Script of China Daily' exclusive interview with Pete Sampras
Updated: 2011-12-18 22:06
China Daily's reporter Sun Xiaochen speaks to US tennis legend Pete Sampras on the sideline of "Wuhan Tiandi 2011 Li Na & Friends" exhibition game in Wuhan of Central China on Sunday.
China Daily: How is the tour to the Yellow Crane Tower? It is Wuhan's landmark spot.
Sampras: It's pretty good to see that building (the Yellow Crane Tower). It kind of puts perspectives in the United States and our history compared with China. It's a big difference.
Li Na seemed out of form after the French Open triumph, which reminds us you also spent nearly three years to touch your second Grand Slam in 1993. How would you evaluate this kind of down periods after the peak? And how to maintain her consistent performance?
It's always been a tough situation after you made your first major. It's quite different afterwards. The pressures from the media, it changes. For Li Na, it's a big deal to claim the first major for her country. It takes time to settle down, to concentrate again on your games. It's crucial to figure out how you need to play and how to keep things simple. Li Na still plays very well in my opinion. I was 19 when it happened. I wasn't quite ready to deal with the pressures at that time. But over that couple of years, I sort of figured out. So I am still confident of her reaching another peak soon.
China Daily: How do you think about Li and her husband coach's cooperation? Is that a healthy relationship to keep that close?
Sampras: Having a coach being too close can be good or not good as well. But you have to make sure there is honest with you. If you don't do the right thing, he will tell you what you didn't do well and be honest. Be part of a tennis player that means to have a coach like a friend. She seems very happy with her husband coaching her. She's doing quite well.
China Daily: How would you regard the current game of tennis? Is it harder or tougher than in your prime?
Sampras: Oh yeah, I am 40 now. I become a little bit slower, move as well. I don't play so much. I am not that sharp out there.
China Daily: How would regard the current ATP schedule? Does it really reach the players limit physically? There are some players complaining on that.
Sampras: It's been always like that. In my time, it was like that. If you play the Davis Cup, the ATP finals, it makes a long year. There are a lot of assignments. When I get older, I stop playing some events. That's because I want to keep fresh for the majors. And I am sure that's what most of the top players are doing.
China Daily: Look at the timing on the calendar, do you think it's a little bit awkward for the Asian season? It's near the year-end and some players tend to quit to keep fit.
Sampras: Yeah, it's unfortunately through a lot of Asian tournaments. I know Djokovic pulled out of Beijing (the China Open). People are tired after the US Open. It's a long trip. The events here in Asia can get tough.
China Daily: In your mind, can the serve-and-volley player dominate the competition? Or it's going to be a baseliners' game?
Sampras: Baseliners' game. There isn't any one there who can serve and volley and do what we did back in the days. The style of play has changed.
China Daily: Asian tennis has made the breakthrough on the elite level after Li's success. What's the key to make it equally at the grassroots level?
Sampras: I think you need good coaching, instructions and technique as well. Have kids love the sport and have passion. But it's also important I think it's to have good coaches to really share the game and make it fun for the kids. In doing this, maybe there will be another champion coming from China. I think the import of western coaching way is a smart move, as well as to send the kids to foreign academy. Let the young players get together and compete with each other.
China Daily: How do you regard the current status of the US tennis? It seems an urgent need for another role model after you and Roddick.
Sampras: Yeah, it's a little slam. We have (John) Isner and (Mardy) fish doing quite well but it's not quite dominated as it used to be. This is the way girls work looks a little bit better.
China Daily: Do you try to make it up for your family after retirement? You seemed lost a part of the joy of family life catching up on the tour during the pro years.
Sampras: Yeah, I think when you were the best player of the world. You have to sacrifice a lot whatever family stuffs or personal relationships. You've already done best on something you sure have to give up something. So now, I spent most of the time with families and taking care of kids, who are nine and six year old. I am quite busy on that.
China Daily: It's your third trip to China in three months. How would you assess this kind of exhibition tournaments' effect to promote the sport in China?
Sampras: I am enjoying my time here pretty much, as well in Cheng Du and Beijing. People are very nice. They love the sport of tennis. Obviously, Li Na's popularity helps a lot. Anyway, I am happy to be here, it's a long trip for me but I am happy to do it.