Pete Sampras will face fellow former world No. 1 Thomas Muster in the round-robin stages of the BlackRock Tour of Champions in Sao Paulo, Brazil this week, Sampras’ debut on the European senior tour.
In his round-robin group Sampras will also face-offf against Brazil’s Fernando Meligeni and German Marc-Kevin Goellner at the hardcourt event.
“I have only been here only for a day, but as far as I can see, Sao Paulo is a beautiful big city,” said Sampras, who is also-making his first-ever trip to a South American event. “I will probably be a little rusty in the first couple of matches, because I injured my back some weeks ago, but I can see myself as one of the favorites.”
In the opposing round-robin group are former No. 1 Marcelo Rios, Jaime Yzaga, Andrei Cherkasov and Jaime Oncins, making for a likely Sampras vs. Rios final. Sampras beat Rios in both of their ATP career meetings, edging the Chilean in three sets in 2001 at Stuttgart, and beating him in straight sets on clay at the French Open in 1994.
Sampras also revealed he would like to be present when (and if?) Roger Federer finally breaks his record of 14 career Grand Slam titles.
“There is a burning desire in Roger to break my record, and when he does it I would like to be there,” Sampras told the BlackRock Tour of Champions. “I told Roger to just make sure it’s in New York or London! Australia is a long way to go! If it worked out like that, I would fly there. I would just let him enjoy it as it’s his moment but (I would want to be there) just to respect the record and what he was able to do and to just say ‘congratulations.’”
Sampras said he would like to see Federer break the record at Wimbledon next year.
“I think if I were to step back on that court at Wimbledon it would bring up a lot of emotion,” Sampras said. “Just because of what the place meant to me and how big it was to the sport of tennis. It was such an important place to me as an athlete, it was our Superbowl. It had such a big effect on me as a kid and seeing Borg and McEnroe play and seeing Becker win there at 17 and 18, it had a huge effect on me. Now, at 36 years old, to go back there with my kids one day would be very emotional. As much as I’m a full-blooded American and I love the US Open, there’s just a certain romance that I’ve always had with Wimbledon. I didn’t always express it with words but I think internally I just felt a great connection with the place, the court and the arena. I felt like that was what tennis was all about for me and I look forward to going back and enjoying that experience.”
Sampras says that despite Federer’s recent results and the media criticism, the Swiss is not on the decline.
“He’s created this monster of winning so many tournaments and so many majors and doing it with ease,” Sampras said. “As great as Roger is he’s going to have his losses and his bad days, it’s just human nature to go through some lulls. The media need a story and something to grab onto, like he’s lost his edge. He hasn’t lost his edge. If he goes through the next few months and he’s losing a lot and he doesn’t contend for tournaments then maybe but I don’t see that happening. I think when push comes to shove in the majors, he’s still the guy that’s most likely to win them. He’s lost a couple and if anything that’ll do him some good, it’ll get him going and fired up. He’ll be just fine.”
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