Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have undoubtedly been the most successful male tennis players of all time, sharing 56 Grand Slams between them. But their dominance on the circuit was preceded by an American - Pete Sampras - who achieved more in the game than any player on the men's tour before him.
Recently, the former World No. 1 spoke about his impact on the approach and mindset of tennis' fabled Big 3, and how their Slam success has been at least partly influenced by him.
Glad Roger Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have broken Grand Slam records: Pete Sampras
Steve Flick has written a biography (Pete Sampras: Greatness Revisited, set to hit the bookshelves in September) on Sampras, whose quotes about the Big 3 were reported by TENNIS.com.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion claimed that the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have approached the Grand Slams with a greater urgency in recent times, following the example that he set in the 90s.
"I think I am a part of that," said Sampras. "I never wanted to bag on the other tournaments, but I looked at certain things as black and white, and this was a black-and-white thing. You based your year on what you did at the Majors. If I won eight tournaments and none of them were Majors, that would be a good year, but not a great year."
"I was very open and honest on that. My year was measured on the Slams. The game is not all about numbers, but having a chance to end my career with the most Majors was important to me," asserted the American.
Pete Sampras tally of 14 Grand Slams was a record when he retired, which has now been overtaken by Roger Federer (20), Rafael Nadal (19) and Novak Djokovic (17). That said, he does still have one record that is yet to be equaled on the men's tour - finishing year-end World No. 1 six times in a row.
"I just wanted that record of being No. 1 six years in a row so badly," said Sampras.
The player to have come closest to him in this regard is Roger Federer, who finished as the year-end World No. 1 for four years in a row between 2004-2007. The sheer rarity of the feat - any player would practically have only one chance to do it in their career - is what makes it so special for Sampras.
"The way I looked at it, I had just this one chance to do it in 1998 and I was obsessed. It was my one opportunity to break one of the all-time toughest records. I know how hard it is to stay at No. 1 and to do it for six straight years is a beast," Sampras further went on to say.
The American also said he is glad that players have started taking the Slams more seriously, and that the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have overtaken him.
Sampras was even present at the Wimbledon final of 2009, where Roger Federer broke his record in epic fashion. Federer beat Andy Roddick 5–7, 7–6, 7–6, 3–6, 16–14 in a thrilling battle to win his 15th Grand Slam and surpass Sampras, and the American was on hand to lead the applause.