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SI.com, Q&A: PETE SAMPRAS..

angiel
02-16-2007, 05:09 PM
Q&A: Pete Sampras
The Pistol raps on his comeback and Roger Federer
Posted: Thursday February 15, 2007 9:24AM;


http://i.a.cnn.net/si/2007/tennis/01/29/bc.ten.sampras.seniorto.ap/p1_sampras_1222.jpg



Last week Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch interviewed Pete Sampras for the magazine's Q&A. The 35-year-old Hall of Fame tennis player will compete in the Outback Champions Series, an over-30 tour, in Boston from May 2-6. In July he will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. Here are additional excerpts from their conversation.

SI: What has retirement been like for you?

Sampras: Retirement is a work in progress. It's not like you can read a book and figure it out. But I realized in 2005 that I needed to start doing something. I wasn't structured at all. I was kind of waking up, playing golf, not really doing much. When I committed to playing a little tennis in some exhibitions, it was the best thing for me. It got me in shape. It got me out of the house. It got me doing something I love to do.

SI: You've committed to playing two events on this tour. Why return to competitive tennis?

Sampras: I talked to Jim Courier a lot over the past year. He was picking my brain on where I was mentally and whether I wanted to play. I just wanted to give it a shot. There's something about playing an event. It was a process getting to a point where I could commit to it and be excited about it. I'm playing Jim and John McEnroe and guys I played during my years. I'm looking forward to it but I had to get to a pretty good place to commit to it and see how it feels. John and Jim said it was a fun week, a competitive week, but's it not the competition I'm looking for. It's having something to prepare for. I have something to look forward to. I can hit a little more. I can get in a little better shape. It's a combination of all those things that give you a little focus. I's not anything like it used to be but something like it used to be.

SI: What happens if you play at higher level in Boston than you expect? Would you be tempted to keep playing?

Sampras: That's a good question. I'm curious myself as to what it will feel like. I will tell you that in the last months I have been hitting the ball better today then I did when I was playing. A lot of it has to do with technology. I'm using a bigger racket. Technology is taking the game to a new level and the last year or so I have taken advantage of that. I am serving just as hard. I'm hitting the ball with more control. I think my racket head has a lot to do with that.

SI: Say you were offered a wild card at an ATP tournament in the next 18 months, would you consider it?

Sampras: The offer is not the problem. It's the desire for me to do it and the grind of it all. People have mentioned to me: You should come back. There's not many great players today and it would be exciting, and give the sport a real shot in the arm. But they haven't walked a mile in my shoes. Realistically, I only play one way. That's to win. I won't jeopardize that feeling to come back just to come back. It has to be for a reason. My competitive side and curious side, I have thought about it. Realistically, it's not going to happen.

SI: You played against Roger Federer once at Wimbledon 2001.

Sampras: And lost 7-5 in the fifth.

SI: Federer will top out at how many majors?

Sampras: I see him getting to 17, 18 or 19 majors. I really do. Who knows how far he can go? He's winning these majors with pretty much ease. He's not challenged much. He's obviously playing great. If there were three or four guys who were pushing him to five sets or beating him a few times over the past year, then anything could happen on the day. But I just find him with that extra gear that no one can hang with him for a long period of time. He can win 17, 18 or 19 majors. He's in the middle of his career and I don't see him slowing down or anyone slowing him down.

SI: What would be your game plan to beat him?

Sampras: I would try to take his timing away and come in and use my serve and aggressive style. He does great things when guys stay back and he can kind of dictate from the back court. I would not want to get into many exchanges like that. I'd try to come in, attack his second serve, really just try to take his rhythm away. That's what I tried to do against all the great baseliners like Courier and Andre Agassi. I would try to overwhelm them with my power and shot-making ability. So I would serve and volley on both serves. I would attack his backhand, which is his weaker side, and go from there. Unfortunately, we don't have anyone who can do that today so he can out-athletic these guys from the back court because of what he can do on the run. Nobody is looking to come in and I think that's the way to beat him.

SI: Would you be okay with Federer passing your Grand Slam majors record?

