Re: PETE SAMPRAS RETURNS TO PRO TENNIS WITH WTT DEBUT THIS SUMMER
AP Exclusive: Sampras calls Federer comparisons 'very valid'
All those comparisons between Roger Federer and Pete Sampras are
right on the mark. Sampras himself says so.
"They're all very valid: Not only is he winning majors, but the way
he's winning them -- with pretty much ease. He's pretty much the
favorite in every major for the rest of his career," Sampras said in
a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
"Clearly, he's head and shoulders above the rest. I don't see anyone
pushing him over the next three or four years."
Sampras knows his record of 14 Grand Slam tournament titles could
very well be threatened by Federer, who has seven so far. Time for
the 34-year-old Sampras to come out of retirement and try to add to
his total? Not quite.
Sampras is returning to the tennis court, though, signing up for the
World Team Tennis Pro League more than three years after his last
"This is more about just getting myself a little busier and focused
on something I used to be good at," he said ahead of Wednesday's
announcement by the league. "It's time this year to do a little
more. Last year, I was kind of floating along."
His last professional match was the 2002 U.S. Open final, when he
beat longtime rival Andre Agassi. As much as he says he's looking
forward to playing in the WTT, Sampras made one thing quite clear:
Don't call it a comeback.
"I miss playing the game. I miss the majors. I miss competing. But
to play at the level I used to play is a whole other animal. I've
done that, and I know what it takes," he told the AP. "Me playing a
little tennis this year is something I can control; there isn't any
pressure. I can relax and have a little fun. Coming back is not
something that crossed my mind."
While it's tough for him to watch Wimbledon, where he won seven
championships, Sampras keeps tabs on the game.
And he's impressed by the top-ranked Federer.
"He moves great, does everything very well. He's gotten to a point
that when he's not at his best, he's finding ways to win, and that
separates him from the rest," Sampras said, a moment before making
sure to bolster his own credentials a tad.
"There are less great players today than there was when I was
playing," he continued. "I just see him carrying on with what he's
been doing. He's got the whole package. He doesn't have any holes in
Federer has won Wimbledon three years in a row, and he's won the
past three majors: Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open.
The Swiss star heads to the French Open in May with a chance to
complete a Grand Slam, albeit not in a calendar year.
The French Open is the only major Federer hasn't won; Sampras never
made it past the semifinals at Roland Garros.
"Clay will be the toughest surface for Roger," Sampras said. "If
things go right, if the weather's right, I think he can win it."
Sampras has never played in the WTT, a 12-team league that in recent
years has featured such stars as Agassi, Steffi Graf, John McEnroe,
Martina Navratilova, Andy Roddick and Venus Williams. Sampras will
be chosen by a team in the March 28 draft and expects to play about
a half-dozen matches during the July 6-26 regular season.
WTT co-founder Billie Jean King unsuccessfully tried to persuade
Sampras to participate in the league while he was on tour.
"He's definitely someone that we wanted," WTT commissioner Ilana
Kloss said. "We're just thrilled that Pete's going to be back out
there, and fans will get an opportunity to see him again."
Sampras also will be appearing in an exhibition match at Houston in
April. He said he's thought about working as a TV commentator, but
he's not interested in coaching.
"When you retire, you take time away, you don't want to have
anything to do with tennis. After two years of having fun and not
doing much in the sport, you get a little bored and want to know
what's the next chapter in your life. Last year was a turning point -
- 'What am I going to do next?' -- and I had to make a decision,"
"Playing in front of some people -- you kind of look forward to it a
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