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Open Court

Playing with Pete Sampras; Talking Tennis with Michael Chang

Aired March 29, 2012 - 05:30   ET


PAT CASH, HOST, OPEN COURT: Hello from Hollywood and welcome to the star-studded edition of OPEN COURT.


CASH: I'm in the heart of California, world capital of entertainment, and home to some of the world's biggest tennis stars. I've come to the Golden State with a chance to pick up the old racket and play with some of the game's greats, Pete Sampras and Michael Chang.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The stars are out tonight, Pete Sampras, Mike Chang, back to his old hometown.

CASH: Their grand slam days are behind them, but these tennis stars are still a box office draw, delighting fans with their flair and thundering serves on this tour.

Coming up on the show, an OPEN COURT exclusive, the tennis world according to Pete.


CASH: The 14-time grand slam champion talks candidly about the future of American tennis.

SAMPRAS: There's now one near Roger and Rafa (inaudible).

CASH: Also ahead, I accepted a dinner invitation from the former teen sensation, Michael Chang.



CASH: One of the quickest players in the game serves up some fast food, a tasty gourmet pizza.

I've just arrived at one of the southern California's premier tennis clubs. And in a minute, I'm going to meet the man who's regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. Pete Sampras won 14 grand slam titles in a 15-year career. He grew up in southern California and this is where he's chosen to stay to raise his family.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where you got to wear (inaudible).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, (inaudible).


CASH: I want to -- I want to see some of the trademark Sampras shots. OK?

SAMPRAS: OK. I'll do my best.

CASH: We'll warm you up first, give my poor muscle (inaudible).

SAMPRAS: It's been a couple months.

CASH: All right. OK. So I want a couple (inaudible).

Sinking serve, the jump smash.

I want the chip charge.

Backhand slice down the line.

SAMPRAS: OK. Anything else?

CASH: Running forehand.

SAMPRAS: Running forehand?

CASH: Not asking much.

SAMPRAS: Not asking -- that's a lot of work.

CASH: In one take (ph).

SAMPRAS: One take, one take. (Inaudible).


CASH: Let's go.


CASH: Now Pete Sampras got lucky most of the time on his second serve against all the greats in the world, but not against me. Second serve, kick serve (ph), hard (ph) bounces. (Inaudible).

SAMPRAS: That's what I like.

That should be illegal (ph).

CASH: (Inaudible).

SAMPRAS: Oh, he did it again.

CASH: (Inaudible).


CASH: I mean, you've broken lots of records. You've created lots of records. You had the most grand slams (inaudible) number one. Were they important, or were you just -- is all that playing, was it a bit of both?

SAMPRAS: Yes, I was all about being number one and winning majors. I mean, that was my goal. And I created a certain lifestyle to really create that. And I felt, you know, I was very focused, very single-minded. It's an individual sport. I just felt like, you know, I just needed to be a certain way. My -- you know, as far as my personality.

I was hoping that you never lose that kind of volley. I just get a lot of -- a lot of just like block volleys.

CASH: Yes. Yes, there's this one (inaudible).




CASH: I won one rally.


CASH: That became just an (inaudible) aware there was still certain (inaudible) volleys. I mean, is the art -- is it dying out?

SAMPRAS: Yes, it's gone. It's gone.

CASH: It's gone.

SAMPRAS: I think it is. I mean, you force stuff (ph), oh, those were the -- you were the guys I was -- I grew up watching play. It's sad to see Wimbledon today with everyone staying back. I mean, just to -- ever talk about the grass being different on the balls, but still grass was grass. You know, you can still get into the net and it's just a dying art.


CASH: Sampras used to terrorize opponents in the second serve, but he can slice back in down the line. Not going to terrorize me. Come on.


SAMPRAS: For once, that's the one.


CASH: (Inaudible) on the grass (inaudible) you became for just thumping people (inaudible). Of course, you didn't like grass.

SAMPRAS: I didn't like grass at all. People ask me about grass, and I -- when I first went over there, I hated Wimbledon and --

CASH: Excuse me -- didn't --

SAMPRAS: I hated the surface.

CASH: Yes.

SAMPRAS: I loved Wimbledon and what it meant, but the surface, I was uncomfortable, didn't like the bad bounces. I did -- just didn't -- I didn't like it. And for the first two, three years, I struggled. I didn't like it. I came out with a bad attitude.

I was such a mopey player at times and at Wimbledon, I just felt like it just didn't connect with me. And finally broke through; got to the semis one year; lost to Goran. And then by '92, '93, came around. I really felt comfortable. I was the owner of the place for about seven, eight years.

CASH: A long time.