Sampras: Sure, you would love to have that record but it's true: Records are made to be broken. Players are better today and I believe Roger is going to break my record, Tiger Woods is going top break Jack Nicklaus' record and Barry Bonds is going to break Hank Aaron's record. Unfortunately for me, Roger would only have given me the record for about eight years. But I don't believe in not rooting for him. I've never believed in that. I believe the record will be broken and the person who will break it is a phenomenal player. He is someone who I would want to see do it because I think he is a credit to the game. I think he's a nice guy. He handles himself well on and off the court. He has good temperament there. Those are the things I like in an athlete. He doesn't transcend the sport because of where we are today and all the controversy people want.

SI: When is the last time you spoke with Federer?

Sampras: I talked to him a few days after the Open. I sent him a text to congratulate him. Then we spoke a little bit after that. We had some people who were curious about putting together an exhibition. It ended up not working out but we talked a little about the exhibition and in general. I told him, "Look, I don't know you well but want to tell you I respect your game, the way you handle yourself and that you are credit to the game." I think he gets respect from the media and the fans and I wanted him to know that I was a part of that.

SI: Who do you think is the more dominant athlete: Tiger Woods or Federer?

Sampras: Good question. As far as pure domination, it's hard to say because I find golf harder to dominate than tennis. For Tiger to do what he has done, he has to worry about a field of players but he's not as much in control of how it goes compared to Roger. For Roger, it's just one on one. He has to worry about seven guys and seven guys only. Tiger has to worry about some floater guy shooting 62. Tiger is not as much in control so it tells you what Tiger has done might be more impressive. But at the same time Roger has lost like five matches in the last 18 months. Something ridiculous like that. It's hard to say whether tennis is harder to dominate than golf. I think a lot more crazier things can happen in golf than tennis so I'd lean a little toward Tiger but at the same time Roger has won more than Tiger.

SI: How often do you talk to Andre Agassi?

Sampras: I talked to him a little after the U.S. Open. He invited my wife and me to his foundation dinner so we went and talked and hung out. We promised each other we would stay in touch. I think we have been through too much together and do get along quite well. We both have a wife and two kids. We have a lot in common at this stage in our lives.

SI: Would you describe you and Agassi as friends today?

Sampras: I would. Not anything where we stay in touch week to week, but if he were ever in L.A. or I were in Las Vegas, I think we would reach out to one another just to get together or have our kids play. The great thing that happened with us is that everything we went through, completing for major titles, I think we came out better friends than when we went into it. It's a credit to who we are and what we represent.

SI: How much tennis memorabilia do you own?

Sampras: I have some trophies and eight of my old St. Vincent Wilson racquets. That's about it. I have the net at Wimbledon when I broke the record. But it's in storage [laughs].

SI: Have you ever looked up your wife's (actress Bridgette Wilson-Sampras) page on the IMDb Web site?

Sampras: Absolutely. And I've Googled her.

SI: Before or after you were married?

Sampras: After [laughs].

SI: The one stroke from any player in history you would like to borrow for one match?

Sampras: How about Goran Ivanisevic's serve? On grass. That was pretty rough.

SI: You can be one other athlete for one day, whom do you choose and why?

Sampras: If I could pick anyone I would say Michael Jordan, hitting his last-second shot against Utah in Game Six of the 1998 NBA Finals. That was a great moment and he did in Utah, which was even sweeter.

SI: What's a typical day like for you these days?

Sampras: I'll get up either 7 or 8 and spend some time with my kids before they go to pre-school. Then at 10 to 11 I'll go to the gym and lift some weights or do a run. I might play golf from noon to 4 or 5. Then I'll get back and spend a few hours with my kids before they go to bed. That's kind of a typical day. But I do hit the tennis ball three days a week, maybe from 1:30 to 3. Twice a week I play basketball. I have a little hoop at my house so I'll bring eight guys over to play a little four-on-four. That's a great workout. And I play poker in a home game once a week. I spend a lot of time with my kids. I like taking my older son out to lunch. We go to Beverly Hills to have lunch and we have that time together.

SI: You'll be enshrined in the Hall of Fame in July. Have you started on your speech?

