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Sampras: It was Roger's time to win

6/7/2009 - Tennis

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.

"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.