06/16/2008 at 01:00 AM EDT
At 19, Pete Sampras became the youngest-ever U.S. Open champ—and remained relatively unbeatable for the next decade. In his memoir A Champion's Mind, the dad of two, 36, looks back.
YOU WRITE THAT YOU WEREN'T QUITE READY FOR SUCCESS. I was thrown into the cage of lions. Everyone thought I'd be this smooth, slick winner, but I was a deer in headlights. It took a couple of years to feel more comfortable in my skin.
WHY DID YOU RETIRE IN 2003? I was fine physically, but mentally I was cooked. I always played to win—not for money, not for fame. I'd achieved everything I wanted and more, so I had nothing left to prove to myself. It was time to move on.
TO BEING A DAD? Going straight from retirement to fatherhood was a huge adjustment. But I'm able to do things with my sons that my dad didn't have a chance to, and it's priceless.
LIKE TRAINING THEM TO BE TENNIS PROS? They play a little. I have to tell them to keep the ball inside the court. It's tennis, not baseball!