Sampras: I have not started on the speech, but I am thinking about ideas and things I want to say. For me, it's kind of thanking everyone that got me to this point. I'll talk about how I looked at my tennis, different coaches, my family and wife. I have not officially put something down on paper but I want to talk about what the sport meant to me and how I looked at the sport.

SI: Can you go as long as you want?

Sampras: You can as long as you want. I see something like five to 10 minutes.

SI: That seems short.

Sampras: They told me Jimmy Connors did something for 5 to 10 minutes and McEnroe did 40, which is a little long. I want something short and sweet so I can nail some important points.

SI: Would you and your wife ever consider posing for the SI Swimsuit Issue?

Sampras: I don't know. Maybe it's not for us [laughs].

SI: I know you believe Roger will win the French Open. What would that win mean for his career?

Sampras: It would complete it, and not that it's not already complete today. But he was born and raised on clay. The closest I came to clay as a kid was Play-Doh. It was foreign to me. I think his game suits clay pretty well. So I think it is just a matter of time. It's tough because there are really a lot more good clay-court players today then there were 10 years ago. It will be as challenging as it was for me but I think he's more comfortable on clay because he grew up on it.

SI: If we were to ask your friends to describe you in a sentence, what would they say?

Sampras: Kind of a dry sense of humor, sarcastic, a little guarded at first, but once you break that barrier, he's friendly.

SI: Justin Gimelstob wrote a column for SI.com saying he thought you were playing today at a level as high as anyone except Federer.

Sampras: We were talking about the game and the sport. James Blake is No. 6 in the world and I wonder what it would be like to play him at this stage of my life if he gave me a few months to prepare. The serve is something that I still possess and I felt pretty hard to break.

SI: You are 35 -- not that old.

Sampras: It is true. Look at what guys are playing with today. It is crazy the amount of power a guy like Fernando Gonzalez can get from that racket. It has made mediocre players better and it has made the great players that much better. It's something I'll always think about.

SI: Have you ever played golf with Tiger?

Sampras: No, just a few hands of black jack. We were in Las Vegas doing an interview for ESPN and we played black jack and had dinner together.

SI: Anyone our readers would know who plays in your home poker game?

Sampras: Dan Harrington.

SI: The Dan Harrington?

Sampras: Action Dan himself. He's a really nice guy, very smart. We talk a little tennis, and his poker days.

SI: Is it intimidating to play him?

Sampras: I kind of stay away from him when we get into pots. I try to stay clear of him but sometimes you run into him.

SI: Who was the most fun person to make fun of on tour?

Sampras: I was always friendly with Tim Henman. I'd say we'd ribbed each other. I was close to him. I think someone like Gimelstob, I was just mean to in a fun way [laughs].

SI: You and your wife have each now had a Q&A in this space. That probably ranks up there with seven Wimbledons, right?

Sampras: Thanks [laughs]. That is cool.

SI: Is there anyone you have always wanted to meet that you have yet to meet?

Sampras: There's not anyone I am dying to meet. I finally got to meet someone I was in awe of and that was Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. I'm a huge Pearl Jam fan. I got a chance to to talk to him before a concert. I've met a lot of different people in all walks of life, from sportsman to actors, but he was someone throughout my years, he was a person I wanted to meet.

SI: Could you name every film your wife has appeared in?

Sampras: I can now. When we were first going out, there were some I did not know of. And I know she was in Saved by the Bell. Give me some time and I can think of all of them.

Greg-Pete fan
02-16-2007, 05:50 PM
What a great interviev:worship: Pete talks about his family, his kids, about Bridgette, even Roger and Andre... Wonderful:worship:

angiel
02-27-2007, 05:54 PM
This is an old Interview from Pete Sampras.


March, 2006
SAMPRAS IS BACK!
By Paul Fein


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More than 3 1/2 years after he climaxed a storybook career by conquering archrival Andre Agassi in the U.S. Open final, tennis legend Pete Sampras is back. He isn't making a full-fledged return to the pro tour like ambitious Martina Hingis, or even a brief foray like ageless John McEnroe. Instead, the player many experts extol as "the greatest ever," has merely gotten the itch to compete a bit and will play an exhibition in Houston and a few World TeamTennis matches.

