NDTV.com Exclusive: India Questions Roger Federer, Pete Sampras

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From left to right: Dr Prannoy Roy, Amitabh Bachchan, Roger Federer and Pete Sampras


New Delhi:  In an exclusive interview to NDTV.com, two of the world's greatest-ever tennis players, Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, talk to Prannoy Roy about competition, inspiration, and ambition.  Indian icon Amitabh Bachchan shares his career secrets, and questioners include tennis great Boris Becker and actress Deepika Padukone.  

Here are the highlights from this all-star interview: 

Roger Federer: For me, Pete is the greatest.  He is my hero. Stefan Edbergh, Boris and Pete. He was my inspiration.  Without Pete, I wouldn't have tried to chase his record. For me, he is the greatest ever

Pete Sampras: If you look at the numbers, Roger has been so dominant over the years, it's hard to compare anyone to Roger.   We're both very nice and very humble!

Pete Sampras: I saw him (Mr Bachchan) at court today and he was making quite a showing

Roger Federer: You have to react against Pete, because he would serve very well -almost unbreakable. You have to not make any mistakes when it counts the most.

Pete Sampras: Roger was a very tough match for me.   He moved great. When I played him, I knew he was special. I would do my best to impose my will...but he does everything great.    There's not many holes in his game. He moves great, he serves well. He's the most dominant player I think I've ever seen.  I was certainly the player of my time, but I wasn't as dominant as Roger I stopped at 31...he's 33...he almost became No 1 again. The hardest thing to do in sports is to get to No. 1 and stay at No. 1 and he has done it better than anybody else.

Pete Sampras: I was emotionally done, I was finished emotionally. I was cooked (on retiring). 

Amitabh Bachchan: there are not many people who would leave their profession for emotional reasons.

Roger Federer: His (Sampras) end -it would be the dream for any player- to end on top (winning the US Open)

Roger Federer: At 16, I won Junior Wimbledon. 

Pete Sampras:  Honestly, I wasn't that good young. I was good, but I wasn't great. I didn't win many junior tournaments. I got better as I got older- 16,17,18 I really started to figure it out.  I went to school, practiced every day, was very focused. It has to be your life.

Roger Federer (on advice to young players):  In tennis, it's very imp that you get supports from your parents and get decent coaching and you have to love what you do, parents have to let go eventually and trust the coach.   You have to train hard and believe that you can be a champion one day.  Dream big, but also be realistic. 

Pete Sampras (on advice to young players):  It's more about improving than winning., developing your game.   Parents put so much pressure on kids to win, win, win  It's not about winning, it's about learning...learning how to lose...getting good techniques...getting good coaching.  You need good parents.

Amitabh Bachchan:  The generation of today has many more opportunities. In our time, it was very tough to get into the movies.  Once you get in, you have to prove you have talent -that you can act. There has to be some kind of internal strength that motivates you to keep going on. And  a lot of luck.

Roger Federer:  When I fist-pump, it's not to the other guy.  It's for me, my team, the fans  It shows you are happy and you are willing and wanting to fight and to win. I do it for myself.

Pete Sampras: I was never fazed.  McEnroe was always trying to pull some sort of shenanigans. He would towel off, slow down the game. I like him, he is a friend of mine.   But we all know he could lose his shit! He was tricky to play.  He looked mean.  I was intimidated a little by him when I was a kid. As I got older, I knew what I was doing.

Pete Sampras:  It's very tough to have friends on the tour. It's a very intimate tour. It's hard to have dinner after that match! You are playing for No 1 ranking.  You respect each other, you get along, but there's always a tension, a distance.  It's hard to let your guard down. 

Roger Federer:  It may be a bit easier to have best friends that are not your super-rival. Those are the ones you respect a lot because they get the best out of you.  The entourages have gotten big, everyone lives their own life. It is cool seeing each other. You may be closer to the guys ranked lower, because those may be the ones you practice with.

Amitabh Bachchan (on competition with colleagues): unlike them, our ratings come from the audience.  When you do well, you rise up in status...that determines whether your rival or colleague is on the same plane. As you grow older, you have a very healthy relationship because you are not in the same reckoning as the younger generation.

Deepika Padukone (question to Federer):  How do you manage to stay fit throughout the year given that you have very little downtime?

Roger Federer: That's why I can only be here for a few days. I have to stay healthy, fit.  If I play too many matches, muscle memory goes away a little. The good thing is I can decide myself how much I want to play.  This year I played a lot, next year, will slow down a little and spend more time at the gym.

Boris Becker (question): How would you rate history of tennis- the like of Lever in 60s and Bjorg in 70s...is it fair to compare generations?

Pete Sampras: It's very tough to compare decades.  You look at Lever who won 12 majors...he had six years where he didn't play a major...so he could have won over 20 majors if he was able to play.  But I believe each decade has its guy. To say which generation is the best, I'd probably have to say this generation or my generation. It's hard to say. Technology has changed, there are more players playing today. Roger's generation is probably the deepest. This generation is special, we have to sit back and appreciate Roger and everything he's done. 

Boris Becker: It's very difficult to compare generations but you have to give credit where credit is due. Winning 17 majors- it doesn't happen overnight. I think everyone in this room agrees that the greatest of all time is sitting up there (on the stage) next to the second-greatest.

Roger Federer: India is absolutely fascinating story...colorful, vibrant.  In one word- friendly. I feel very welcome. Namaste.  Thank you.

Pete Sampras: India is a country with a lot of history.  The people are very friendly. A lot of selfies!  I have done more selfies in the last two days here than I have in 10 years! Happy to be here.  

 


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