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Sampras Interview

Source: by Peter Bodo

I spoke with Pete Sampras yesterday, and he says “Hi’ to all his fans at TennisWorld. Time out for a shameless plug: the book we wrote together, A Champion’s Mind, has been on the New York Times best seller list (at no. 20, now 21) since shortly after it was published. We talked mostly about the Wimbledon final, and his pal and hitting buddy, Roger Federer

So what did you think?

I thought it was great, maybe the best match I’ve seen in many, many years. Two all-time greats, at their prime, playing great on the best court on earth. if you wrote a script it couldn’t have been any better – Roger coming back from two sets to love, Nadal showing his heart. . . I thought it was great tennis and great drama.

I think Roger handled himself with a lot of class. What I really liked is that the match goes to show that when you come right down to it, great moments aren’t about controversy, and they aren’t about personality. They’re about two great players who manage to reach beyond the usual audience for the game – that’s especially big in this country. It was impressive that two guys who aren’t American could capture the American sports fans that way. It was one of those moments in all sports that we’ll never forget.

Did you talk to Roger, Pete?

It wasn’t the right time, I didn’t think. But I did send him a text, and told him, “Bad luck, too bad there had to be a loser in that one.” I said he should take pride in the way he and Rafa are taking the sport way beyond the usual audience. He should feel great about that. He texted me back to say thanks.

I know it was disappointing for him, I’m sure hes still playing that match in his mind. But in years to come, he’ll look back on this match and appreciate the moment. No question in my mind about that.

So do you think Roger needs to make any changes at this stage in his career, given Nadal and Djokovic’s emergence?

I heard quite a few people saying he should come in more, serve and volley more. But Roger is just so much better than anyone except Rafa from the backcourt that you wonder if that would be a smart move. Sure he could attack a little more, but I still feel that if you put Rog and Rafa on that Centre Court 10 times, I think Roger wins 7 of them. He was right there with Rafa, neck-and-neck, and that’s the opposite of how it is on clay. Rafa’s already a legend on clay, but I’m sure Roger thinks he’s still the better player on grass, and I believe that’s true. But Rafa showed that it now comes down to form of the day, and on Sunday Roger just came up a little short.

Do you think Roger should have a full time coach, for either technical or emotional reasons?

No, I don’t think he necessarily should. Everybody is different, and Roger’s won plenty of Slams on his own. Maybe that’s more his comfort zone. On the other hand, a coach can see things that a player can’t, and he can emphasize things and come up with a plan when a player might just want to go out and play his game. I always found it valuable when Paul (Annacone, Sampras’s former coach) would say something like, “I think you should serve big to his backhand at the start, just to plant a bug in his mind and open up the court, then try to do most of your damage on the forehand side.”

That kind of simple advice was always welcome to me, even if at the last minute I didn’t always carry it out. A coach can help, what, 2 per cent, for a player of Roger’s caliber? But then again – this match came down to that small a difference between the guys. So who really knows.

What I think is important, though, is to keep a perspective on this and not over-analyze the match. Roger played well enough to win, only he didn’t. On another day, he does. Contrary to what a lot of people are saying, I think Roger is having a good year, it’s just that he’s set such a high bar for himself. But can anybody say he’s fallen off the pace, or that his game has holes in it? No way. He’s right there, ready
to strike, and he will – given the opportunity.

Do you still expect Roger to break your Grand Slam singles title record (14 titles)?

Oh, absolutely. It’s inevitable. He’ll be in contention for all the majors, and he’ll win a few more Wimbledons and U.S. Opens before he’s done – no doubt in my mind.

Do you plan to practice or play any exos with him, like you did last fall?

We have nothing in the works. We talked about trying to put something together for London, an exhibition or something, but we couldn’t make it work, schedules-wise. It would be nice to do it again, but right now Roger has other fish to fry.

What do you think about the Olympics

Filed under: Archives 2003 to 2011

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