Sampras names Federer as greatest
PARIS -- Pete Sampras already figured Roger Federer would go down as the greatest tennis player in history.
That Federer tied Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles by winning the French Open on Sunday only reinforced that opinion.
"What he's done over the past five years has never, ever been done -- and probably will never, ever happen again," Sampras said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "Regardless if he won there or not, he goes down as the greatest ever. This just confirms it."
Federer added his first French Open championship to five titles at Wimbledon, five at the U.S. Open and three at the Australian Open. He's the sixth man with a career Grand Slam; Sampras won three of the majors but not the French Open.
Sampras was home in Los Angeles on Sunday and watched on TV during part of Federer's 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-4 victory over Robin Soderling in the final at Roland Garros. Federer lost the previous three French Open finals to Rafael Nadal.
"I'm obviously happy for Roger," Sampras said. "If there's anyone that deserves it, it's Roger. He's come so close."
In what turned out to be Sampras' last match, he beat Andre Agassi in the 2002 U.S. Open final at age 31 in his 52nd career Grand Slam tournament. Federer is 27 and has collected his 14 major championships in 40 Grand Slam tournaments.
"He just is a great, great player that is a credit to the sport and is a positive influence for young kids and just tennis in general," Sampras said. "It looks pretty tough to beat now with 14 majors, and I'm sure he's going to go on and win a lot more."
Federer will get his first chance to break Sampras' mark at Wimbledon, which starts June 22. Sampras isn't sure whether he'll go to the All England Club.
"We'll sort of see what happens," Sampras said.
Agassi completed his career Grand Slam at the French Open in 1999, and he was on hand a decade later to present Federer with the champion's trophy Sunday.
"How do you sort of argue with his numbers? It's pretty incredible," Agassi said. "A lot of people say it's better to be lucky than good. I'd rather be Roger than lucky."
As for the debate about tennis' greatest player, Sampras long has pointed to Rod Laver as his idol.
Laver won a true Grand Slam -- all four major titles in one season -- in both 1962 and 1969, the last man to do it. Laver finished with 11 Grand Slam titles, although he was barred from competing in those tournaments from the time he turned pro in 1963 to the start of the Open era in 1968.
Sampras' choice at this point is Federer.
"Now that he's won in Paris, I think it just more solidifies his place in history as the greatest player that played the game, in my opinion," Sampras said. "I'm a huge Laver fan, and he had a few years in there where he didn't have an opportunity to win majors. But you can't compare the eras. And in this era, the competition is much more fierce than Rod's."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
2009 FRENCH OPEN
Women's singles: Svetlana Kuznetsova, Russia
Roger Federer, Switzerland
Men's doubles: Lukas Dlouhy, Czech Republic and Leander Paes, India
Women's doubles: Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual, Spain
Mixed doubles: Liezel Huber and Bob Bryan, United States
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