I chatted with Sampras, 34 and married with children, to find out what he's been doing since he retired, how he plans to spend the next few years, and what he thinks of the pro game and stars today.


Why have you decided to end your 3 1/2-year retirement?

I want to do something more fulfilling than just play golf and do some recreational things. After I retired, I needed a couple years to decompress to get away from the game, and last year I thought about what would be next for me. I was just floating along and decided that there are some opportunities to play some exhibitions. The chance to play a one-night exhibition in Houston in April came up. Then I'm going to play World TeamTennis in July, which is a little more taxing. I'm excited about playing and getting back into shape.

How have you spent your time since you retired?

I had a little fun. I did a little traveling with my wife and kids. We went to Mexico a few times. I got my golf game a little better; my handicap is probably a 4. I also played some pick-up basketball games with my friends. [Former touring pro] Alex O'Brien and I set up a game at my house once a week to stay in shape and have fun. I went to some [Los Angeles] Lakers games. They had a couple championship runs, which was fun. I got into the poker craze. I spent lots of time with my family, changing diapers and that kind of stuff. That was obviously a shock to my system compared with the [pro tennis] lifestyle I had before. That's why I'm looking to get back into tennis a little at my own pace.

Please tell me about Christian and Ryan and the best part about being a father.

The best part about being a father is the unconditional love they have for me and my wife. I'm their dad and they love me, but not because I'm the tennis player. What's also great is the bonding experience and seeing them grow and having fun with them. They test you a little bit as they get older. Christian is about 3 1/2 now, and Ryan is about eight months. Christian and I have been on the tennis court hitting balls and on the golf course and the driving range hitting balls. He's an active kid and has a lot of energy. So he keeps us both pretty busy.

Does Christian have a lot of athletic talent?

He's already got pretty good hand-eye coordination. He can hit a golf ball. He kicks the soccer ball straight. He runs well. He has some pretty good athletic genes.

So you think Christian can handle Jaden Agassi on the tennis court?

We'll know in about 20 years. (Laughter)

During the past 3 1/2 years, what did you miss most about the pro tour?

I missed the competition. I missed the structured life, having a focus, waking up in the morning and having a set schedule. When you don't have that … for the first year I loved it because I didn't have to worry about anything. But after a while, I felt a little unfulfilled at times. I miss being in shape. I miss the focus of being competitive. I miss the majors [Grand Slam tournaments].

What about your rivalry with Andre Agassi?

Yeah, I miss those exciting moments. I miss walking out for that last [2002] U.S. Open final and the [1999] Wimbledon final we played. There's no question I miss that. At the same time I knew it was time for me to move on. And my heart wasn't into it anymore, and it was time for me to retire. There's no doubt when the majors come and go I miss [not playing there] the final weekend ― no matter who I played. But obviously Andre was more special than the rest.

Apparently, you didn't miss playing tennis that much until recently, though, because in his Sports Illustrated blog, Justin Gimelstob wrote that you told him that when you started practicing with him recently it was only the fourth time you had played since you retired.

Yeah, that's right. Now that I'm playing Houston, I needed to start hitting some balls and get my arm and body in shape. So I called Justin up and started hitting two or three days a week for the last couple weeks.

So, are you going to start training more seriously now?

No, not anything that's going to kill myself. I just want to get my body, especially my arm, in shape to go out and play an exhibition. It's good for me to get back into doing something I'm pretty good at ― rather than trying to play golf.

How well are you actually playing now?

Pretty good!

It's amazing. You're playing only two or three times a week after 3 1/2 years off and you're playing pretty well.

The hitting part is the easy part. The moving and the serving and volleying is going to take some time to get my body used to the stopping and starting and all that.

After they retire, tennis champions often commentate on TV, coach or play the senior 35 tour. Which of these do you plan to do?

I've been asked to do commentating, but I haven't gotten into that at the moment. I have no interest in coaching now. If it's the right place, I might be interested in playing more, so that would be the front-runner if I do any of the three.

I read you have invested in the Indian Wells pro tournament. Please tell me about that.

