© Ella Ling

Miami 2012 - Roger Federer

Sampras exclusive: I see no decline with Federer


Exclusive Pete Sampras interview: Sampras tells The Tennis Space that his friend Roger Federer will carry on playing, and challenging for grand slams, “for many, many years” as he will avoid burnout. The Californian argues that Federer “is a young 30 who is very eager, plays a lot and loves the lifestyle of being on the road – I don’t see any decline”.

Sampras also talks about the influence that his former coach, Paul Annacone, has had on Federer, and how he is “getting used to Roger breaking my records” – this summer, Federer could go level with Sampras on seven Wimbledon titles, and one more week as the No 1 would see him match the American’s record of 286 weeks at the top of the tree. 

Sampras on whether Federer can win another slam. “Yes, I still think Roger can win a slam. He still seems very motivated. He loves to travel, he loves to play. He’s sort of a young 30-year-old. He’s very eager, he plays a lot, he loves the lifestyle of being on the road. When I was his age, I just felt a little more tired and burnt out after the years of travelling. He enjoys the lifestyle, and as a result he’s going to play for many, many years.

“His level is still very high and he could very easily….winning in Paris is a tough one but I still think he’s the favourite at Wimbledon and the US Open in a few months’ time is still a realistic win for him. I don’t see any decline, I just think some guys have stepped it up in the last three or four years and they’re in their prime now. But Roger still has a great attitude, he’s still playing great and he loves it out there. I don’t see him getting burned out or tired, he’s still very eager.”

Sampras on Federer’s chances at Wimbledon. “Listen, he’s a strong favourite, as is Novak, as is Rafa, it’s really, not a lot separates the top three or four guys. At Wimbledon this year you’ve got a few guys who are stepping it up a little bit but when push comes to shove I still like the top three or four guys to be in there in the last weekend. Roger’s been there so many times, he knows what to do. It’s really anyone’s. The top four guys are so much better than the rest it really just comes down to when they play, getting the breaks and playing a little better, feeling better, who’s had the easier first week. But I still like Roger on the grass. He has the best game for the surface, but we’ll see.”

Sampras on Federer breaking his records. “Roger’s very eager, willing to put in the work, is still training very hard and I see him being a contender and a favourite at Wimbledon. I don’t think being No 1 again is as important to him as a Wimbledon would be but obviously everything goes hand in hand. So, I’m used to Roger breaking my records, that’s the way it’s been for a number of years. There’s nothing I can do about it. I would just sit here being impressed at what Roger’s been able to do.

“I know how hard it is to stay on top for many years, and I think it’s easier to have my records broken by a guy who I admire and who I consider a friend. It’ll make it a little bit easier. When we all play, we want to keep our records for ever but we know that records can be broken and most likely will be broken. Roger’s done incredible things on and off the court and really deserves all the accolades of being a great champion.”

Sampras on the influence of Paul Annacone, his former coach, who is now working with Federer. “I think Paul’s very smart. He knows what it’s like to be out there. He coached me for many years, he’s smart with different personalities, what I might want to hear, what Roger might want to hear, or Tim [Henman], for a few years. He’s not a guy who is going to need to tell Roger a lot of things but to have Paul in his corner can help him figure out a few things, like how to play a lefty in Rafa, how to cope with Novak and his speed, try to think of different ways to beat these guys, if it’s coming in a little more, being a little more strategic, because Roger played one way and he was so much better than everyone.

“Now the guys are moving a little better, playing a bit better, he’s got to find new ways. Paul’s very smart, he knows the players. He’s been with Roger quite a while now so he knows what Roger can do and what he can say. It’s been a good fit. I know from talking to Paul, he really likes Roger and enjoys the time they have together, and it’s a good match.”

Sampras on how Annacone stays calm. “He is very relaxed, doesn’t get too wrapped up on anything, and he’s there for you. But when he needs to step up, he’ll step up and say what he has to say, be very honest. But he does it in a very calm demeanour, he’s not a distraction to Roger. When I was playing I never thought, ‘God, he’s scheduling interviews, he’s doing…..’ Paul was about the job and about the player. In a day and age, when you have coaches looking to do other things, looking at other opportunities, Paul was always in my corner and I always liked that loyalty.”

Coming soon on The Tennis Space: Pete Sampras on how Roger Federer needs to approach his matches with Rafael Nadal. 

  • TennisObserver

    Nice words from Pete but looking the way Roger played against Novak in Rome does surprise me he got beaten in the same fashion as in previous matches. You run around your backhand against someone like Novak then you are in for trouble. Hasn’t he (or Paul) realized that?

    • Scambers

      Good point. Interesting thing was when he started to vary his game a bit, at the end, it was working – changing pace, trajectory etc. No question he needs to do that to stand a chance against either Novak or Rafa on clay, and use the drop shot and go forward all the time. Just not easy!

    • Mbelenky

      I think that the challenge that both Djoke and Nadal present motivates Roger. During his peak years he was crashing everyone except Nadal. I think that was great challenge to overcome. It still is, though. But every match is a new try. Roger finally figured out how to play the right way against Nadal. It is now the matter of execution. As for Djoke, Roger still holds winning record against him. That means he knows how to beat him. Problem is, he runs into both of them towards the tail end of tournaments. They are both at their prime and certainly more stamina. That’s where roger gets in trouble: he makes few errant mistakes or drop in level slightly and they pounce on him. At the end it seems like he was playing wrong against them, but it’s not the case. It’s a matter of maintaining form though out the whole match

  • Amit

    I think the adjustment for the backhand which roger is making now is too late. Nadal has become too big to be bothered by it. Maybe he should have done this when he first lost to Nadal at the FO

  • V838mon

    Great interview… Certainly Roger finally making adjustment with backhand (cutting off & being more aggressive on return rather than just trying to slice it back) is not too late, though it certainly would have been better to implement years ago when John McEnroe first commented during their FO matches… Roger’s loss to Djokovic at Rome I believe was primarily of Roger just being tired (evident from the very first point of the match), and in this respect similar to his loss to Roddick in Miami…

  • Anonymous

    If Roger is going to beat Rafa at RG, I believe he will have to turn his consistency against him. Rafa is pretty much 2-3 shot guy. 2-3 shots that he executes extremely well. I only hope that Roger has taken the time to practice (re)turning those shots to his advantage.
    Think tennis is at cross roads right now, between power and execution vs. imagination and variety. I really hope that imagination and variety wins because I can’t see how kids, the future of tennis and everything else, could endure to watch another 5-6 hours of the same two shots being executed (although with pinpoint precision) for hours on end.

  • Asfandyarimtiaz

    we will very soooooon b privilgd to see federer 17