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Champion's Mind: Lessons from a Life in Tennis

Champion's Mind: Lessons from a Life in Tennis

4.2 24
by Pete Sampras

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Pete Sampras is arguably the greatest tennis player ever, a man whose hard-nosed work ethic led to an unprecedented number one world ranking for 286 weeks, and whose prodigious talent made possible a record-setting fourteen Grand Slam titles. While his more vocal rivals sometimes grabbed the headlines, Pete always preferred to let his racket do the talking.


Pete Sampras is arguably the greatest tennis player ever, a man whose hard-nosed work ethic led to an unprecedented number one world ranking for 286 weeks, and whose prodigious talent made possible a record-setting fourteen Grand Slam titles. While his more vocal rivals sometimes grabbed the headlines, Pete always preferred to let his racket do the talking.

Until now.

In A Champion’s Mind, the tennis great who so often exhibited visible discomfort with letting people “inside his head” finally opens up. An athletic prodigy, Pete resolved from his earliest playing days never to let anything get in the way of his love for the game. But while this single-minded determination led to tennis domination, success didn’t come without a price. The constant pressure of competing on the world’s biggest stage—in the unblinking eye of a media machine hungry for more than mere athletic greatness—took its toll.

Here for the first time Pete speaks freely about what it was like to possess what he calls “the Gift.” He writes about the personal trials he faced—including the death of a longtime coach and confidant—and the struggles he gutted his way through while being seemingly on top of the world. Among the book’s most riveting scenes are an early devastating loss to Stefan Edberg that led Pete to make a monastic commitment to delivering on his natural talent; a grueling, four-hour-plus match against Alex Corretja during which Pete became seriously ill; fierce on-court battles with rival and friend Andre Agassi; and the triumphant last match of Pete’s career at the finals of the 2002 U.S. Open.

In A Champion’s Mind, one of the most revered, successful, and intensely private players in the history of tennis offers an intimate look at the life of an elite athlete.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Consider this book Sampras’ 15th Grand Slam. A thoroughly compelling read that–apart from retracing a gilded sport career–really probes the ‘hard drive’ of a champion. It’s as if all the emotion and insight that Sampras sometimes seemed reluctant to express during his playing days comes spilling forth.”
—Jon Wertheim, Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated and SI.com

"As the title says, this is a remarkable look into a champion's mind, and maybe one of the best tennis memoirs ever. Pete captures the pressure a player feels once he's reached the top. He puts us next to him on the court, and we get a clear sense of what made him extraordinary: he was supremely determined, dedicated to learning the strengths and weaknesses of his opponents, and committed to never ever yielding a point easily. Pete wrote this book the way he plays tennis: full-out."
—Rod Laver

“Even playing at a high level, it’s hard to know what the experience of winning–and trying to stay on top–is like for another competitor. We all react so differently to pressure, to the glow of the spotlight. It is brutally hard to stay grounded, and yet this wonderfully candid book shows that it was Pete’s rare ability to compartmentalize and draw strength from his family that allowed him to reach the sport’s pinnacle. Whether championships are in your past or just live in your dreams, you’ll learn a lot from Pete’s story.”
—Monica Seles

"Pete Sampras was always able to rise to the occasion, winning so many big matches at the biggest events.  This book provides the reader a glimpse into Pete's remarkable career and how he was able attain his vision of being the best player in the world.  We can all benefit from the insight he offers."
—Roger Federer

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Meet the Author

PETE SAMPRAS holds the distinction of being the youngest male player (at age nineteen) to win the U.S. Open. During his career he won sixty-four top-level singles titles (including fourteen Grand Slams, eleven ATP Masters Series titles, and five Tennis Masters Cup titles) as well as two doubles titles. Currently he makes his home in Los Angeles with his wife, Bridgette, and their sons, Christian and Ryan.

