New Delhi: Not many sportspersons enjoy the status of a global icon but Pete Sampras certainly does and playing in India for the first time, the 14-time Grand Slam winner richly praised the fans' knowledge of the racquet sport and called the country a 'great tennis town'.
Sampras and Roger Federer, two of the greatest tennis players of all time, have mesmerised the fans on their India debut in the Indian Premier Tennis League. Asked whether he expected a raucous reception on his arrival here yesterday, Sampras said: "I had a feeling. I have travelled all around the world and met a lot of people from India. They love tennis. They are excited to see you, they are enthusiastic, they are nice people. I could be in Germany or Los Angeles, I meet them and they know tennis, know Wimbledon.
"They seem to know I did pretty well there. I see it as a great tennis town. I am happy I am here finally and hopefully I will come back." Sampras, whose 14 Grand Slam singles titles was a record until it was broken by his good friend Federer, was asked a barrage of questions on how the game has evolved ever since he stopped playing professionally in 2002.
The American mastered the art of serve and volley tennis which doesn't find a place in the modern game of playing from the baseline. "My generation had serve and volley but it also had contrast. I was playing Boris Becker one day and Andre (Agassi) the next day. Now everyone plays the same and from the back. These three four guys (Federer, Djokovic, Nadal) are so much better than the rest. No one really wants to come, they don't know how to come in, that has been the biggest change, the style of play," said the 43-year-old.
He further said: "I don't think the courts have gotten quicker, the style of play is just one dimensional, everyone is staying at the back and they are great at it but it would surely be nice to see come contrast.
Sampras said he doesn't see the current style changing anytime soon. "The kids growing up are watching Novak, Roger and Rafa, they would like to play like them. My generation we had Stefan Edberg, Boris, (John) McEnroe who served and volleyed and I became familiar with it," he pointed out.