Interesting stuff from Pete Sampras, as written up by Pete Bodo, on GOATs (or not), Fed, and Marat.
"I do understand the argument as far as being the best ever. You have to be the man of your generation. He (Roger) has come up short against Nadal. I can see the point. It's hard to answer that. I don't know how to answer it.You know, it's not done yet. Roger's career isn't done yet. He's going to play Nadal a number of times over the next number of years, and he has to beat him. He has to beat him in the finals of majors. To be considered the greatest ever, he certainly in my book is (already that). But he has to figure this kid out. He has to beat him. He's lost to him a number of times. You know, you got to be the man of your generation. He certainly is the man of his generation; he just has to figure out Nadal."
Pushed to elaborate vis a vis his own experience wih Agassi, Pete added:
"Well, God, you're giving it some thought, huh (laughter)? It would have bothered me if I had a losing record against Andre in majors. It wouldn't have sat well with me. Did it mean I was the greatest or not the greatest? I don't know. It's the debate of greatest of all time. We so badly want to pin it on someone. With the numbers you have to give it to Roger. His record against Nadal, okay, you might not give it to him.
"I mean, if I was 7-15 against Andre and I was done, it's hard to say I was the player of my generation - just because he got the best of me.
You may remember that in his Wimbledon press conference, Rod Laver took the position that in one match, on grass, he would pick Sampras over Federer. Laver wasn't the only one who took that tack. Just a few weeks ago, John McEnroe told me, "Watching these guys today, I keep thinking that if Sampras walked out there, he’d still drive these guys bananas. In my opinion he’s still the greatest fast court-player who ever lived. Where Roger is the greatest, period."
I asked Sampras about that, too. He said:
"Well, I think one thing Roger doesn't see on grass the last number of years is really a true serve-and- volleyer, someone that's willing to come in and put the pressure on and make him pass, make him return these big serves. I don't think anyone really scares him. I think my game would make Roger a little bit more uncomfortable. I would obviously come in on both serves and put the pressure on his backhand, sort of go from there. . . I would sort of dictate the play. But, you know, he'd be a tough guy to break, especially when he's hitting 50 aces like he did (in the recent Wimbledon final). It would have been a great matchup"If I would beat him? If I felt my best on grass, I did feel unbeatable, especially in the mid '90s. I was a tough guy to break, played well from the back court to have chances, and I moved well enough. It's a flattering comment. Do I think I could have beaten Roger in my prime? Sure. I don't think anyone could beat me in my prime on grass. I felt as Roger does now - he feels unbeatable."
"Marat and I always got along very well when we were playing. He's a really nice guy, great player, showed what he could do especially at the US Open the one year, he tuned me up pretty good. He's an expressive guy on the court, shows emotion. Off the court, he's a happy-go-lucky guy. I was pretty reserved when I was playing, to myself. For whatever reason, he and I seemed to get on really well. We practiced quite a bit together.
"You know, he's a champion. He got to No. 1. He won a major, I think two majors. It's sad to see him go because I think he brought a lot to the sport. Haven't sort of kept in contact with him. But certainly when I see him, we'll talk about some of our matches. When Paul (Annacone) was coaching (Tim) Henman, Marat would ask Paul, How is Pete doing? He was always just a personable guy, really nice guy, and someone that I've always gotten along really well with."
Interesting stuff from the always honest and forthcoming Pete. Too bad no one asked him about Palin. That would have been fun.