PETER BODO is a senior editor and chief columnist at Tennis magazine.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Champion's Mind: Lessons from a Life in Tennis 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
TENNISGOD More than 1 year ago
MinTwinsNY More than 1 year ago
Rating:   5 of 5 stars (Outstanding) Review: Pete Sampras retired from tennis holding the record for most career Grand Slam victories and his journey to setting that record is chronicled here in his autobiography that covers his tennis career.  I added that last phrase to the sentence because unlike most biographies or autobiographies on athletes, this book focuses solely on his tennis career.  There are stories about his childhood, but they are about the development of his game during his youth when he was a tennis “prodigy.”  What is refreshing, however, is that he doesn’t complain about any bad breaks during his youth. There are no bad parent stories as can be so common in tennis (think of the parent stories of tennis stars such as Mary Pierce, Jennifer Capriati or the Williams sisters).   There isn’t even talk of his struggles.   It reads that Sampras is aware that he had a talent for the game, that he was raised comfortably and is appreciative of what his parents provided for him. That appreciation also transcends to his coaches during adulthood.   He gives credit to Pete Fisher for helping develop his game although Sampras believes the athlete is ultimately responsible for his or her success.   He speaks almost with reverence about Tim Gullickson who ultimately succumbed to brain cancer (more about this relationship later).   Sampras also talks much about Paul Annacone and his coaching and friendship as being another key component to the success he had on the court.   Because Sampras talks tennis and little else in this book, there is rich detail in many aspects of his game.  Not only match highlights, but he talks much about his mindset to reach certain goals.   From a teenager who burst into the spotlight with his 1990 U.S. Open title up to his last Grand Slam, the 2002 U.S. Open, the reader will follow Sampras’s  career and what he did physically and mentally to achieve the greatness that he attained.    Two passages that resonated with me were actually connected to each other.  The first one is a moment that anyone who saw it while watching this match like I did will remember.  During a match against Jim Courier in the 1995 Australian Open, Sampras broke down and was openly crying.  He had just learned of Gullickson’s terminal diagnosis and the emotional toll on him finally broke through.   This changed the minds of some media members who felt that Sampras wasn’t emotional or even human – that this outburst finally showed he was “human.”  Sampras always felt that was an unfair image portrayed.  He felt that he was simply able to put those aside when focusing on his tennis.  Yes, he had human emotions and feelings but just didn’t express them openly as often.   I thought that this reaction was a microcosm of the entire book – that Sampras was not apologizing or bragging about his career, he was simply who he was and this was why.   It was refreshing to read such an autobiography. I also found it refreshing that when reading this, I wasn’t reading about an athlete who was heavily into partying, drinking, drugs or sex.  He didn’t talk much about these topics, but until he met his wife late in his career, he just didn’t find those as important as his game.   Again, something I found very refreshing.   That was a big reason I loved reading this book and will highly recommend it for anyone who either is a tennis fan or simply wants to read a different type of autobiography.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pete gots swag
ktrock More than 1 year ago
Just about everyone in the tennis world knows that Andre Agassi wrote a book but I'm sure few people know that Pete did. Pete (or his ghost writer) has a really clean writing style. It's neat to see the way he thinks of himself as he takes you thru his pro career.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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gtg169g More than 1 year ago
I thought the book gave a few bits of insight in the private life of Pete, but I feel like I could have gotten everything I wanted to know in a 10 page essay. The book goes on and on about how great Pete was and it's true, but I want to know more behind the scenes things, not what I can figure out from watching the match (i.e. I knew that Pete cramped and threw up when he played Corretja). I only read this book b/c I just just finished Open by Agassi and Andre mentioned Pete a bunch of times. It's a decent complimentary book, but it's not fast paced at all.
Tennisbuff More than 1 year ago
I was very interested in how this book compared to Andre Agassi's book "Open". The style of this book vs Andre's is as comparable as their style of play. Andre's book got tiresome with his constant reference of how he hated tennis. Pete's book really talks about how fortunate he was to play this game. I liked this book better than Andre's and I thought this book showed more class than what Andre's book did. That's not to say Andre's book was bad, but Pete's book really is a must read for those who love tennis and lived in this era.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was an insight into the game that you don't see. Pete Sampras was a great champion, but not recognized because he wasn't as flabount as some other players. As you read you understand that he worked hard, but also he loved and respected the game. I would recommend this book to anyone who has a child interested in the sport of tennis...It shows the right way to do things. I always enjoyed watching Pete play tennis, and book was a wonderful peek into his world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Iowa_Hawkeye_Mom_of_Boys More than 1 year ago
