WIMBLEDON, England – Pete Sampras expects Roger Federer to beat Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final, allowing the Swiss star to tie two of the American's records: seven titles at the All England Club, and 286 weeks ranked No. 1.
"Personally," Sampras said with a chuckle, "I've gotten used to Roger breaking my records."
Speaking to The Associated Press via telephone from Los Angeles on Friday, Sampras called Federer "a great champion, a great player."
"I've always felt Roger's the sort of guy that, if I'm going to see my records broken, I'd hope that it's someone like him. I like his game. I like what he's about. Just a very classy player. And we're friends," Sampras said. "Maybe makes it a little bit easier that it's someone I genuinely like and consider a friend."
The 40-year-old Sampras never played a competitive match after winning his then-record 14th Grand Slam title at the 2002 U.S. Open, although he didn't announce his retirement until a year later.
Federer surpassed that total by winning No. 15 at Wimbledon in 2009, with Sampras sitting in the Royal Box at Centre Court. He added his 16th major title at the 2010 Australian Open.
"Everybody knows what a hero he is to me, and how much I admire what he's been able to achieve in tennis. ... So I'm very proud to have a shot of equaling Pete," Federer said after beating defending champion Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.
"For me it was an inspiration ... to see somebody while I was coming up dominating the game and breaking the all-time Grand Slam record," Federer added. "I'm sure that inspired me in some ways."
Sampras went 7 for 7 in Wimbledon finals, winning the titles from 1993-95 and 1997-2000. On Sunday, Federer will be playing in his modern-record eighth Wimbledon final, Murray his first.
Murray also is the first British man since Bunny Austin in 1938 to get to the title match.
"Roger's always the favorite at Wimbledon, for me. He always will be," Sampras said. "Just because of his game and his calm nerve. That's something you need in the Wimbledon final. You need to keep it simple and go out and play your tennis. It's a big match. It's our Super Bowl. Andy has a shot. But he's dealing with the hopes and dreams of a nation."
"Roger's the favorite, but anything can happen out there if Andy serves well, if he plays aggressive and goes for his shots. If he gets passive against Roger, I think Roger will win," he added. "Andy's going to have to take his chances. He can't just hang back against Roger and hope he misses."
And Sampras doesn't think this will be Federer's last Wimbledon title.
"I still see Roger contending for majors for many years. He's still eager. He still loves the game," Sampras said. "When I was a little older, I felt more burned out."
There is one all-time mark Sampras thinks is safe, even if Federer does get back to No. 1 by winning Sunday. Sampras finished atop the rankings in six consecutive seasons, from 1993-98.
Federer ended at No. 1 five times, in 2004-07 and 2009.
"The only record I think I'll have left will be No. 1 for six years," Sampras said, "which I think will be tough for anyone to break."
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