I've invested in Indian Wells to make sure the tournament stays in the U.S. because it's such a great event. I've worked with George Mackin through Tennis magazine, and I'm part owner of that. He put together an investment group [including Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Miller Publishing Group and the USTA], and he asked me if I wanted to invest, and I said, "Sure." I'm interested in getting involved in the business side of tennis. And becoming a part owner of a business is something I've always wanted to do.

Is there anything else on your business agenda?

I'm trying to put an event of my own together in the L.A. area at the end of the year. It could be a round-robin invitational with four to six players. I'm working with IMG [International Management Group] to put it together.

At age 24, your achievements and Federer's ― such as seven Grand Slam titles and three Wimbledon titles ― are almost identical. How would the Roger Federer of 2006 fare against the Pete Sampras of 1996 on grass, hard courts and clay?

That's a tough question. On grass and hard courts, it would be an even pick. On clay … I actually did OK on clay at the beginning of my career … but he might be a slight favorite on the dirt. He grew up playing on the dirt more than I did. It's hard to compare because I feel I improved from '96 to 2002. I would have beaten Roger sometimes and lost to him sometimes. It would have been great tennis. Unfortunately, we just missed each other by a few years, but I played him just that one time [losing in the 2001 Wimbledon fourth round]. And he was even very good back then.

You're pretty modest.

I'm being honest. I know he's a great player. I feel there's no one I can't beat in the future or in the past in the game. But Roger also has the game to give me a lot of problems. It would have been a very good clash.

Of all your most important all-time records ― 14 Grand Slam titles, seven Wimbledon titles, and six straight years ranked No. 1 ― which ones are the most unbreakable by Federer and any future superstars?

The most difficult record to break will probably be the 14 major titles. I really think Federer will break the No. 1 record just because he's so much more dominant than everyone else. I don't see anyone really challenging him for a whole year. Unless he gets injured or has a major slip-up, I don't see anyone overtaking him consistently. He's halfway to the Grand Slam record, and guys are getting a little bit better, and they'll push him a little more in the majors. He'll go through lulls like we all do. But the [total] Slams will be a little tougher to break than the No. 1 record.

When you are described as "the greatest player in tennis history," what goes through your mind?

It's flattering. I don't know if it's necessarily true. At the top of my game, I was very tough to beat. It's very difficult to compare the [different] generations between myself and [Rod] Laver and [Bjorn] Borg. I never liked doing it. The game in the 1990s and 2000s was probably tougher than it was in the 1960s. But, that said, you [still] can't compare the eras. So I don't look at it as tennis having one dominant player of all time. I'm in the Top 3 with Laver and Borg, and probably also Federer when he's done.

So the various articles that analyze why your record is the greatest ever haven't convinced you.

They make a lot of good points, and I appreciate the compliment. But I'm just too modest to tell you that I'm the greatest ever. It's a big statement. I feel there were moments that I played the game that I was unbeatable. But you can't be 100 percent sure how I would do against Laver or Borg or Federer.

Roger Federer is often compared to you for various reasons. But since he served and volleyed to win Wimbledon in 2003, he's become a baseliner. How are you and Roger similar and different as players?

Our temperaments, our business-like attitude are similar. Our laid-back natures are as close as you can find. I've seen him be a little more temperamental than I was, but he's usually very stoical. We both move very well and make tennis look easy. We play a little bit differently. My volley was better, and my serve may have been a little more powerful, and I served and volleyed more. I'm more of an attacking player, whereas Roger is attacking from the baseline, looking to get to the net. His forehand and backhand are slightly better, but they have to be because he plays so many points from the backcourt.

Rafael Nadal now boasts a 3-1 career record against Federer after beating him in Dubai. Do you think Nadal, who is 19 and will likely keep improving, will dethrone Federer this year or next year?

I haven't seen much of Nadal, and I haven't seen them play. But I've heard he's very physically gifted and a fit guy and he's got a lot of energy. I just think it takes Nadal a lot more energy to play great than it does Roger. To get to the final of a major, Nadal has to work really hard, whereas Federer can ease his way into it. I don't know if Nadal has enough game ― enough firepower from the backcourt and when he serves ― to dethrone Federer. On clay, Nadal is better, but on hard courts I like Federer, and on grass Federer is obviously much better. I know Nadal has beaten Federer on hard courts, but if they play ten matches on hard court, Federer will win seven or eight of them. I could be wrong. I've been known to be wrong before.

