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Thursday, July 17
Time grows short for Sampras, Agassi
By MaliVai Washington

This loss Wednesday by Pete Sampras may be the toughest loss that he's encountered on the tour.

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MaliVai Washington
Former ATP Tour pro MaliVai Washington is providing with in-depth analysis during Wimbledon. Washington, a tennis analyst for ESPN, reached the 1996 Wimbledon final.

All year, he's talked about how he's really looking forward to when his game comes around and he'll start to play good tennis. Over the weekend, he talked about his frustration this year. He was really looking forward to getting on the grass -- a place were he feels as comfortable as in his own bedroom.

He got his first round match under his belt, and a lot of people were wondering if he could do it. Then for him to go down in five sets to George Bastl, a player who is not known as a grass-courter and who is no where near the caliber of Sampras when he's on his game. It's going to take Sampras a while to get over this loss.

I said that about his loss to Alex Corretja at Davis Cup. Many players thought that Sampras was invincible on grass. Then when he lost to a clay-courter after being up two sets on grass, it appeared that Sampras had a chink in his armor. I guarantee you that when Bastl walked onto the court he wasn't thinking "I'm playing the great Pete Sampras who's won Wimbledon seven times." He's thinking "I'm playing Sampras who lost to Corretja on grass and hasn't won a tournament since 2000. Here's an opportunity for me to beat a great player." The whole mindset when a player walks on the court with Sampras is different than it was 12 months ago.

Sampras will go home and look at his year, and if he hasn't done this already, look at what he still wants to accomplish in tennis. He still feels -- if you listen to him talk, although I don't know how much he believes it -- he's still one of the guys to beat when he walks out onto the court. Does he have the desire to continue to train knowing that he might not be winning any more tournaments? That's going to be tough for him.

Andre Agassi is still that player who on any given day can be successful against anyone. But it's getting harder and harder for him to produce tennis at the Grand Slams when it's three out of five sets over the course of two weeks.

He, just like Sampras, doesn't have that spell over players anymore. Even though he's still ranked No. 3 in the world, people are starting to believe they can beat him because they know he's getting older and not winning grand Slams like he used to. The guy Agassi lost to on Wednesday in straight sets -- Paradorn Srichaphan -- is a solid player, but he's a guy I saw for the first time when he beat Michael Chang in Miami.

For both Sampras and Agassi, every day that goes by is one day closer to them never winning another Grand Slam. It might be another decade or two before the tennis world sees another player like Sampras with 13 Grand Slam titles and Agassi with seven. We might never see another player win double-digit Grand Slams. If you look at all the players in the history of tennis, only a handful have won double-digit Grand Slams and that does not include John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Ivan Lendl.

Of the active players on the tour right now, besides Sampras and Agassi, no one has more than three Grand Slams -- and that's Gustavo Kuerten. So it doesn't make sense for the American players to put pressure on themselves to perform at the level of Sampras and Agassi. They just need to perform at the level of their abilities and strive toward some of those accomplishments. There are some Americans who, in the next six or 12 months, will push their way into that Top 10 in the world and give themselves a realistic shot at winning a major.

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