SAMPRAS: The people I didn't really like playing was Krajicek, Ezamivich (ph) and Decker, big servers that could sort of just blow me off the court. Where I felt like with Andre and Jim, they would give me time to play. I could have -- I could find my range a little bit.

But, you know, just great history with all of us, great robberies, and Andre certainly, I think, out of all the players I've played, was pretty special.


CASH: (Inaudible) one of his greatest shots, forehand down the line, for wide out in the court, used to curl it back in. As a volley, you felt like you had I don't know how many times you (inaudible) like that.

OK. See if you've got it, still got it.

SAMPRAS: Oh, yes.


CASH: I almost had that, yes. Do it again. Seemed like it actually -- even though I know where it's going, let's see if I can get it. It's a --


SAMPRAS: (Inaudible).

CASH: I'm right there. I still can't get.

I know you've gotten plenty of records, but one record that I beat you in is doubles.

SAMPRAS: Doubles. Oh, I'm terrible at doubles.


CASH: You couldn't have been.

SAMPRAS: I was OK. If I'd played a lot, I'd have gotten better, but my first doubles match, I would be like, it's too fast; I'm not used to it. But I -- maybe one title I had, Rome.

CASH: No, you got two.


CASH: (Inaudible).


SAMPRAS: How many did you get?

CASH: Let's see, six.

SAMPRAS: There you go.


CASH: I got Pete Sampras.


CASH: (Inaudible) seen his slash (ph) backhand approach on the second serve. (Inaudible) forehand down the line. Now we (inaudible) the famous one, the jump smash. Used to get a lot of these because if we serve, (inaudible) pop it up, to come in and do the jump smash. Come on, Sampras.


CASH: Still got it.

SAMPRAS: Not bad for 50.

CASH: What do you drink (inaudible)?

SAMPRAS: Oh, (inaudible). I want it to be a good case (ph), you know, bring down they're nine and six, and they're great kids. I love them. I just want them to listen a little better, you know, want them to do their homework and don't give me a hard time and do what I say. I'm taking it small steps. I'm not sure they're going to be into tennis.

CASH: They may not be the future of U.S. tennis (inaudible). Where is the future of U.S. tennis? I mean, we had -- it's a bit dry at the moment. I mean, in your era, it was phenomenal.

SAMPRAS: It was a freak of time, I mean, it really was. And for the American fans and media to expect that every 10 years is -- let's be unrealistic; it's unfair to Mardy Fish and Roddick and Isvermeen (ph). They're really good players. They're nowhere near Roger and Roflin (ph), Djokovic.

CASH: There more hunger perhaps in the other sports.

SAMPRAS: Well, we need an American presence. You know, we need an American guy to say like, you know, that's our guy, or I've got to look up to him, like say Andre was or I was. Yes, it's pretty -- it's pretty hard to do, and I'm not sure if it's going to happen any time soon, unfortunately.

CASH: Well, somebody got -- some of the all-time greats, favorite players, Laver, Roger, is any of your list changed maybe over the last few years? Or do --

SAMPRAS: I mean, you got to look at all the guys that really dominated their time, Laver, Lendl, Roger certainly has. I had my time in the `90s. But what's going on today as you're looking at Djokovic or Waddell (ph), these -- they're getting close. I mean, they're on their way.


CASH: (Inaudible) my prize money.


CASH: On this point.

SAMPRAS: All right.

CASH: Oh, yes. (Inaudible) your prize money.

SAMPRAS: Not much. One point.

CASH: (Inaudible).

SAMPRAS: I'll take it.

CASH: You'll take it.

SAMPRAS: Our government could take it.

CASH: (Inaudible).

SAMPRAS: (Inaudible).

CASH: Thanks very much for your time, just hanging out with you, great.

SAMPRAS: See you down the road. See you in the international.

CASH: Take care.


CASH: Still to come, Michael Chang tells me about his controversial decision to use the shot that make tennis history.

But first, family teams up to produce the next American champion, Taylor Dent leads the charge after the break.


CASH: John Isner, Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick are still carrying the flag for American tennis in this time of European domination. And there's one question the fans here in the U.S. are asking, and that's where are the next superstars?

Now onsite (ph), determined to produce the next American tennis champion, the Dents have opened their own academy. They're hoping that their love of the game will inspire a new generation of stars.

TAYLOR DENT, ATP CHAMPION: I'm Taylor Dent, and I get time to breathe behind this crazy operation.

JENNY DENT, FORMER WTA PLAYER: I'm Jenny Dent, and I'm the glue that holds this academy together.

PHIL DENT, 1974 AUSTRALIAN OPEN FINALIST: I'm Phil Dent. I'm considered the slave of this tennis academy.

