Exclusive Pete Sampras interview: Sampras tells The Tennis Space that Roger Federer needs to avoid getting down on himself, and “digging himself a hole”, when he plays Rafael Nadal. Sampras also argues that Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray could challenge Nadal at this season’s French Open.
Sampras on the mental dynamic of Federer’s matches against Nadal: “It seems Roger gets a little discouraged if what he’s trying isn’t working. It seems like he starts to press a little bit, starts to miss a little bit. Rafa’s one of those players that, his level will stay the same the whole match, he just plays one speed, one way. If Roger plays really well, I think he beats Rafa; I think if he plays pretty well, I think Rafa beats him. I just think, you can’t take any time off against Rafa.
“You can’t lose your composure, you can’t be frustrated, because the next thing you know you’ll be down break point. Roger’s game is suited against Rafa because he flattens it out, he is willing to come in, he mixes it up, changes the speed and I think, it just seems like if there’s a five-minute span in the match, Rafa’s going to be right there and Roger can get a little bit down, you can sort of dig yourself a bit of a hole. I’ve seen that happen a little bit. But listen, I am a huge fan of those two guys, and it’s a pleasure watching them play.”
Sampras on Nadal’s domination of the French Open: “I see it pretty much the same as every year. I think Roger’s definitely one of the favourites. Rafa’s the strong favourite, Novak is a favourite and I think Murray has definitely stepped up. Even though clay might not be his favourite surface I think he is still a contender.
“Then you have some of the young guys coming up, Raonic is showing some promise, he can play on clay, obviously you have the clay-court specialists in David Ferrer – not sure he has the firepower to win it. If I was a betting man I’d put it on Rafa just because of his experience, he’s won it so many times, but with Roger and Novak just slightly behind them. It’s really anyone’s, but if push comes to shove, I’d have to pick Rafa.”