SI.com – Writers – Justin Gimelstob: Happily retired Sampras still has game to topple Federer – Friday December 22, 2006 10:41AM
I am a Federer fan. Well if you heard me talk about tennis, you’d think I was a Federer hater. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is a classy, humble man who is the very best his sport has to offer… CURRENTLY. I just am annoyed by his being crowned the best ever. Say he ends up winning a career grand slam. Say he surpasses Sampras’s total number of slams, I still think he has to be downgraded because he didn’t have the competition.
Sampras dominated in a glory era of men’s tennis. The argument made is of course the men’s tour is deeper. So while Federer might not have his great rivals during quarters, semis, finals (save the emergence of Nadal), he has to play better in the earlier rounds, so the argument goes. And that Sampras had cakewalks til the quarters, semis, finals. While I think it’s true to a small degree, is there ever really ANY doubt that Federer is going to cakewalk the first few rounds? Maybe he is slightly more challenged, but his skill level is so much more than his competitors that it’s not like it is a real challenge to him. So if Sampras and Federer both cakewalked early, and then Sampras had higher level competition and won, shouldn’t we not discount the former “greatest ever” for the newest “greatest ever”?