Thursday, July 24, 2008
Let's see here:
• His winning streak at Wimbledon was broken.
• No new Masters shields or Grand Slam trophies have been added to the mantelpiece.
• The tournaments that have been won were minor, at best.
• His rivals are threatening to take over his number-one ranking after he's had a stranglehold on it for years.
• There's whispers of him being done.
• His coaching situation is precarious.
Everyone knows this to be the case with Roger Federer, right? And that loss to Gilles Simon only adds fuel to the fire. However, I'm not talking about R-Fed.
I'm bringing it way back to the King of Swing, Pete Sampras, circa 1996.
All of the above things were going on with Pistol Pete that year. He suffered one of his earliest Slam losses in years at the Australian Open; Paul Haarhuis beat him in Indian Wells; and his longtime coach, Tim Gullickson, died before the French Open, where Sampras made the semis on willpower alone.
He gets to Wimbledon and Richard Krajicek takes him out as he's trying to go for four in a row. He manages to win a warm-up tournament before the U.S. Open and gets through to the finals at the big one. Waiting for him there is Michael Chang, his old childhood rival, who was playing in his second Slam final of the year and coming closer than ever to the top spot.
What does Pete do? Comes out smokin' and wins in straights! From then on, he pretty much dominates the indoor season, wins another World Championship and quiets any doubts about who the man is.
Federer's had a tough year, and that loss to Simon last night was really bad (it doesn't matter if Simon had just won a tournament while Federer hadn't played since Wimbledon). He should be OK, though, and he's still my favorite for the Open. I think he's made of the same stuff Sampras is and look how '96 and the rest of his career went for him.
(Photo: Getty Images)