There have been some impressive sibling performances at Junior Sectionals throughout its 117-year history. In the early ’70s, for example, Marita Redondo tallied four Sectional titles by winning Girls’ 14s two years in a row, then 16s in two straight seasons. Her younger brother Walter was a three-time champion with titles in 12s, 14s, and 16s, and their younger sibling Marisa is a former Girls’ 12s champion. In 1972 alone, the name “Redondo” finished atop three age divisions at SoCal Junior Sectionals.
More than a decade later, there was another sibling rivalry brewing at Los Caballeros Sports Village. The Girls’ final in 1986 featured Stella Sampras, fresh off titles in ’83 and ’84, looking to close out her junior career with a flourish. On another court, her brother Pete had reached the 16s final as a 13-year-old, as usual ‘playing up’ against older players.
“It was the biggest tournament of the year for us,” Stella recalls of her Junior Sectional finale. “I remember it being really, really hot. We were very nervous. There were a lot of players, all the best players. Everyone was playing (Sectionals).”
On that day in 1986, Stella tallied her third SoCal Junior Sectionals victory with career wins in Girls’ 18s, 16s, and 14s. “All of my peers I grew up playing against (like former WTA World #17 Melissa Gurney), there were battles against all of them. None of them were easy,” she recalls.
Stella Sampras went on to a WTA career, ranking inside the world top 250 in singles, and peaking at #142 in doubles. Today, she is among the most successful NCAA Tennis coaches in the nation, amassing more than 400 victories at the helm of UCLA Women’s Tennis. The school has won two national titles, both under the tutelage of Sampras, in 2008 and 2014.
But whatever happened to her brother, Pete? The younger Sampras fell in the 16s final, his only Sectionals finals appearance. The loss must have fueled young Pete – he continued on to win fourteen Grand Slams, half of those at the All-England Club.
“We competed all through Juniors,” Stella says of their tennis careers as youngsters. “We were very fortunate to go through it together. We really helped each other through things.”