Pete Sampras is an icon in the tennis world. He set and broke multiple records in a glittering career. He won 64 Singles titles in total, including 14 Grand Slams, which was a record until a certain Swiss player shattered it. However, according to a new book, Sampras does not consider his Grand Slam tally to be his most significant achievement.
In the new book titled ‘Pete Sampras: Greatness Revisited’, Steve Flink argues that Sampras’ extreme dedication to his craft stemmed from his urge to be one of the greatest. He wanted to surpass Roy Emerson’s record of 12 Majors. The American eventually achieved this and ended up with 14 of them.
“As I got closer to breaking the record and had nine or 10 majors, it became a conversation piece in the press,” he told Flink. “I wanted to break the record for the most majors and I talked about it. Having a chance to end my career with the most majors was important to me.”
As his career progressed, Sampras’ name became synonymous with Gand Slams. Roger Federer (20), Rafael Nadal (19), and Novak Djokovic (17) are now comfortably ahead of Pistol Pete. Although Sampras had realized that Federer might break his record back then, he never thought the other two would follow suit.
When asked if he thought he had anything to do with Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic looking at the Majors through a different lens, he said, “I think I am a part of that. I never wanted to bag on the other tournaments, but I looked at certain things as black and white, and this was a black-and-white thing. You based your year on what you did at the majors. If I won eight tournaments and none of them were majors, that would be a good year, but not a great year.
He went on to say, “I was very open and honest on that. My year was measured on the Slams. The game is not all about numbers, but having a chance to end my career with the most majors was important to me.”
Pete is happy that the next generation of stars has realized the importance of Majors. The Big 3 acquired their position thanks to their dominance in Majors. From 2003, they won 56 of the 67 Grand Slams in play.
Pete’s 14-Majors mark will remain a landmark in the sport. However, Sampras is more proud of cementing the year-ending World Number One spot for six consecutive years in his career. This is a feat that is nowhere near broken, even now.
He once confided in his coach Paul Annacone about this. To Sampras, this achievement is equal to and maybe even more important than the 14 major titles.
“I just wanted that record of being No. 1 six years in a row so badly. The way I looked at it, I had just this one chance to do it in 1998 and I was obsessed. It was my one opportunity to break one of the all-time toughest records. I know how hard it is to stay at No. 1 and to do it for six straight years is a beast,” Pistol Pete said.