CASH: Taylor Dent's made a name for himself on tour with his blistering serve, 148 miles per hour at Wimbledon, a record that still stands.

But now, just two years after retiring from the tour, he's back on tour, teaming up with his wife, Jenny, and father, Phil.

T. DENT: You know, Dad has so much knowledge and you cross so many generations of tennis. It is exciting to say, hey, look, we're taking steps in a direction to really make American tennis better.


You know, we're not -- we're not demanding that everybody be a professional tennis player. We're just saying if you want to come and train with us, it's probably best that you're professionally minded. You know, and then we've -- we're not for everybody. That is 100 percent for sure. We're not a hit and giggle (ph).

We demand (inaudible) to not set the bar at win. We -- I say this (inaudible) all the time. If you're setting the bar at winning, you're setting the bar too long.

I don't want skinny bad (ph).

But if you set the bar at improving all the time, then you're just going to keep going on an up trend and an up scale. So that's the type of mindset that I hope we get across to these kids.

Did you just want to play points? Or do you want to do some drills.

CASH: Whatever.

T. DENT: OK. (Inaudible) do a set.

CASH: The Dents know they've got their work cut out for them.

T. DENT: Tennis would be blooming right now if Federer was American, if Nidal was American or if (inaudible) -- one of those guys. If one of them was American, tennis would be booming. I mean, even we saw Andy Roddick win one slam back in the early 2000s, and tennis took a little bump then.

You know, he was on "Saturday Night Live." He's on American Express commercials. You know, Americans love champions -- end of story.

CASH: (Inaudible) you've got to move up (inaudible).

Phil Dent knows all about making it to the top in tennis. He reached the final at the Australian Open nearly 40 years ago. His advice: start early.

P. DENT: Right, that was good even though you missed it. Taylor, when he was growing up, he was playing at least (inaudible) sets a week, you know, and these kids, you talk to them, and they barely play like two or three.

It's not the same. You know, hitting a dead ball (inaudible) is (inaudible) for some things. But you've got to play live.

T. DENT: Are you going to put anything on this match? Twenty percent (ph)?

CASH: Jenny leads the fitness drills.

J. DENT: We try to get through all the (inaudible) and really break it down to just what gets the person moving better on court.


CASH: Jenny enjoys working alongside her husband, but credits her father-in-law with providing the on-court comedy.

P. DENT: Jenny's four months pregnant (inaudible).

J. DENT: You know, he makes fun of them, but they laugh back. And it just kind of takes the edge of (inaudible). He knows when to, you know, put the hammer down.

P. DENT: It's going to take you a year to get (inaudible). Move!


CASH: The Dents understand they've got a lot of work ahead to produce the next American tennis champion, but it's clear each of them is willing to try.

P. DENT: Mac (ph), are you a little quick (inaudible)?

T. DENT: And there is a way to make (inaudible) a professional player. There is a way. And we feel like we have a good understanding of what that's going to take. But can we make it fun enough for him at nine years old, you know, because that's a big part of it. (Inaudible).

P. DENT: All right. Get out of here.

T. DENT: So it is definitely mission possible. Are we smart enough to do it? I think that's the question.


CASH: Next up on OPEN COURT, my southern California road trip continues with a visit to Michael Chang and a little surprise for him (ph).


CASH: Michael Chang's quickness (ph) (inaudible) many wins during his 16-year career, but his strong legs were the envy of nearly every player on tour.

CHANG: I don't know.

CASH: (Inaudible).

CHANG: Let's play five sets, and then my legs will start cramping, and then they'll be -- and then they'll be more defined (inaudible).

I don't even know if there are too many guys that are my height that are playing now.

CASH: How tall are you?

CHANG: I'm 5'9" with shoes. But people say, well, he cannot compare me to, you know, like Lleyton or Rafa, but Rafa's tall.

CASH: Rafa is tall.

CHANG: You know?

CASH: He's a lot taller than you think he is.

CHANG: And Lleyton's, what, 5'11"?

CASH: I think if you're going to be small these days, you've got to be as fast as you are.

CHANG: You'd better be fast.

CASH: Michael was only 17 when he stunned the world by beating Stefan Edberg in the final of the French Open, but it was his fourth-round match against Ivan Lendl which marked the moment in his career.

So '89 French Open was the one that, certainly, I -- when you came to the attention of the world. And you found yourself in the fifth set battle, cramping. Lendl was one of the top seeds --

CHANG: He was, actually.

CASH: -- (inaudible). And what stage were you -- you decided you were in real trouble?

