[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]
These glasses might come on after that -- after that speech, in a little while. Man, where did you learn to speak like that? [to brother Carl who introduced him] Tough act to follow. Thank you, Carl.
First of all, I want to thank the International Tennis Hall of Fame for this incredible honor. I realize that the list of inductees is very small, and to be included with such champions, both on and off the court of the sport of tennis, is truly special. This is a day I will remember for the rest of my life with much pride and fondness. Thank you so very much.
It makes it even more special to share it with many of my closest friends and family today as well -- people like Tom Ross and Kelly Wolf of Octagon, and Dianne Hayes of Reebok have played such a key role in my career and I'm honored that they would come just to be here today for the induction.
My friends and family from Seattle and California -- thank you as well for being such an important and encouraging part of my life, and it means so much that you are here today too.
As I reflect upon my career, the words dedication, perseverance, hard work, sacrifice, faith, unity, and love come to mind; and you would think that I'm referring to myself through all these years, but in actuality I am not. You see, for any champion to succeed, he must have a team -- a very incredible, special team; people that he can depend on, count on, and rely upon through everything -- the highs and lows, the wins and losses, the victories and failures, and even the joys and heartaches that happen both on and off the court.
And no one knows that better than my Mom, Dad, Carl, and Dianna. For us, tennis has never been about the winning and losing. The Lord Jesus taught us that very early on in my career. Sure, it's always nice to win. But from the beginning, the way, way beginning, when Pete Sampras and I were eight years old and we were competing, it's always been about unity, about love, closeness, and about spending time together doing things that we always enjoy to do. Sometimes it was fishing. Sometimes it was soccer. And a lot of time[s] it was sharing a meal and talking. But most often it was tennis.
And the same rings true today, even now as I am retired: the goal, unity, sacrifice, and care for one another, faith and reliance upon the Lord, and a love that constantly encourages and lifts one another up. And that has stayed with me throughout my entire life and career. And to my family: I say, thank you for loving me that way and for giving me every opportunity to excel in a talent that God has given to me.
In my mind, with a team like you and the Lord’s blessings, who wouldn’t succeed? My job on the court was easy compared to yours. I can say that now, as I have since gotten a taste of what it's like to coach last year. Now, of course Carl, who has coached me for 12 years would say, “Yeah, right, you think you know what it means to coach, but you really don’t know what a pain in the butt you can be sometimes” -- which I must say is true.
Now you can imagine that with that kind of love, there was no pressure to come off the court after losing a tough match, or having a bad day. And if there was, it wasn’t coming from my family. When you get to playing at the top, pressures are coming from everywhere and the last thing you ever want to worry about is whether or not you'll still be loved or accepted by those dearest to you. I never had that kind of burden, and I hope the future generations of young tennis players around the world never have to carry that kind of burden either.
But with that kind of love, comfort, and support from my family, it's easy to reach for the stars and to dream big dreams because the fear of failure rarely enters your mind. In fact, your only thoughts are giving your very best and striving to accomplish what no one thinks you can accomplish. But if you do come up short sometimes, as we all do -- shoot, I was number -- I was one point away from becoming number one in the world -- hear these wise words from my mom when I was just 17 years old. She said, “As long as you've tried your best, as long as you've given your 100%, that's all people can ask of you; that's all the Lord desires of you, and that's all that you can ever ask of yourself. If you do that, you should walk off the court, win or lose, with your head held high, knowing that you gave your very best. So, to Mommy, Bobba, Carl, and Dee Dee, thank you for always giving me your very best, and, of course, to this family. You are and will always be in my hall of fame, right here in my heart. I'm so incredibly blessed to have you as my loving family.
And lastly, as I have shared many times before, I want to give thanks and praise to the Lord, Jesus Christ. I know and realize that without Him, I am nothing, so I give Him all the glory and praise for all my accomplishments and for teaching me how to love and to live life to the very fullest. Thank you, dear Lord.
In closing, I want to thank the International Tennis Hall of Fame again for this tremendous honor; and also a special thank you to many of my fans and supporters throughout the world for always encouraging me throughout my career through your cheers, your words, and your letters.
Thank you for allowing me to celebrate this tennis career in such an extraordinary and very, very special way. It is truly an incredible honor.
Thank you very much.
See Also: The Chang Family Foundation
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