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Sampras Says Nadal Could Surpass Federer's Grand Slam Record

Sampras, Federer© Getty ImagesPete Sampras saw Roger Federer eclipse his Grand Slam titles record in 2009 at Wimbledon.

A week after Rafael Nadal’s historic win at the US Open, six-time ATP World Tour Champion Pete Sampras weighed in on the 24-year-old Spaniard’s chances of breaking Roger Federer’s record of 16 Grand Slam titles.

“I think if he’s smart with his schedule and the fact that he has so many at a young age he can very well do it,” said Sampras on a conference call to promote the upcoming BNP Paribas Showdown. “He obviously has a lot more work ahead of him. The only question with Rafa is physically how much his body can handle the pounding of how hard he works for every point. If you just watch him play the kid is relentless.

“It’s a huge goal, it’s a lot of majors and it’s a lot of work. Quite honestly, I don’t think he needs to. He’s won all the majors, he’s won the Olympics and he’s dominated his main rival in Roger. I don’t think his goal is 16 or 17 or 18. I think he’s just going to try to improve as a tennis player and if it happens great. He could do it but if you look at what’s ahead it’s a lot of work and he’s got to work so hard for every match he plays, but he’s a beast.”

Sampras, who won his 14th Grand Slam title at the 2002 US Open, saw Federer eclipse his mark in July 2009 at the All England Club and dismissed the notions of the Swiss’ decline since breaking the record.

“I don’t think it’s the record; I just think he’s done everything in the game and you get to a point in your life where things slow down a little bit and you’re not quite as fresh as you were when you were 22 and mentally it’s a grind week in, week out on the tour,” said Sampras, who won his final Slam at 31 years of age. “I still think he’s still a strong favourite for every major that he plays. He had two match points against [Novak] Djokovic, could have very well been in the final.

“He’s played fine. I don’t see any decline. I just think guys are getting a little better and he’s lost some close matches here and it’s going to happen. He’s 29 and the next few years or sort of a challenge but I think Roger is up to the task. He can win more majors, but these guys are getting a little bit better and confident against him.”

Sampras still maintains the record for most weeks at No. 1 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings – 286 weeks to Federer’s 285 – and said in response to the on-going greatest of all-time debate: “It’s hard to answer. Each decade has their guy. I think now we have Rafa who’s had done everything in the game. He’s won all the majors, he’s won the Olympics, and he has a winning record against Roger. You could very well put him on the top of the list, but it’s so argumentative. There’s no clear best player of all-time.“

The American will join three other former World No. 1 players on 28 February, 2011, at Madison Square Garden for the BNP Paribas Showdown. Sampras will renew his old rivalry with Andre Agassi in a best of three sets exhibition match, while John McEnroe squares off against Ivan Lendl. Tickets for the BNP Paribas Showdown go on sale 27 September and can be purchased at the Madison Square Garden box office and all Ticketmaster outlets.

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