Pete Sampras said Rafael Nadal will eclipse his total of 14 Grand Slam tennis titles and perhaps challenge Roger Federer’s mark, the only one higher in the men’s game.
Sampras said he expects Federer to win his seventh Wimbledon title at the All England Club in London this year, matching the record shared by the American and William Renshaw and extending the Swiss right-hander’s career mark of Grand Slam championships to 17. Nadal, the defending Wimbledon champion, needs five more major titles to pass Sampras’s old mark, which Federer broke in 2009.
“If you break down his game and what he’s been able to do on all surfaces, he’s only 24 and he’s got 10 majors, you do the math,” Sampras, 39, said in a conference call with reporters. “Obviously, I think he’s going to pass me at some stage.”
Nadal, who turned 25 this month, has won major titles on clay, grass and hard courts since turning pro in 2001. The left-handed Spaniard has held the ATP World Tour’s No. 1 rank since last year.
Nadal’s opportunity to eclipse the 29-year-old Federer’s record will depend on how he manages his playing time and the physical toll of his playing style, Sampras said. Nadal plays with an intensity that has led to shoulder and knee injuries.
“The all-time record is a lot of work, and Roger obviously can continue to add to his list,” Sampras said. “But if Rafa is smart with his schedule and plans it out right, he can very well do it. We all know how hard he works.”
Nadal pulled out of the Madrid Masters in 2008 citing knee tendinitis, and in 2009 was unable to defend his Wimbledon title because of the same injury. Nadal has announced that he won’t participate in Davis Cup matches next week, a move Sampras said he understood.
“Something has to give,” Sampras said. “If you want to stay No. 1 and you want to win majors, there’s not enough weeks in the year to play Davis Cup.”
Sampras retired in 2002 having spent 286 weeks as the world’s top-ranked men’s player. He spoke with reporters in coordination with this fall’s Champions Series, a 12-city tour scheduled to include former Grand Slam winners Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and John McEnroe.
The men’s Wimbledon quarterfinals are scheduled tomorrow. Federer will play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France and top-seeded Nadal will face Mardy Fish, the lone American remaining in the tournament.
The men’s championship is scheduled for July 3.