In retrospect, your heroic, almost-single-handed Davis Cup final triumph in Moscow on clay in 1995 looks better and better ― because America hasn't won the Davis Cup since then. What are your memories and comments about that great victory?

I remember going into that week not sure if I was playing singles or doubles or what was going on. We were all assuming Andre [Agassi] was going to play. He did not play. So I was thrown in there. I was emotionally drained by Tim's [Gullikson, his coach and close friend] sickness. And I wasn't in great shape. It had been a long year, and the final was in December.

I played a grueling match against [Andrei] Chesnokov and cramped up at the end [and had to be carried off the court]. Tom [Gullikson, the Davis Cup captain] wanted me to play the doubles. That went well. And then I won it [clinched the final] against [Yevgeny] Kafelnikov in front of a tough crowd, 17,000 Russians. For grit and determination to get me through those tough three days, it was one of my best achievements. I'm proud of what I did.

Will the tennis world ever again see a serve-and-volleyer of your supreme class again? And if it doesn't, is this a great loss for the sport?

Yeah, it is a great loss that the serve-and-volley game has gone away. But you need to be really good at serving and volleying to be effective. You need to have a big serve and back it up with a solid volley. I don't see anyone really consistently doing it. Federer could do it, but he chooses to stay back. So the art of serving and volleying is pretty much extinct. Look at Wimbledon now. Everyone is staying back and trading rocks [powerful groundstrokes] at each other. I miss serving and volleying, and the clash of a guy coming in against a guy staying back.

Should the leaders of our sport do something to rectify this great loss?

I don't know what they can do. If the guys are growing up playing on clay in Europe and South America, it's tough to teach them to serve and volley. It takes a lot of risk, and it's safer to stay back and just hit forehands and backhands than learn how to serve and volley.

The hot topic now is electronic line-calling, instant replay, and player challenges. Are you in favor of some or all of the above?

I'm in favor of electronic line-calling. When you're playing for major titles, you want the peace of mind of getting the right call. I think it's tricky how you do it because if you get a serve that hits the line, and someone calls it out, does that mean you replay the point? Or is it an ace? There's a gray area that they're going to have to figure out.

If you have a photo of where the ball actually lands shown on a big screen in the stadium, on television, and on the chair umpire's computer, would it be bizarre if the player doesn't challenge calls when everyone knows he should, and vice versa?

Right. Why wouldn't the chair umpire, who has the TV monitor there, just call it in or out, instead of [having] the challenges? I think they're trying to bring some interest into it, like they do in football. We'll see how it works in Miami [at the Nasdaq-100 Open].

Arlen Kantarian, USTA Chief Executive/Professional Tennis, recently predicted that pro tennis will change more in the next three to five years than it has changed in the last 25 years. What is your reaction to that?

What sells tennis in the U.S. is a [big] rivalry. That transcends the sport and brings mainstream sports fans into tennis. With Federer dominating and being from Switzerland, that isn't great for the TV ratings here. But if you have a rivalry that people can cling to ― like myself and Andre ― people are really into it. I know Arlen is trying to do it [popularize tennis] from a business approach with the U.S. Open and with the Summer Series.

But the players and the matches are what really sell the sport. I guarantee you that if you have Federer and Andre in the Wimbledon final this year ― it doesn't matter what they do from the business side ― people are going to watch. I don't know what Arlen's changes are, but ultimately it comes down to who is playing the finals at the majors.

Do you think Federer vs. Nadal could be that great rivalry?

We need an American. The American media and the American fans have always had the best. And they expect the best. And they want at least one American in the finals of the majors. If not, there's not as much interest.

Mats Wilander recently called former world No. 1 Andy Roddick "an ordinary player now." What would you advise Andy to do to regain his terrific 2003 form?

