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Sampras Officially Retires - 2003-08-26

Pete Sampras has officially retired from professional tennis. The American ended his career with a press conference at Flushing Meadows, New York, the scene of his first and last Grand Slam victories.

"Its been quite a process this year," said Sampras. "I know now the process is now over so I am 100 per cent retired."

After a record 14 grand slam titles and six straight years at Number 1 in the 1990s, Pete Sampras closed the history book on his playing career.

His last majestic victory, the 2002 U.S. Open title against his long rival, Andre Agassi, was the highest point in his career. A perfect ending for the man dubbed "Perfect Pete."

"I know that it's time and I'm content and I'm at peace with it. It's time to call it a career," he said. "It couldn't happen at a better place than here in New York where everything happened for me at 19. And it ended for me last year here."

A flashy show biz farewell on the Arthur Ashe stadium for a player that was not known for his flashy-ness, Sampras was often criticized for his lack of flair and emotion on the court. But then no personality gimmicks were required. His intensity, consistency and that damaging first and second serve creating an aura of intimidation for his opponents.

Former tour player, Geoff Grant, was a regular practice partner with Sampras and spent hours in the locker room with the seven-time Wimbledon and five-time U.S. Champion.

Grant says Sampras sought titles, not the spotlight. "He didn't want to worry about the press stuff. He didn't want to think about his stardom. He didn't want to be a huge star and all the glamor and the fortune and the fame. He just wanted to do what was best for Pete and he wanted to set records and he wanted to win titles," said Grant. "So that comes off as being, yes, a little boring because he didn't care about the flash. He didn't care about creating a personality for himself. He only cared about was playing on the court."

With the final chapter in his playing career now written, the debate intensifies as to whether Sampras was in fact the best player of all time.

"Whether he is the best player in the world is open to conjecture because there is one little weakness in his career," said broadcaster David Luddy. "That was he never won the French open. He never won on clay. He did well there but then you've got someone like Rod Laver who did win all four Grand Slam events. So he's up there with [Bjorn] Borg, [John] McEnroe and [Jimmy] Conners and Laver and all those other great players. But whether he was the best player is open to conjecture. Nevertheless one of the all-time greats."

Sampras admits missing out on the French Open title is a disappointment but no reason to keep playing.

And he's happy for the debate to continue was Sampras the best the sport has ever seen?

"I will never sit here and say I was the greatest ever," he said. "I just won't. It's not up to anyone. I've done what I've done in the game. I've won a number of majors. I think that's really kind of the answer to everything."