Originally created 11/30/97

Hurting for his team



GOTEBORG, Sweden - Weary and injured, Pete Sampras watched his teammates struggle without him in losing the Davis Cup final to Sweden Saturday.

"Sitting here watching the Swedes winning, I was thinking I should be out there, healthy and playing," the world's No. 1 player said.

Instead, a pulled calf muscle during Friday's singles forced Sampras to withdraw in the third set, giving the victory to Sweden's Magnus Larsson. That left the Americans trailing 2-0 going into Saturday's doubles in the best-of-5 series.

"The middle of the second (set) I felt my left leg tighten up and I figured it would just go away as I continued to play," he said. "It just got worse and worse."

The Swedes won the doubles Saturday and clinched the Cup.

"It was tough seeing them win ... I should be out there, helping," said Sampras, who blamed his injury - a painful micro-tear deep in the muscles of his left calf - on a season that was just too long.

Sampras' season lasted 11 months and encompassed about 20 tournaments.

"I think I got this from overplaying," he said at his hotel suite. "Not giving myself enough time for rest. It's my fourth trip to Europe in the past month and a half.

"It's too much tennis."

Wearing gray sweatpants that showed just a trace of a bandage, Sampras lay on a light blue couch sharing his thoughts, and worries, about the future.

"What I wanted to say tonight was that when you're injured you think and you reflect on the year ..." he said. "The season is too long for tennis. Pretty much, I'm playing 11 months a year and one month off to rest."

Outside the hotel door, a wheelchair was parked. That will be Sampras' main transportation going into a two-to-three week recovery period. Sampras had been hoping to relax in the next month, before beginning to prepare for the Australian Open.

"I was hoping to play some golf, but now I'll be at a rehab clinic twice a day for the next week or so," he said. "That's not a way to enjoy it."

Sampras, 26, hopes to keep playing for at least five to seven more years, and not retire at 30 like many of the sport's stars.

"I'm going to have to think about what I'm going to do next year," he said. "The older I get, maybe I'll play less. I'll play the tournaments that are important to me, but maybe I just won't play some tournaments."

Sampras has often said that winning Grand Slam tournaments and being No. 1 is more important to him than playing Davis Cup.

He won a tour-leading eight titles this year, including the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and is finishing the season as No. 1 for a fifth consecutive year, a record he shares with Jimmy Connors.

Earlier this month at Hanover, Germany, Sampras also won his fourth ATP championship, an elite tournament of the top eight players in the world. His winnings for the year are nearly $6 million.