SI: If you were offered a wild card at an ATP tournament, would you consider it?
Sampras: The offer is not the problem. It's the desire and the grind of it all. People have said to me, "You should come back. There aren't many great players today, and it would give the sport a real shot in the arm." But they haven't walked a mile in my shoes. I only play one way. That's to win. I won't jeopardize that by coming back just to come back.
SI: After he practiced with you, Justin Gimelstob wrote a column for SI.com saying he thought you were playing as well as anyone except Roger Federer.
Sampras: We were talking about the sport: James Blake is No. 6 in the world, and I wonder what it would be like to play him at this stage of my life if he gave me a few months to prepare. The serve is something that I still possess, and I feel it was pretty hard to break.
SI: You played Federer once—and lost in five sets. What would your plan of attack be if you played him again?
Sampras: I would try to take his timing away and come in and use my serve and aggressive style. When guys stay back, he can dictate from the backcourt. I would not want to get into many exchanges like that. That's what I tried to do against great baseliners like Jim Courier and Andre Agassi—to overwhelm them with my power and shotmaking ability. I would attack [Federer's] backhand, which is his weaker side, and go from there.
SI: You won 14 majors. Federer has 10. How many will he finish with?
Sampras: I see him getting to 17, 18 or 19 majors. He's in the middle of his career. If there were three or four guys who were pushing him to five sets or beating him a few times a year, then anything could happen. But with that extra gear he has, no one can hang with him. I don't see him slowing down. Or anyone slowing him down.
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ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES (SAMPRAS)
DAMIAN STROHMEYER (SAMPRAS PLAYING)