For the last 12 years, Pete Sampras, widely recognized as one of the world's greatest tennis players, has made an annual pilgrimage from his gated home high in Beverly Hills to the sea-level tennis courts of Miami.
He comes to compete in the Ericsson Open, a tournament that attracts pros from around the globe. Pete Sampras' Miami, however, is far from the bright neon and trendy nightspots of South Beach. His Miami is a serene place where he can soak up the sun and solitude, so that when it's time for him to deliver one of his famous serves, he's prepared to win. Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Palos Verdes, California, Sampras began playing tennis at age 7 and turned pro at 16 in 1988. Two years later, Sampras stunned the tennis world by becoming the youngest U.S. Open winner in history, defeating Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, and Andre Agassi. From 1993 to 1998, he was ranked number-one in the world. He's been Wimbledon champ a record seven times, has 13 Grand Slam titles, and has earned 63 over-all titles. The 30-year-old Sampras has been criticized for not being brasher, louder, or more exciting off-court. But clearly, focus and solitude are what suit him and his game. Here's a weekend with Pete Sampras on the quiet side of Miami.
"I've been going to Miami since I was 17 or 18, and just starting out. Now, every year for the last 12 years, I've played the Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne. I usually stay at the Inn at Fisher Island. It's an exclusive island, [established] in the '20s by the Vanderbilts as their winter estate. You can only get there by ferry - or, of course, yacht, helicopter, or seaplane. There are 500 large and expensive houses and condominiums owned by people from around the world, including many famous stars. But what I like best is the hotel. The views are phenomenal. You're looking right across to Miami Beach or Key Biscayne. Once you're on Fisher Island you just get in a golf cart, which they give to all of the hotel guests, and drive around the island. You can go to the beach or tennis center, where I practice. Andre Agassi stays at Fisher Island as well, and we end up practicing right next to each other. There's also a great gym and spa, a grocery store with a deli, a couple of really good restaurants, and a nice little nine-hole golf course. It's everything that you need, totally self-contained. It's really the cream of the crop."
"When I'm playing, I usually eat Italian. Packing the carbs. There's an excellent Italian place on Fisher Island called the Café Porto Cervo. It's modeled after a famous Italian restaurant in Sardinia, and they serve great Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. You can sit outside on the patio, overlooking the marina, which is always filled with big yachts. There's also a little pizza and pasta place on the island called La Trattoria. It's a little more low-key. I like to pick up food from there and take it back to my room. If you want something fancy, there's the Vanderbilt Mansion, a formal restaurant in the original Vanderbilt home."
"I'll occasionally go to Coconut Grove at night. It's a nice area, with restaurants and a movie theater. I like to go to Coconut Grove rather than South Beach, which is a little too crazy for someone like me. Although, the Art Deco District on South Beach, with its '20s and '30s architecture, is always interesting. I like to get a bite to eat early and then take a stroll through CocoWalk, an outdoor shopping center with lots of stores, restaurants, and nightclubs. There are always a lot of people there."