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Sampras on marquee

Newport Beach Breakers

The tennis legend is coming back to play for the Breakers July 9 at The Tennis Club Newport Beach.

June 16, 2011|By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com
  • Pete Sampras is the Newport Beach Breakers' marquee player and will be playing July 9 at The Tennis Club Newport Beach.
Pete Sampras is the Newport Beach Breakers' marquee… (Nick Laham / Getty…)

Pete Sampras seemingly has little in common with Dirk Nowitzki.

But at about the time Sampras began carving out a legacy as one of the greatest tennis players of all time in the early 1990s, Nowitzki was winning junior tennis tournaments in his native Germany.

Nowitzki eventually switched to basketball and won his first NBA title Sunday night with the Dallas Mavericks. Sampras, a Los Angeles resident who can often be seen at Staples Center watching the Lakers, said he appreciated something else about the way Nowitzki finally won his ring.

"You know, I just like to see good basketball," Sampras said in a phone interview. "I don't have any preference for one team over another. You're just happy for Nowitzki. He's sort of a humble guy, and obviously he's a great player. It was a welcome result. Nothing against Miami, I was just happy for Nowitzki."

The word that stands out is "humble." It's a fitting adjective to describe Sampras as well, throughout his professional career that included a then-record 14 Grand Slam singles titles. But the word that would go through opponents' minds when Sampras unleashed a 140-plus mile-per-hour serve at them, that was probably more of the four-letter variety.

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Sampras, who turns 40 in August, still has the big serve. He's coming back to World Team Tennis this summer, scheduled to play with the Newport Beach Breakers for a third year after a previous stint in 2006-07. Sampras is a marquee player at The Tennis Club Newport Beach on July 9, when the Breakers play host to the New York Sportimes. The Sportimes are scheduled to feature former world No. 1 Martina Hingis for that match as well.

Sampras won't mind splitting the bill. He's happy to get out and play in a competitive match. Most of the time when he hits a tennis ball nowadays, it's because one of his two sons, 8-year-old Christian or 5-year-old Ryan, wants some time with dad.

That's true now more than ever, since school is out for the summer.

"Yeah, they're into it," said Sampras, married to actress Bridgette Wilson-Sampras. "They're kids, you know. They last 15 or 20 minutes then they're off to something else. If they're into it, great. If not, I'm not going to push a sport on them. If they're into it they're going to want to hit the tennis balls, not because it's me forcing them."

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