During his legendary tennis career, Pete Sampras earned dozens of trophies, medals and plaques for his on-court achievements and acquired the treasure trove of memorabilia you'd expect from one of the most famous athletes in America.
Most of it is now gone, stolen from a storage unit in which Sampras had been keeping the objects. The 14-time Grand Slam champion told Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times that he discovered the theft three weeks ago.
The 14 Grand Slam trophies Sampras won are safe, with the exception of the award from the 1994 Australian Open. The other 13 are at his home or in Portland's NikeTown. Everything else, though -- the 64 trophies from non-majors, rewards from his two Davis Cup wins, an Olympic ring, his six year-end trophies for finishing No. 1 -- was stolen.
Sampras said he doesn't know whether the memorabilia was targeted or whether the thieves wanted to take his furniture (also stored in the units) and ended up with a lot more.
The married father of two had the memorabilia at the storage facility in West Los Angeles because his family has moved homes so many times in the past few years. He tells Dwyre that it never occurred to him that his items might not be safe.
Other items stolen included magazine covers, newspaper clippings and autographs from famous admirers like Eddie Vedder, Elton John and Carlos Santana.
Sampras didn't seem to be as disappointed in the loss of the trophies, but rather in the history lesson they could provide for his two sons, who are ages 5 and 8. He told The Times:
"I'm not one to gloat about trophies, or show them off. I've never been like that. I just want them for my kids to see. They didn't see me play, but I'd like them to see these things. [...]
"For me to have it for my kids is priceless. I just hope it hasn't already been destroyed. That's why I wanted to get the word out now. I know this is a longshot, but I'd regret it if I didn't at least try. Maybe somebody knows something.
"That's all I can hope for."
Just like stealing a Van Gogh, there can't be too much of a legitimate market for stolen tennis trophies. What do the robbers plan to do with this stuff? I'm pretty sure somebody will get suspicious if the 1996 winner's trophy from Kitzbühel, engraved with the name Pete Sampras, pops up on eBay.
Police are investigating the thefts.
- Pete Sampras