I bought this book for my teenage son who plays tennis and enjoys biographies of sports figures. He really enjoyed this memoir.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Champion's Mind is an interesting and revealing autobiography about a sometimes misunderstood champion, Pete Sampras, who for the most part let his racket do the talking during his career. Sampras talks about growing up in Southern California, his toughest rivals, especially Agassi and how they couldn't have been more different, his most famous matches, life on the tour, his coaches, his family -- but omits his love life, prior to getting married.
How he overcomes adversity, such as beloved coach Tim Gulllikson's death, losing to Edberg in the U.S. Open final, his own illnesses and injuries, and some statements to the media that haunted him make the human side of Sampras really come out. Sampras also stresses "The Gift" which is his rare natural talent that enables him to be a great champion. But hard work is a huge factor, too. The new best-selling book, Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell, should include information about Sampras, if it doesn't, because this autobiography contains lots of wisdom about becoming successful from hard work to persistence to finding and assembling a winning team to staying hungry and humble and focused. Sampras did all that, and the pressure took its toll on him, especially during his quest to stay No. 1 for six straight years. But I don't want to give away too much. This book succeeds on several levels. You'll enjoy it, and if you're a tennis player, you'll get plenty of food for thought to improve your game.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Pete¿s book isn¿t a biography in the strict sense. As correctly point out by others, the vast majority of the book is a review of his matches -- and that¿s not necessarily a bad thing. I enjoyed reminiscing about his career. However, although I was (and still am) a huge Sampras fan I was surprised at several interesting contradictions. Sampras reminds us throughout the book that he let his racket do the talking and yet at the same time throughout the book he constantly tells the reader how is better than his peers (in some cases just a little better and some cases significantly better). While I don¿t doubt that someone at his level needs to think this way, it can be a bit jarring for anyone who never considered this. In addition, Sampras was well aware of his reputation that his conservative style was look down upon by many, and while he maintains that he was able to ignore much of it, he spends a lot of time addressing it in the book. As a result, I think that he was bothered by the perception more than he admits because his responses are slightly defensive. Finally, Sampras tells us several times how his emotions caused him to express himself in the most crude language (like most every other normal person). Yet he doesn¿t even spell the words out in the book and instead uses the ¿#%&¿ type symbols. Pete, if your audience can accept the fact that you sometimes talk like a sailor, I suspect that they can accept reading the actual curse words. Still, I recommend the book to anyone that is a fan of tennis or of Sampras.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sampras' autobiography combines personal details with strategies for success that apply to any competitive situation. He is candid dealing with both parts of his career and it is easy to see how his deportment on court demonstrated his respect for 'the Gift' of tennis athleticism. Any fan of the sport will enjoy this memoir, but especially those who still regard Sampras' game as the best ever.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Doesn¿t a biography give you information so you know the individual better? The 1st chapter and 10th chapter did that and were enjoyable to read. The remaining chapters were a review of his matches but really had no interesting facts that I didn¿t already know. I did finish the book and would recommend this book for people that never heard of Sampras or for those who never watched him play for years. Maybe I didn't realize how much I knew about Pete before I bought the book. It does have some advice for succeeding in this world and what you might have to sacrifice to succeed or at least what Pete had to scarifice to be successful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. It talks about how Pete got through his troubles and how he can play great tennis. I look forward to read it over and over again until the book is worn out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Pete Sampras was not just a great tennis player. He is one of the classiest athletes to ever compete in big-time professional sports. The fact that he was polite, soft spoken, and exceedingly decent probably reduced his overall fame and appeal in this strange upside-down celebrity culture of ours. We should all appreciate athletes like him when they come along. I highly recommend this book, not just for tennis fans but for everyone. It offers a peek inside an amazing career that was not only high-pressure and often filled with glory but also totally dependant upon hard work. Sampras may not have been flashy but he was the real deal, a talented player who worked harder than most of us can ever imagine. His reward is a legacy of both class and greatness. --Guy P. Harrison, columnist and author of 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God
Guest More than 1 year ago
In reading 'A Champion's Mind' I was amazed at the insight he provides in what it took him to become a champion and the pressures involved in maintaining that level throughout his career. I follow tennis pretty closely and there were many things he revealed in the book that I had never heard-- very insightful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Even in the face of adversities, lifes struggles, and challenges, this book exhibits resilence to overcome any obstacle which may cross your path. Determination does pay off, and very well at that. Author of: Embrace the Light-a womans story through poetry to touch your heart Donna Solitario