This is an article from the March 14, 2011 issue
The 14-time Grand Slam winner beat Andre Agassi 6--3, 7--5 in an exhibition match at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 28.
Dan Patrick:Where do you and Andre Agassi stand?
Pete Sampras: We're fine. The tricky thing is that tennis is the ultimate one-on-one sport. It's intimate. I look across the net, I see Andre. It's hard to have a great friendship. We went into our careers pretty good friends, and we left our careers in a really respectable manner. The Hit for Haiti situation got a little bit blown out of proportion. It was unfortunate.
DP:Did you try to take his head off with a ball during the exhibition Hit for Haiti last year?
PS: No. I was trying to lighten the mood a little bit. If I wanted to, I could, but obviously I wasn't going to. I think Andre regrets the five minutes after that. [Agassi, wearing a microphone, made fun of Sampras for being stingy.] It got uncomfortable and weird. We both walked off the court thinking, What just happened?
DP:Did you guys talk about it afterward?
PS: He called me the next day and said, "Listen, Pete, I apologize. I went a little too far." I took his apology, and we moved on.
DP:But you didn't want to lose to him in New York.
PS: When you're at the Garden in front of 17,000 people there's a certain amount of ego and competitiveness that comes out. You don't want to embarrass yourself or the game. It was a good night. I think what happened was blown out of proportion. It was one moment out of 15 years.
DP:Roger Federer in his prime against you in your prime. Who wins?
PS: It's a little different game. I think technology has helped the game. The racket I used was sort of a wood racket compared to what they use today.
DP:So there's no way you're going to admit you couldn't take Federer?
PS: Let me put it this way. [Bjorn] Borg in his prime. Myself. [Rod] Laver. We all felt unbeatable in our primes. As do Rafa [Nadal] and Roger. It really is hard to answer.
DP:Who would you have a better chance against—Federer or Nadal?
PS: Depends on the surface.
DP:Let's say Wimbledon.
PS: I would say Nadal. Not that I couldn't beat Roger. But I loved playing guys on grass who stayed back.
DP:What makes Federer unique?
PS: He can do things on the run that are incredible. And he's a great guy on top of that. As much as it was hard to see him break my records, if there's someone I'd like to see do it, it's someone like him.
DP:Why isn't Andy Roddick No. 1 in the world?
PS: He's a great player who has come so close. He's up against two of the greats of all time in Rafa and Roger. Athletically, I think he's a little challenged compared to them. He had his one chance [against Federer] at Wimbledon [in 2009]. He played as well as he could play and wasn't able to close it out. That was his one opportunity to really plant his name in the game.
DP:Could you have made him No. 1?
PS: No, no, no. I could help in a way. It comes down to what you can do on the run. I think Andy's done great. He's gotten every ounce of talent out of himself. He works hard. He wins a lot of matches. To be up there with Roger and Rafa... . It's tough.
• Dressed Up
New MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre said this will be the first spring training he won't be with a team in some capacity since 1959. But he doesn't feel badly. "You look around the room, and you see a lot of young faces with the wide-open eyes," Torre said. "And you say, You know what, I think somebody else should be doing this." Torre is excited to still be involved in baseball and not have to put on the close-fitting manager uniforms—"as my wife likes to call them, my playclothes"—anymore.
• Mac on Cam
No one has Greg McElroy slated in the first round, but that doesn't bother the former Alabama quarterback. I asked McElroy who's more ready for the NFL, him or Cam Newton. "I say me," says McElroy, citing his experience in a pro-style offense. "Obviously my talent level has a much lower ceiling than Cam's. But I don't think I'm the only guy who might have that problem. I don't think Peyton Manning is as athletic as Cam."
• Line of the week
Suns forward Grant Hill on whether he ever dated a North Carolina student when he was at Duke. "I did, but I was a freshman, and I didn't know better."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Nolan Smith talks about Duke's chances of repeating as champs.
2. Dwight Howard discusses his recent issues with NBA officials.
THE FINE PRINT: This might not help NFL labor negotiations. The owners are now offering personal seat licenses at the bargaining table.