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TENNIS

Tom Gullikson to Coach Sampras

December 07, 2001|LAUREN PETERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A year of transition for Pete Sampras is nearing an end, but not without another change.

Tom Gullikson, twin brother of Sampras' former coach, the late Tim Gullikson, has been hired as Sampras' new coach. Tim Gullikson died of brain cancer in May 1996.

"I'm excited about it," Gullikson said. "I feel it's very comfortable. I've seen him play all his Grand Slams, I've seen him play some incredible tennis, and it's my goal to get him back to that level."

Gullikson, former director of coaching at the U.S. Tennis Assn., replaces Paul Annacone, who joined Sampras in 1995.

Sampras and Annacone parted ways several weeks ago, and Annacone has been named managing director of USA Tennis High Performance, a position in the restructured national player development program that, in many respects, may mirror Gullikson's former job. Gullikson resigned as USTA director of coaching in July.

Annacone helped Sampras to five of the seven Wimbledon titles he won in eight years from 1993 to 2000, as well as two of his four U.S. Open titles and one Australian Open championship.

But Sampras failed to win a Grand Slam--or any other tournament--this year and finished 10th in the ATP Champions Race. His last tournament championship was his record-setting seventh Wimbledon title in 2000. "We kind of just ran our course professionally," Sampras said. "I needed a change and Gully's someone who I know, and he knows my game.

"We have a common bond in Tim, but it was more of a tennis decision."

Gullikson, 50, thinks so too.

"Tim was so hands-on," he said. "Pete was 20 years old [when they started working together], and I think in many ways, Tim was a great mentor and a great friend to Pete. He and Tim were very close. It was a relationship based on trust and support, really a special relationship."

Tom Gullikson described his relationship with Sampras as more casual, but a natural byproduct of Sampras' years with Tim.

"During the relationship Tim had with Pete, Tim and I would talk virtually every day, and I usually knew everything that was going on.

"Over the years, I've continued to talk to Pete and we've continued to be friends."

Gullikson was the USTA's director of coaching for almost four years after serving as men's tennis coach for the 1996 U.S. Olympic team.

He also was U.S. Davis Cup captain from 1993-99, guiding the 1995 team, which included Sampras, to a 3-2 victory over Russia in the final. Gullikson also captained the team to the 1997 final, which the Americans lost to Sweden. As a player, he won the 1984 U.S. Open mixed doubles title with Manuela Maleeva, and advanced to the 1983 Wimbledon men's doubles final with his brother.

"I've known him for a number of years," Sampras said. "He's ... a good friend and someone who knows my game. It was a good decision for me."

Sampras again denied having imminent retirement plans. "I'll play for as long as I'm able, on a high level, and as long as I'm still enjoying playing," he said. "I'm going to give it one really hard push. There's no question I think I can still play and I can still compete in a major."

Sampras, 30, has won 13 Grand Slam tournament titles.

Hiring Gullikson was his second major change recently. He also decided late in the season to make himself available for U.S. Davis Cup play next year, reversing an earlier plan. The U.S. will play Slovakia Feb. 8-10.

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