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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sampras backs Murray to win major

Tennis legend Pete Sampras believes British number one Andy Murray is on the cusp of winning a Grand Slam title.

Murray enjoyed a superb 2008, reaching his first major final at the US Open and climbing to fourth in the rankings.

"He is one notch below Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal," said 14-time Grand Slam winner Sampras.

"He's right on the edge of breaking through and winning a major. He's got the game. He'll do it, I really believe that. He's the real deal."

Murray's maiden Grand Slam final ended in defeat by Federer, but Sampras - a five-time winner in New York - said all the 21-year-old lacked was belief.

"He needs a bit more self-belief and confidence that he can win a major," said Sampras.

"Watching the US Open, I could sense that he didn't really believe he could win that match.

"But he's right there ready to break through and he's only 21 so he's got many years to keep it together."

Sampras was speaking ahead of the BlackRock Masters event at London's Albert Hall where he will compete against the likes of John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg and Greg Rusedski.

Since his retirement in 2003 following a glittering career, the American has forged a close friendship with Federer, whose US Open win left him a tantalising two short of breaking Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles.

However, Federer's fifth consecutive win at Flushing Meadows was a rare highlight in an otherwise disappointing season which saw the 27-year-old lose his world number one ranking to Nadal.

Sampras, though, remains confident that Federer will break the record, and has cast doubt on whether Nadal is equipped for a prolonged stay at the top of the rankings.

"It will be interesting to see what happens with Nadal next year," said the 37-year-old.

"The amount of work he has to do to stay on top and stay healthy... I think that's where Roger has a bit of an advantage because he it takes a lot less energy for him to stay on top than Nadal.

"Rafa puts so much effort into each point that eventually something will break."

Federer suffered 15 defeats in 2008 having picked up less than 10 in each of the previous four seasons.

He lost his Wimbledon crown to Nadal, his first loss on grass since 2002, and failed to win a Masters Series title, all of which has led some to suggest that he could be in permanent decline.

Sampras, though, disagrees.

"There's a lot left in him," he said.

"I think he'd like to get back to number one and he's looking forward to breaking my record soon. He can win as many Wimbledons as he wants - he's got the game.

"Roger's probably going to break it over the next couple of years. I've been pretty accepting that he'll break it.

"He's a credit to the game, he's a friend and there's nothing I can do about it apart from sit back and watch him do it and respect it."

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