Pete Sampras gave a interview on CNN’s Open Court show and the headlines are all about how Sampras crowned Novak Djokovic “one of the greats of all time.” But that’s obvious: Djokovic has dominated men’s tennis for three years. He’s won 11 majors and he’s only 28 years old. He is the man to beat in every tournament he enters. His 2015 was considered by many to be the best year any tennis player ever had. So Sampras telling us that Djokovic is great is a little like Mick Jagger telling us Keith Richards can play guitar.
But Sampras’ assessment of who — beyond Djokovic — remains elite on the men’s tour was far more illuminating. Here he said what’s also clear, but what fewer people are eager to say: the Big Four is now the Big Two. Roger Federer‘s continual gulping from the fountain of youth has left him nearly (though not quite) equal with Djokovic, while Big Four alums Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray have shrunk in stature. Sampras isn’t measuring their career accomplishments, only their current threat to win. If anyone will put a chink it Djokovic’s armor, Sampras sees clearly, it will have to be Federer. Though Sampras was at pains to say not to dismiss Nadal permanently — “he’s too good,” Sampras said of Nadal, “he’s won too much” to count him out.