While the recently concluded International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) was more about the hype around superstars like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, several tennis fans were thrilled to watch American legend Pete Sampras play live in front of their eyes.
Sampras, who was a part of the Indian Aces team, was cheered by the fans – relentlessly backing all the players of the local franchise.
While several aspiring tennis fans still look up to him, the American made his intentions clear by saying he has no plans of taking up coaching or captaincy in the time to come.
"I am not into travelling at the moment, at least more than a couple of weeks in a year. The captaincy is nothing something I am interested in either. This is not for me at the moment. I am not going to rule it out, you can't say what can happen in future. But for the time being, I am happy playing some exhibition every now and then and staying at home," he said.
Talking about the IPTL format, Sampras said it was an exciting one for the fans and he too had a lot of fun participating in it.
"The format is different. You have to be on your toes. You have to get off to a good start and there's a different sort of energy, much quicker, there is a lot of strategy with the two points (power point). I think it's fun, it's exciting for the fans," he added.
When asked what would be a major weapon needed to dominate in tennis, Sampras reckoned having a good forehand is the key to being a good player.
"Obviously you need to have a good forehand. If you look at Novak or Roger, their forehands are penetrating, consistent and their weapons. If you don't have that shot, some sort of a weapon from back of the court, you will struggle," he said.
Sharing his feedback on the new crop, Sampras hailed the likes of Stanislas Wawrinka and Marin Cilic but also said that the Big three – Federer, Nadal and Djokovic – will continue to dominate the sport.
"I still see those three guys (Djokovic, Nadal, Federer) dominating. I see guys threatening them, but at the top you will see just those three guys in the second week of majors, in the semi-finals and the finals. Wawrinka is going to have an interesting Australian Open defending his title. Cilic is up and coming and he has been there for a while. I still think Roger, Novak and Rafa are the cream of the crop. I think they have the experience, they want it and when they are playing well, they will be tough to beat," said the 14-time Grand Slam champion.
During his playing days, Sampras was outstanding at the serve and volley play. Sharing the secrets to keep doing so consistently, the American said one has to start young to master the art.
"The kids now growing up are watching Noval and Rafa, they all stay back. When I was growing up, I saw Edberg, McEnroe, Becker serve and volley. So it became something I was familiar with. But these young kids are now seeing players play from the baseline so they stay at the baseline. In order to be a good serve and volley player, you need to start young. I started at 14. To serve and volley, it takes time. You can't wake up as a 20-year-old and say I am going to serve and volley. It doesn't work that way," he said.
Sampras also expressed his disappointment over the current state of American men's tennis. According to him, there are hardly any juniors who have the potential to make it big.
"Unfortunately, I think it looks like on a slip side for American tennis. I don't see anyone that people are talking about to break though even in the top 10. You have to take small steps. We are not in the 90s any more. It would be quite a while to see American tennis get back to where it was," the champion said.
Sampras also spoke about his camaraderie with Roger Federer, who grew up idolising him.
"We are good friends and I think at some stage in his life while growing up as a junior before he turned pro, he looked upto me. But obviously, he is now at a stage where everybody is looking at him. He has done great things, he is a great role model, an ambassador for the sport. He is a true champion and if there is someone I will like to see break my records, it's Roger because he is a friend and a good man. I am happy that we have developed this sort of a relationship,"said Sampras.
Sampras lauded the love of Indian tennis fans, who follow the sport and said he was hopeful of coming back to India in the future.
"Yes, I had a feeling. I have travelled all around the world. I have met a lot of people from India. They are generally very excited to see you, enthusiastic and they are very nice people. I could be in LA, I could be in Germany, in India they know tennis, they know Wimbledon and I did pretty well there. It's a great tennis town and I am happy to be here and hopefully I will come back," he said.
While Sampras enjoyed playing in the inaugural edition of the IPTL, he said the rules of the tournament would hardly lead to amendments in the professional tennis.
"You look at the history of the game, the Wimbledon, the US Open are the real heart beat of the tour. It's a very traditional sport and I don't see them changing any rules or hear that horn that we hear. It's exciting, it's fun, it's different. I think it's fun to be a part of it but when it comes to the heart of the sport, it is what it is and it is not going to change anytime soon," he concluded.