Andy is working very hard to improve, but it's just not transferring to the court. The other guys are getting better, and he's maybe stayed the same. He needs to back up his serve with a bit of a net game. But you don't learn that overnight. He keeps playing the same way: he bombs his serve and tries to set up the point for his forehand.

I would have him play more doubles so he'd get more comfortable at net and learn how to half-volley and scramble at net. He has to add a little bit to his game because the last thing you want to be is predictable. The guys know that if they can get his serve back they have a pretty good chance to win the point. But if he came to net a little more and mixed it up, he'd keep these guys honest [off-balance]. At the same time, I'm not sure he has the ability to be a net player.

What can be done to improve Roddick's court positioning because he plays so far behind the baseline, which hurts him offensively and defensively?

He plays so far back because he hits the ball with a lot of topspin. Andre, with his short, compact strokes, can stand on the baseline. Andy has that long swing like [1980s champion Ivan] Lendl, so he can't hit it on the rise. Maybe Andy needs to change his stroke and hit the ball a little flatter and try to use Andre as a model and look to come in, rather than hope the other guy misses.

James Blake, 26, has played great tennis at times during the past seven months. Does he have what it takes to win a Grand Slam title?

James showed me a lot at last year's U.S. Open where he should have beaten Andre [in their sensational quarterfinal] and maybe gotten to the final. Obviously Federer, and maybe [David] Nalbandian, may be a touch better than James. But he's improved a lot, and he's healthy, and he's having fun again. He's got a great game and he moves well and he has a good attitude out there. He could do it if things, like a good draw, fall into place for him.

If you were in charge of the USTA junior development program, how would you help our young talent fulfill their potential?

I would try to create a couple of training centers, one on the West Coast and one on the East Coast and get the best juniors and the best teachers there so they learn the right technique. And instead of having 100 kids, I'd have 10 really good kids and really try to make them into champions. I did it by having different specialists work on different strokes. The USTA is not going to make a champion. They can help and provide certain things. But ultimately it comes down to how many people are playing tennis in the U.S. and how popular tennis is compared to basketball, baseball and football because a lot of athletic kids get involved in those sports. And tennis training has to start at a very early stage.

What is your opinion of the ATP's adoption of No-Ad scoring and tiebreakers in lieu of deciding sets in doubles at all its tournaments?

I don't like it. They should keep the scoring system the same. You don't screw around with the tradition of scoring that has proven itself and done fine for more than 100 years. You can't increase tennis's popularity by changing its scoring system. Popularity comes down to players and matches and great rivalries. People weren't talking about changing the scoring when I was playing Andre in the Wimbledon final. You can't panic. You have to be patient. Then, hopefully, you'll get some great matches, memorable matches that people can talk about for years.

Andre Agassi reached the 2005 U.S. Open final at age 35, and he turns 36 in April 29th. Does his success and longevity surprise you considering he started playing on the pro tour at age 16?

Not really. Andre is a great player. He's kept himself in great shape. The fact that he had some up-and-down years early on has been the reason he's been able to keep it [his career] going well into his 30s. He's still very fit and hungry, and he still has the ability and more experience than anyone out there. This year will be interesting because he's had some injuries, and the other guys are getting better. This could be a telling year for him.

What do you think of Bjorn Borg whose financial problems force him to sell his Wimbledon trophies and Donnay rackets in an auction in June?

When I read it, I was sad. Five Wimbledon trophies are something that billionaires don't have and presidents don't have. You're proud of them every time you look at them. And if he's in such a financial position that he has to let them go, then he must be in dire straits.

What is your opinion of The Tennis Channel?

It has a pro tournament or two on almost every week. Just as golf junkies have the Golf Channel, now it's great that tennis junkies, who love tennis, can see all the tournaments around the world on The Tennis Channel. I'm excited about that.

Anna Correale, a longtime member of SamprasFanz (which has more than 1,000 members) from East Hanover, New Jersey, asks: Does Pete realize the large and devoted fan base he has, even three years after his retirement? And how does he feel about his fans?

I appreciate my fans and am very flattered that after I retired SamprasFanz has shown me such support. I look forward to playing again later in the year, so we all have something to look forward to.