As part of the Rogers Cup Legends Series, Pete Sampras returned on Saturday to speak with the media. Unlike Friday, though, he wasn’t alone as he brought with him two other tennis legends in Jim Courier and the man known for his on-court petulance, John McEnroe.
The trio answered questions from the games of Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil , thoughts on today’s biggest stars and whether tennis needs a commissioner.
I brought up the latter as in his autobiography You Cannot Be Serious, written with James Kaplan back in 2002, McEnroe underlines the need for tennis to have a commissioner as his No. 1 recommendation for improving the game in the 21st century. I had a chance to ask the American about his current availability for the potential position as in said recommendation 11 years earlier, the legend did say that he was available.
“Still available,” McEnroe responded, “You know, I’m not holding my breath. We could use something to sort of solidify everything and obviously someone that’s done the type of job that a David Stern has done for example. So clearly that, to me, would be a great step.
“But there is a lot of people protecting their own turf and it’s difficult to have everyone agree on who that person would be. But either way, even if it wasn’t me, I think we should have it.”
When asked about the state of Canadian men’s tennis, McEnroe had this to say:
“It would be an understatement to say I wasn’t surprised to see the two Canadian guys (referring to Raonic and Pospisil’s performances in Montreal this week) doing better than the best Americans. There is no question about it. I mean, I think it’s a great moment for Canadian men’s tennis right now to see these two guys playing as we speak, I believe at a set all. These guys have some serious upside. They have had it for a couple years.
“I wasn’t as familiar with Pospisil until recently but he looks like a tremendous athlete. Right now we have our work cut out for us in America. I mean, we’re not the only country wondering who the next great talent is but I would say that this is probably the best moment that I can recall in men’s Canadian tennis history.”
Jim Courier was asked about the respective games of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and reigning Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.
“One thing that is a huge advantage for Novak is he can dominate the clay court season absent Rafa. He’s the second-best clay courter out there. Murray is not quite there.
So there is a point gap in that area of the season that’s going to be tough for Andy to overcome unless he picks his game up on clay, which is doable, but there is a clear advantage. If you look at the all-surface category, Novak has a big advantage there.”
A little later in the discussion, Pete Sampras was asked whether he would be interested in becoming a tennis commentator given that both Courier and McEnroe have had success in that field.
“Not really. I mean, these guys do a great job. I enjoy being home and traveling is not something I really want to do. So I think John and Jim are pretty much set in stone at the majors.
“I enjoy listening to them. They do a really good job. I’m not sure it’s something that I want to do.”
Overall, it was both educating and entertaining listen to the three legends talk tennis. With that said, it will be even more entertaining watching Sampras battle McEnroe on Saturday evening. But the fun doesn’t end there as before both championship matches on Sunday, the Legends Series continues as John McEnroe will face off against Jim Courier.
In the grand scheme, it certainly isn’t a bad way to end such a great tournament.