Pete Sampras a Champions Mind

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Over time, I learned to use my wrist and I had a talent for “pronating,” or bending my wrist in a way that enabled me to use the same basic motion to hit different kinds of serves. The kick serve was the only one that was a little different, because you have to toss the ball farther back and to the left to get that big kick, and it’s impossible to disguise. But even then, I didn’t telegraph my intention as much as most players. Larry Easley came into play when I abandoned my two-handed backhand and started serving and volleying.

This was an especially good approach because of the kind of man my father is. He isn’t a hugger, and he’s not a big communicator. Like most of the Sampras men, including Gus and me, he’s reserved. It takes some time for us to warm up to people and we’re more likely to linger in the background than to step out and be the life of the party. We share a sarcastic streak. It’s not an ideal temperament for dealing with the nature of the pro tennis tour, where you’re constantly moving, meeting new people, making chitchat, and trying to remember names.

And that meant something, because Robert was a good guy who already had great credentials when we met. Robert comes across as very tough; he’s certainly outspoken and brutally honest. If he didn’t care for you, he didn’t hide it. Those qualities hurt him, but he was kind of a loner who always insisted on doing his own thing his own way. I don’t know if he intimidated Fischer, but they more or less worked around each other. I was a hard worker as a kid, and I respected Robert. He intimidated me.

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