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Sampras Makes Rare Appearance in Melbourne

Melbourne, Australia

Sampras Melbourne 2014© Getty ImagesPete Sampras won the Australian Open singles titles in 1994 and 1997.

There was a legendary aura in Rod Laver Arena on Friday, during the Australian Open semi-final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, as Pete Sampras joined Federer’s coach Stefan Edberg and Laver himself to combine for 61 Grand Slam titles in one building that night.

Prior to the match, Sampras reflected on his time on the court and how it compares to today’s game. When asked who he believes is the ‘Greatest of All-Time’, the 14-time Grand Slam champion conveyed the difficulty in distinguishing between eras, based on advancements in technology and recovery methods.

“I believe when you look at the history of the game, each decade has their player,” Sampras said. “Obviously Rod was the best in his time. I certainly had my moments in the '90s. Rafa and Roger are having their moments now.

“Is there one greatest player of all time? I don’t know. I think if you look at the numbers, you have to look at Roger, what he's been able to do. 17 majors, been No. 1. You can talk about it for 20 minutes on the different comparisons, what Rod did back in the '60s. Five years he didn't play any majors when he was in his prime, so he could have had over 20 majors…It’s really hard to say."

Sampras also expressed his admiration for Nadal’s accomplishments despite the World No. 1’s chronic knee issues. “You could argue that he's well up there. If he plays the next four or five years, he could have 17 or 18 majors. That’s up to him.

“Let’s just appreciate what we're watching. It’s hard to compare the numbers and the eras where we all did our thing. We’re all great at what we did. It’s just hard to really talk about who is better.”

A two-time Australian Open champion, in 1994 and 1997, Sampras was happy to be back in Melbourne and will be on hand to present the champion’s trophy on Sunday.

With Nadal and Federer having been the defining rivalry over the past decade, Sampras was quick to point out that it is just one of many legendary battles in history. “You have Borg and McEnroe, myself and Andre. You have Rafa and Roger. You have Connors and Lendl. There’s a lot of good rivalries. I think these two guys, they’re so good, so much fun to watch these guys compete.”

Asked if the re-emergence of Edberg, Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl have inspired him to pursue a coaching comeback, ‘Pistol Pete’ expressed his reluctance to return to the grind of the tour. “It’s not for me. I’ve been asked by a couple guys. But the travel, to go on the road, do all that they're doing is not something that I’m interested in.”

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