© Ella Ling

Miami 2012 - Novak 2

Pete Sampras exclusive: My take on the big four

   
Pete Sampras talks to The Tennis Space about the Big Four:
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Sampras on Novak Djokovic: “I’ve spent some time with Novak, and he’s a good, solid guy. I had dinner with him in LA last year, and he wanted to know how I was able to stay at the top for so long. He was curious about that. I told him that I kept everything as simple as possible. I didn’t get involved with too many promotional or commercial things. I didn’t say or do much, because I wanted my focus to be on playing. I also didn’t want a big entourage. I just wanted the same good people around him, and didn’t want to waste energy. That was my comfort zone, just keeping it simple and having the same small group around me. I think Novak took that on board. Everyone is different, and different things work for different people, and I know he’s involved with a few things. I came away from that dinner very impressed with him. I came away thinking that Novak isn’t just playing for himself, but he feels as though he’s representing a whole country and trying to bring hope. He saw the war, he’s seen the dirt. He’s going to be in his prime for the next three or four years. He’s in the right place. Mentally, he’s a rock now. Maybe three years ago, he used to let things get to him, but that doesn’t happen anymore. The mental change has been the biggest change, but he’s also improved his serve and other parts of his game.”
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Sampras on Roger Federer: “Roger is going to carry on being Roger this year, trying to get back to No 1 once more and to win another major. He’s going to have another solid year. We keep in touch, checking in with each other every couple of months, going back and forth, and talking about kids. At 31, I had had enough of the travel and the lifestyle, but at 31 Roger loves the lifestyle and being out there on the tour and that’s great.”
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Sampras on Andy Murray: “All the pressure is off now. He beat Roger at the Olympics, and then he won his first slam, which is always the hardest one, and answered all his critics. He’s going to be much more relaxed now. He can just go out there and play. One of the best things you can have in tennis is a short memory, and that’s what Murray has now. He’s still intense, but he used to be more  temperamental and to let things bother him, and you would see him getting upset at himself, or at his box, but now he seems to have learnt how to move on after a couple of bad shots. To forget about it. If you lose your cool or your concentration for even five minutes against the top guys, you’re going to lose the set. He seems to have everything in place now, and the coaching set-up with Lendl looks to be working well. He used to be a contender at grand slams, but now he’s more than that, he’s a favourite. He doesn’t turn up to slams now looking to get to the final, he goes there looking to win. I could see him finishing the year as the world No 1. There’s a chance of that. Like Djokovic, he’s going to be in his prime for a few years now. I see him winning multiple majors.”
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Sampras on Rafa Nadal: “He’s missed. He might not be missed by the players, but he’s missed by tennis people and by the fans. He’s going about things the right way by returning at a clay-court tournament in South America, as he knows clay like the back of his hand, and the field in South America probably won’t be that strong so he could win the tournament. But there’s something missing in Melbourne. He’s great for the sport, and everyone wants to see him back at the top again.”
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Sampras on doping: “I think tennis is a clean sport. There have been a handful of players – just a few – who have tested positive, but I believe they have just been exceptions. I just don’t think tennis players will go down that road of trying to get an edge, as it’s not in the culture. It was in the culture of cycling, and Lance Armstrong went along with that, but I just don’t see tennis players doing that. It’s not in their nature trying to get an edge that way. Arsmtrong has disappointed a lot of people and let a lot of people down. I thought he did as well as he could during the interview.”