in being a champion, and I didn’t mind being an exemplary one. I wanted to wring every ounce of potential out of the Gift, and the only way I could see doing that was through self-control. I also believed that if I just lived up to my potential, appreciation and even understanding would follow. That was my blueprint for success, and it created a backlash once it began to pay off. It didn’t help that guys like McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were running around bemoaning the lack of “personality” in tennis.

In fact, I had a bizarre locker-room encounter with McEnroe over that issue. John, who at the time had recently retired and was working as a television commentator, wrote this little column in the London Times. In one of his Wimbledon pieces he went after me; he more or less trashed me for being boring, and gave me some paternalistic advice about showing “more personality.” Basically, he was berating me for being what I am, instead of what he thought I should be. Besides, who said a tennis player was obliged to show personality (if that’s what you want to call it)? I wasn’t in tennis to win popularity contests, to show how interesting a person I was, or to be an entertainer. I was in the game to play tennis at the highest level within my reach, and to win titles. Tennis was my first love and also my professional business. And I never confused that with show business. If I wasn’t going to be remembered for my game, I wanted to be remembered for the way I carried myself. If I wasn’t going to be remembered for that—I didn’t want to be remembered.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307383296, Hardcover)

Pete Sampras is arguably the greatest tennis player ever, a man whose hard-nosed work ethic led to an unprecedented number one world ranking for 286 weeks, and whose prodigious talent made possible a record-setting fourteen Grand Slam titles. While his more vocal rivals sometimes grabbed the headlines, Pete always preferred to let his racket do the talking.

Until now.

In A Champion’s Mind, the tennis great who so often exhibited visible discomfort with letting people “inside his head” finally opens up. An athletic prodigy, Pete resolved from his earliest playing days never to let anything get in the way of his love for the game. But while this single-minded determination led to tennis domination, success didn’t come without a price. The constant pressure of competing on the world’s biggest stage—in the unblinking eye of a media machine hungry for more than mere athletic greatness—took its toll.

Here for the first time Pete speaks freely about what it was like to possess what he calls “the Gift.” He writes about the personal trials he faced—including the death of a longtime coach and confidant—and the struggles he gutted his way through while being seemingly on top of the world. Among the book’s most riveting scenes are an early devastating loss to Stefan Edberg that led Pete to make a monastic commitment to delivering on his natural talent; a grueling, four-hour-plus match against Alex Corretja during which Pete became seriously ill; fierce on-court battles with rival and friend Andre Agassi; and the triumphant last match of Pete’s career at the finals of the 2002 U.S. Open.

In A Champion’s Mind, one of the most revered, successful, and intensely private players in the history of tennis offers an intimate look at the life of an elite athlete.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:00 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The notoriously reclusive Pete Sampras opens up like never before in this gripping autobiography. As a child Pete Sampras picked up a tennis racket and it just felt comfortable in his hand. The Sampras family was soon spending their weekends driving to tennis lessons and then to tournaments. This strange childhood forced Pete to grow up quickly, and by the time he was a teenager, he was battling the likes of Michael Chang and Jim Courier in the pro tennis circuit. Through the exhilarating stories of his greatest matches, the dramatic story of Pete's search for self unfolds.

» see all 4 descriptions

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