Just twenty years ago, he was the GOAT, and for a long time. Or so we thought. By winning his 14th and final Grand Slam title at the 2002 US Open, Pete Sampras, not satisfied and causing a sensation after months of wandering, raised the record for Grand Slam titles to what was considered a high at the time. . At 31, he can retire — even if he waits until next year to make it official — with peace of mind. This record will not be broken anytime soon.
It was without counting the three outsiders who were about to take the circuit hostage for the next two decades. First Roger Federer, then Rafael Nadal and finally Novak Djokovic did not take long to reach and eventually surpass his record, which would seem almost obsolete today. Interviewed by Equipe Magazine for the 20th anniversary of the 2002 US Open, “Pistol Pete” did not shy away from the annoying question about the GOAT’s identity. True to his measured personality, he carefully avoided it.
I don’t know how they manage, emotionally, to find the motivation to return to the field. I’m not sure we’ll ever see that again.
“It is an impossible question. A shot to argue with everyone. Novak has achieved incredible things in the last ten years (…) On the numbers, he has them all, except for the Grand Slams (…) Rafa, in the world, ticks all the boxes of a complete player (…) He is the one I would give an example to a young person for dedication mentally (…) And I feel closer to Roger, through his game and his personality (…). No, actually, it is very difficult for me to answer. It’s like asking me to choose between a Ferrari and a Lamborghini.
The seven-time Wimbledon champion admitted that at the time he did not expect his record to fall so quickly. A fortiori thrice… “But if I look closely, I’m not surprised. These three players have been consistent during their careers, which are longer than mine. In my time, we stopped around the age of 30. Mentally, I had reached the limit of 31 years (…) Being stable for many years, these are a freak, the monsters of this game. I don’t know how they manage, emotionally, to find the motivation to return to the field. I’m not sure we’ll see it again.”