While talking to Martin Blackman about his Junior Champion's Tennis Center (see my recent Youre Invited post) , I mentioned that I had just been talking with Pete Sampras the previous day. He told me a funny story. Blackman played the Easter Bowl consolation final against Sampras one year; Martin was in the 18s, and Pete was playing up (he was just 14 or 15). Martin won the match, and remembered how good Pete was, and how cool he seemed to be when he lost. "He came bounding up to the net, it looked like he'd just had the time of his life. Losing didn't seem to bother him one bit".
About a year later, Blackman and Sampras met yet again in a junior Davis Cup camp trials match. Again, Martin prevailed, and Pete came loping up to the net like a puppy. Blackman says, "He was grinning from ear-to-ear, just like the first time. I couldn't forget that, it was so unusual to see that in junior tennis. So I got to thinking about that previous match and I realized something. Since i last played him, Pete had abandoned the two-handed backhand. This second time we met he was using the one-hander. A totally different backhand. But if that had any affect on his enthusiasm or self-confidence, you never would have known.
"That, I think, is a pretty good clue to understanding how Sampras became who he is - and I'm not talking about the one or two-handed backhand issue, either."