Exclusive: Pete Sampras has told The Tennis Space that tennis at the Olympics should be a team event: “When I played, it just felt like any other event. I wish there was more of a team format. Change the format in some way to make it a little bit more unique.”
Should tennis be in the Olympics? “I felt when I played in Barcelona in 1992 that tennis should be in the Olympics but I wish there was more of a team format. I remember playing my first round, I was on court 3, Jim Courier was playing at the same time on Stadium Court and you are just playing another match – it’s supposed to be country and team – I just feel like, change the format in some way to make it a little more unique. Maybe in the Olympics it should be a bit different. Yeah, I think it should be in the Olympics, it’s a great sport but if there was a change to a team format I’d be all in favour of that. I just felt in Barcelona I was separate from Jim, who was also on my team. We did play doubles but when we played singles, it didn’t feel like we were in it together, it just felt like any other event. You want the Olympics to be about your team and your country, so in doubles, you’ve got your guy with you and you’re in it together.”
What are your own Olympic memories from the Barcelona Games in 1992? “My memory of 1992, I walked into the Olympic village, I had a cot, and it was 95 degrees. I saw Jim Courier, who was literally two feet away from me in another cot and I said, ‘You know, I might go to the hotel’. So that started off things. It is obviously a very big event, a lot of people, I enjoyed my time there. I didn’t have a chance to see any other events. I lost in one of the early rounds in a tough match. It was a good experience. Tennis, to me, in the Olympics, in my time growing up, it was an exhibition.
“For me the Olympics was always track and field or boxing, swimming or gymnastics. In the last few Olympics, tennis has gotten more prestigious, more important to the players, everyone’s playing, whereas in my time it was sort of on the fence as to whether you were going to play or not. I did, and it was fun, I got to see a little gymnastics for an hour. It was a good experience, a once in a lifetime opportunity. I didn’t get the chance to go to the opening ceremony because I was playing the week before. So it was fun but I didn’t play very well, which didn’t make it any better. I think this year with the Olympics at Wimbledon, it’s going to be very cool, very unique, and something I would have done if I’d had the opportunity.”