Death of a tennis guru

Simon O'Hagan looks at the life of Tim Gullikson, the man who made Sampras
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The death of Tim Gullikson at the age of 44 has robbed tennis of one of its true gentlemen and Pete Sampras of the coach who helped turn him into the world's best player. Gullikson, who formed a notable doubles partnership with his identical twin Tom, had been suffering from brain cancer for 16 months and died on Friday at his home in Wheaton, a suburb of Chicago.

His condition was diagnosed when he collapsed during the 1995 Australian Open in Melbourne, the distressing effect of which on Sampras was all too obvious as the American came through a traumatic quarter-final against Jim Courier.

Gullikson made some progress towards recovery and never officially stopped being Sampras's coach. Paul Annacone began working with the player, but Gullikson was always there to be referred to on the telephone. He was well enough to work alongside Sampras during the Davis Cup semi-final between the United States and Sweden last September, but that was the last time he was seen in public.

"Today I lost a dear friend and coach," Sampras said in a statement. "But we all lost a special person. My prayers are with his wife Rosemary and his two children, Erik and Megan."

Gullikson, a few minutes younger than his brother, was born in Wisconsin. He and Tom were teaching pros before they entered the game competitively in the mid-1970s, establishing themselves as an instinctive pairing in which Tim - right-handed to Tom's left - was renowned for athleticism and touch at the net.

Of Gullikson's 16 doubles titles, 10 were won with Tom, although they came no nearer to winning a Grand Slam event than the Wimbledon final of 1983 when they lost to John McEnroe and Peter Fleming. Tim was the more successful in singles, rising to No 18 in the rankings in 1978 and reaching the quarter-finals of Wimbledon the following year after causing an upset with a win over John McEnroe.

After retiring in 1986, Gullikson coached Martina Navratilova, Mary Joe Fernandez, Aaron Krickstein and Barbara Potter before, in early 1992, he teamed up with Sampras. "You don't have to do too much with someone as gifted as Pete," Gullikson once said. "Just bits of fine-tuning here and there." Such understanding was crucial in bringing Sampras three Grand Slam titles and the world No1 ranking.

Fleming had been friends with Gullikson since they had started out together and visited him only a few days before his death. "He was an outstanding guy," Fleming said yesterday. "Tim and Tom really were two of the nicest guys you could ever meet."