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Tennis: Sampras thought his Slam mark would last

Associated Press
When Pete Sampras called it quits after winning his 14th Grand Slam singles title, he was certain that record would stand for quite some time.
Enter, Roger Federer.
“I really thought that 14 would be a number that would be very tough to tie and break,” Sampras said Friday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, “but Roger just came along and dominated the game much more than I ever did.”
Indeed, Sampras thinks Federer could wind up with as many as 18 or 19 major championships.
Federer owns 13 as of now, and he can equal Sampras’ career total by beating nemesis Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final Sunday. Sampras gives Federer a slight edge in what he called “a pick-’em match” ó “60-40 for Roger,” Sampras said, “but Nadal’s an animal. This guy, he won’t quit.”
As he has in the past, Sampras noted that if anyone was going to match or surpass him, it might as well be Federer, someone he considers a friend.
Still, Sampras does not plan to watch the whole final on TV.
He is, after all, at home in Los Angeles with his family, which includes two children, ages 3 and 6. Because of the time difference, play will begin at nearly 1 a.m. his time.
Too late for Dad to stay up to find out who wins.
“It’s tricky. Maybe I’ll try to catch the first set or so,” Sampras said. “But with two kids waking up pretty early, I need to sort of get a little rest.”
Perhaps that approach also is shaped by what Sampras considers an inevitability to Federer’s march toward the milestone. It was sometime in 2006, as Federer’s count reached eight Grand Slam titles, that Sampras began to realize he was going to be No. 2 on the list someday.
And he was OK with that.
“I don’t sit and watch and hope he loses,” Sampras said. “I just don’t believe in rooting against people ó I never did, even when I played. I believe it’s bad karma.”
He sent a text message after Federer won his semifinal in Australia this week and plans to make a congratulatory phone call if the Swiss star gets No. 14. But Pistol Pete isn’t sure whether he would make the trek to his old stomping grounds at Wimbledon if Federer heads to the All England Club this summer with a chance to break the record.

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