I never considered Sampras to be the greatest player of all time, even when he held the grand slam title record and before Federer started dominating men's tennis.
Within the previous 20-30 years alone I always considered Laver to be greater, and I considered Borg to be at least Sampras's equal (I personally lean slightly towards Borg in that debate).
Tennis was rapidly losing popularity in the US and other countries in the 90s, compared to the golden age of the mid 70s to mid 80. At the height of Sampras's dominance in May 1994, Sports Illustrated ran the cover 'is tennis dying?', and the New York Times regularly had articles of a similar theme. The one superstar that men's tennis had, Agassi, didn't properly dedicate himself fully to the sport until 1998 (aside from one year in 1995). Sampras inadvertently helped kill the popularity of tennis by not being willing to help promote the sport.
I suspect that the ATP and the tennis media hyped up Sampras's pursuit of Emerson's grand slam title record (which Emmo himself didn't even know he held for decades) to generate some much needed interest and excitement in the sport.
I agree that at the time, this newfound interest in that record that was previously seen as irrelevant, helped boost Sampras's legacy upon his retirement. However since then Federer has come along and broken that record so quickly, and has Sampras well and truly beaten according to these 'modern' GOAT criteria that didn't exist before.
There are still cases to argue that Gonzales, Laver etc are greater than Federer (and vice versa). However there is no case whatsoever to argue that Sampras is greater given that Federer tops him in nearly every category, and that both players' CVs are judged by these modern criteria. Of course Sampras was an amazing player and easily one of the greatest players to have ever lived I must add.
Last edited by Gizo; 10-28-2012 at 08:20 AM.