Commentary

Sampras: It was Roger's time to win

Originally Published: June 7, 2009
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

PARIS -- It was an early morning for Pete Sampras in California.

When the French Open final between Roger Federer and Robin Soderling began half a world away, it was about 6 a.m. at Sampras' home in Los Angeles.

Less than two hours later, he was no longer the exclusive holder of the most Grand Slam singles titles by a man. After Federer beat Soderling in straight sets, Federer and Sampras each have 14 major championships.

According to Sampras' agent, Grant Chen, Sampras watched the match at home Sunday.

Road To The Record Book

Roger Federer tied Pete Sampras for the most Grand Slam titles with 14. Here's how the two match up:

Federer Sampras
Age at 14th major title 27 years, 303 days 31 years, 27 days
Slam finals record 14-5 14-4
Slams before winning 14th 40 52
Overall record 650-155 762-222
Titles 59 64
Total weeks at No. 1 237 286

"I followed [Federer's] results and saw some highlights," Sampras said in quotes provided by the ATP World Tour. "People were saying that he was struggling, but as great players normally do, they find a way to win.

"I believe in destiny, and it was Roger's time to win in Paris."

Sampras is 37 years old now, and it's been nearly seven years since he won his final major at the 2002 U.S. Open. He lives a quiet life now with his wife, actress Bridgette Wilson, and spends a lot of time playing golf and chasing his two sons, Christian, 6, and Ryan, 3.

When he retired, Sampras thought his record was safe for longer than seven years.

"I didn't think it would only take seven years to tie it," Sampras admitted. "It feels like I'm in good company with Roger. If there was someone I would want to be tied with and maybe one day my record to be broken, I hoped it would be someone like Roger."

How many majors will Federer wind up with?

"It's hard to put a number on it," Sampras said. "But now -- I know it's a different sport -- he might have his eyes on [Jack] Nicklaus' 18 Grand Slams record."

Federer has now reached 15 of the last 16 Grand Slam finals; Sampras reached a total of 18 finals. "It's incredible," Sampras said. "I never would have thought that some one would be as consistent as Lendl's eight consecutive U.S. Open finals. But this surpasses it, and to do it on all surfaces, it's a reflection of his game and his career."

Sampras was asked how he would have fared if he had played in Federer's era.

"I think I would have had my fair share of wins, and he would have had his fair share of wins," Sampras said. "We have similar temperaments and contrasting styles of play, which would have made for a great rivalry.

"Our rivalry potentially would have transcended the sport."

Will Sampras come back to Wimbledon -- for the first time since losing there in 2002 -- if Federer reaches the final and is on the cusp of breaking his record?

That is TBD.

Greg Garber

Writer, Reporter
Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.