Sampras decries dearth of US tennis

VETERAN: Pete Sampras
VETERAN: Pete Sampras

NEW DELHI - American legend Pete Sampras yesterday lamented the decline of US men's tennis, saying he did not know anyone capable of breaking into the top ranks for his home country.

Fourteen-time Grand Slam winner Sampras blamed the increasingly global and competitive nature of top-level tennis, saying it would "take time" before American men were dominant again.

"We haven't had anyone at the top for a long time now," Sampras told reporters at the International Premier Tennis League in New Delhi, India.

"It will take time to get American tennis back to where it was," said Sampras who dominated the game along with compatriot Andre Agassi, before retiring in 2002.

"The game has become so international. Players are playing all around the world. The world is getting hungrier and we [the US] are just not producing young kids with potential."

"Hopefully, it's just a phase and doesn't last too long [to return to the top]." Sampras, who retired at the age of 32, predicted the three big names of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would continue to dominate next season.

"Novak Djokovic is the obvious choice. Roger is very motivated to get to number one. Rafa is uncertain with his health but I feel like once he's healthy he'll be in the mix," he said.

But the 43-year-old said Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, ranked 11th in the world, was one to watch. "Grigor is someone that I think is ready to make that next step. It's going to be an interesting year [2015] but I still see Novak, Roger and Rafa being the cream of the crop."

Sampras lost his opening match on Sunday to fellow veteran Australia's Pat Rafter in the third leg of the new IPTL in Delhi.