NEW DELHI (AFP) – American legend Pete Sampras lamented Monday the decline of US men’s tennis, saying he didn’t know anyone capable of breaking into the top ranks for his home country.
Fourteen-time Grand Slam winner Sampras blamed the increasingly global and competitive nature of top-level tennis, saying it would “take time” before American men were dominant again.
“We haven’t had anyone at the top for a long time now,” Sampras told reporters at the International Premier Tennis League in New Delhi.
“It takes time to get American tennis back to where it was,” said Sampras who dominated the game, along with compatriot Andre Agassi, before retiring in 2002.
“The game has become so international. Players are playing all around the world. The world is getting hungrier and we (the US) are just not producing young kids with potential.”
“Hopefully it’s just a phase and doesn’t last too long (to return to the top).”
John Isner is the sole American in the top 20, ranked 19, while compatriot Sam Querrey is next at number 35.
Sampras, who retired at the age of 32, predicted the three big names of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would continue to dominate next season.
“Novak Djokovic is the obvious choice. Roger is very motivated to get to number one. Nadal is uncertain with his health but I feel like once he’s healthy he’ll be in the mix,” he said.
“I still see those three guys dominating. I see guys threatening them but when push comes to shove, I think you’ll see those three guys in the second week of majors, in the semifinals and finals.” But the 43-year-old said Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, ranked 11 in the world, was one to watch.
“Grigor is someone that I think is ready to make that next step.”
“He’s showing signs but I think he just needs to learn how to win but he’s got the talent.”
“It’s going to be an interesting year but I still see Novak, Roger and Nadal being the cream of the crop.”
Sampras lost his opening match on Sunday to fellow veteran Pat Rafter of Australia in the third leg of the new IPTL in Delhi.
Sampras said he had now recovered from his jet lag, after flying in from the US, and was hopeful of winning his matches for the Indian Aces.
The team competition features a quickfire format, with one-set matches hurried along by a 20-second serve clock.