CHANG: And my mentality was, well, you know, who am I kidding here? How am I going to beat Lendl if I don't have my legs, which are, you know, one of my greatest assets that -- on the tennis court? So you know, I get to the -- to the service line and I get an unbelievable conviction, you know, just a conviction in my heart.

And I was -- it was almost as if like, you know, as if like God was saying, "What are you doing?" And I was like, well, I'm just going to call it a day. And it dawned on me that, you know, if I were to just quit right then and there, every other difficult time that I have on the court is just going to make it that much easier to quit. You know, win, lose or draw, I had to finish the match.

So I was like at 15-30, I was like, you know what, just spur of the moment, not even much of a thought. I said, I'm just going to throw in and serve here, because I'm not -- I'm not doing (inaudible) anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking French.)

CHANG: And you can see Ivan, you know, going back to the -- to the baseline to return the -- you know, the 30-0 point, and he was just kind of going like this, and it just became a mental battle.

CASH: And then history's written. You're the youngest player ever to win the -- win a grand slam.

CHANG: You know, it was almost God's purpose, I think, for me to win that French Open.

CASH: It was even slightly unusual for me to see you praying before you had your meal in the player's lunchroom. You didn't manic (ph), because you know in the lunchroom there, and plays running everywhere, and then you'd stop to say a little -- you know, a little prayer.

CHANG: A whole lot of -- whole lot of Christians out on tour. You know, maybe just a handful of guys, but -- and nowadays it almost seems like as if you're hearing a lot more about it, you know, like Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin, a little bit more outspoken.

And I know Andre's made some remarks before about, you know, me making reference to the Lord and stuff like that. And now, you know, obviously it's -- you see it a lot more and you know, it's just nice to see, you know, Christians doing well in professional sports.

You know, I spend a lot of my time now with family. My daughter's now -- she's 14 months and starting to walk around quite a bit. So hopefully it'll be a -- hopefully it'll be a racket in her hand sometime soon.

Just change your life.

CASH: Yes.

CHANG: Just turn your world upside down.

CASH: Yes.

CHANG: This is a Wimbledon champion. She's a Wimbledon champion.

CASH: So you got to number two, but you couldn't quite get that number one from that Sampras guy.

CHANG: If I'd beaten Pete at the finals of the open, I would have been number one.

CASH: Right.

CHANG: Or if Koretcha (ph) had beaten Pete when he -- when he threw up at the Open that match --

CASH: You could be right.

CHANG: -- at five sets, I would have been number one.

CASH: Wow.

CHANG: So --

CASH: You were very, very close.

CHANG: You can tell I'm still upset about that one.


CHANG: Are you hungry?

CASH: I am, yes.


CASH: Moist (ph).

CHANG: Are you hungry for something -- maybe some pizza?

CASH: Yes, why?

CHANG: I got a little -- we have a little family-owned pizza restaurant. You think it would be a Chinese restaurant, but it's actually a pizza restaurant.

CASH: Great.

CHANG: I'll even --

CASH: You're buying.

CHANG: -- I'll -- I'm buying. I'm buying.


CHANG: And I'll even make part of your pizza for you.

CASH: Is that right?

CHANG: How does that sound?

CASH: Let's do it. That's a good deal.


CASH: All right. (Inaudible).


CHANG: How about we get (inaudible) pizza?

CASH: That's what I was waiting for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon. (Inaudible).

CASH: Mozzarella's good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You like mozzarella?

CASH: Yes, what is that, bleu cheese? Oh, yes.

CHANG: All right. This is a Pat Cash specialty pizza, right here.


CHANG: This is for Mr. Pat Cash, Wimbledon champion.

CASH: Hey.

Well, Mike, thank you very much for everything. I'm going to finish this pizza off, of course, but before we go, I know that you're joining a very important club, the 40-year old club, 40-plus, which I think it won't (inaudible).

CHANG: I've got a couple more days before -- I've got a couple more days.

CASH: No, well --

CHANG: I'm going to enjoy them all.

CASH: We're going to give you --



CASH: There we go. There's a little thank you.


CHANG: Thank you. Appreciate that.

CASH: Forty, there we go.

CHANG: So will my tennis get better after 40?

CASH: No, it's only downhill after that, I'm afraid. I don't think you -- I don't think we -- we think we know where to hit the ball, don't we? (Inaudible) get there any more.

CHANG: Yes. (Inaudible).

CASH: Thanks (inaudible). It was great.

Thanks for joining me on OPEN COURT. Next month, we head to Europe for the beginning of the clay court season. Until then, goodbye from Los Angeles.

Don't forget to visit our website,, where you'll find an online exclusive from California as Mark Philippoussis shares his passion for both serving and surfing.

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS, SURFER: Every single wave is different, and every time you get up on the board is different.