By Randy Walker
Has anyone ever labeled Pete Sampras simply as a “good” tennis player and not one of the greatest of all time?
Yes, in fact.
Except it was 25 years ago.
On March 2, 1988, former U.S. Davis Cup player Eliot Teltscher called a 16-year-old Pete Sampras “ a good player” after losing to him in the second round of the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, the modern-day BNP Paribas Open.
The following is the March 2 excerpt from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com) the summarizes the match.
March 2, 1988 – Sixteen-year-old Pete Sampras, playing only in his second ATP event, registers the biggest win of his early career, defeating 28-year-old former U.S. Davis Cup star Eliot Teltscher in the second round of the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif. Says the No. 10-seeded Teltscher, “I felt like I lost to a good player. He is a good player. That’s the bottom line of it. I didn’t play the match of my life out there. I was a little tentative. He serves well and volleys well and he’s aggressive. I needed to serve well and keep the ball deep. He was smart. He took my second serve and he came in. Whenever he got a short ball, he hit it and came in. He pressured me throughout the match when I didn’t keep the ball deep enough to keep him off the net.” Sampras loses his third-round match to Emilio Sanchez of Spain 7-5, 6-2 and 30 months later becomes the youngest U.S. Open men’s singles champion at the age of 19.
In the first round at Indian Wells, on February 29 (leap day), Sampras, a qualifier, won his first career ATP singles match, defeating No. 37-ranked Ramesh Krishnan of India 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, saving five match points in the third set.
Sampras, of course, goes on to win 762 ATP tour-level matches in his career, including 14 major singles titles, and, without question, was recognized as more than “good” from Teltscher.