An Interview with Cliff Drysdale, August 10, 2002 (at the Tennis Masters Series – Cincinnati ATP Tour Event)
Vince Barr: Does Pete Sampras’ loss to George Bastl @ Wimbledon this year signal the end of his ability to compete for a major title; specifically at Wimbledon but including any other Slam?
Cliff Drysdale: “That loss in and of itself certainly does not (indicate that Pete’s days of winning Slams are over). I think that when the whole story is written with his results since then (i.e., when he last won a major), it’s too early to call for the demise of Pete Sampras.”
VB: Do you think Pete has lost anything on his game? Todd Woodbridge thought that his serve was more “readable” now than it used to be; Andre Agassi mentioned that it didn’t look like Pete was moving his feet as well now in comparison to the days when he dominated the Tour. What are some of the reasons why he has been struggling so much?
CD: “I think, to me, it’s more a question of confidence, winning the right points, than it is a natural, physical thing. Two things, really, that and the fact that tennis is seeing slightly changed style, slightly slower courts. For example on the indoors in Europe at the end of the year. And, I think, all those things combined make him no longer invincible. Also, the “fear factor” he doesn’t quite have.”
VB: Do you think that Pete gives up on points sooner than he used to do in the past? For example, his cross-court and running forehands used to be a bigger part of his game than they are now. It seems to me that instead of using those weapons now, he doesn’t go for his shots, at least on a consistent basis, as he did in the past.
CD: “My sense is that there are other things in his life at the moment. He’s going to be a daddy, he’s got a lovely wife, and that I can see him at certain times, standing out there and mentally losing it a little bit by saying “exactly what am I doing out here? This is not what I need to be doing at the moment” that happens to everybody just about every week. It’s happening to him more now than it ever did.”
VB: Does Pete depend too much on his serve? It used to be one of the best in the game and now it’s mediocre.
CD: “Not mediocre, no, I wouldn’t say that. I think he’s still got one of the best serves in the business. Again, it seems that slightly slower courts, slightly more confidence by those who play against him seem to get the ball back and that makes things tough for him.”
VB: Do you think he should change playing style from serve and volley to baseline or some other combination?
CD: “I think that would be about the dumbest thing he could do. If anything, I think he should become more aggressive and just play the game that’s got him to where it is. I’ve always thought he should be more aggressive and I still think that.”
VB: Is there anything he could do for his game now, that he’s not already doing, which would help him win more matches and hopefully, more titles?
CD: “I think that the main thing that he should do right now is change his racquet.”
VB: That’s what Patrick McEnroe said.
CD: “Right, well, we had a discussion on that subject. And I think that, I felt it (his racquet) the other day and, to me, it feels like a club. And I don’t think that it’s got a big enough sweet spot. Jimmy Connors went with that T-2000 for years and he was too stubborn to change and I think Pete’s a little…you know, they’ve got a love affair with their own racquet, and I think it’s a mistake on his part, and I’ve told him that.”
VB: What was Pete’s reaction when you told him that he should change his racquet?
CD: “Interested. And I think he’s going to try. I think he’s going to think about it.”
VB: Is Pete doing more harm than good to his legacy by continuing to play while posting very mediocre results?
CD: “His legacy is secure; as far as I’m concerned, the longer he plays, the better. That’s true of Agassi and Sampras. Legacy be damned, let’s do what’s good for tennis at this point. What else is he going to do?”
VB: Be a dad, run his tennis academy…
CD: “Yeah, but you can do that and still play professional tennis. If he gets beat, he gets beat. He’s still a huge name.”
VB: What does Pete need to do to his game in order to become a serious threat to win the US Open?
CD: “Change his racquet. And then go back to the…Look, last year was fine, we’re only talking 12 months ago. Got to the final and goes out to Lleyton Hewitt. Played the final the last two years.”
VB: He almost had to play three finals last year, playing against Rafter, Agassi and Safin…
CD: Exactly. Great match with Agassi, it could come back. Because he served so great and I think a new racquet would help him tremendously there. It would help his groundstrokes as well. He already thinks a new racquet would help his serve.”
VB: What can Pete do to regain his confidence? I mean, aside from winning more matches and hopefully tournaments. Especially in his mental game.
CD: “A racquet change would help him win more because it would give him a bigger sweet spot. And nothing helps confidence more than winning.
End of Interview
2000 Tennis Conversations
2002 Tennis Conversations