http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,5205-2017148,00.html Sampras is honoured to see Federer follow in his footsteps From Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent in Melbourne Sampras is honoured to see Federer follow in his footsteps TO ROGER FEDERER, it is a scary coincidence. At 24, Pete Sampras captured his seventh grand-slam tournament, the US Open of 1995, having been crowned the Masters champion in Indian Wells and Key Biscayne the previous year. Federer collected his seventh grand-slam victory here on Sunday and — guess what? — the 24-year-old Swiss is the title-holder of the tennis showpieces of California and Florida. Scary is right. The timing of their ascent to greatness apart, these are men who can boast an extraordinary range, who play down their talent yet realise how touched they have been, whose demeanours belie fiercely competitive instincts, who appreciate the toil it takes to win. The subtle difference is that Sampras — who won seven more grand-slam tournaments before deciding that he had nowhere else to turn and laid down his rackets — lost in two of his first seven finals. Federer has won them all, losing a mere three sets in the process. Federer knows that he cannot escape those who will pursue him across the world questioning at each turn if he can match the American’s record 14 grand-slam victories and leave a mark of his own. Three years ago, when Sampras won the US Open for the final time and departed the scene, the logical assumption was that he had set a standard to last for all time. Sampras did not win the French Open in 13 attempts; Federer has had seven shots and his best is a semi-final appearance last spring. He said that that was the only time he gave himself a legitimate chance on red clay and yet the force was with Rafael Nadal, the teenage Spaniard, who became the champion two days later. Sampras played Federer once, on Centre Court in the fourth round of 2001, when a teenage Swiss burst the American’s Wimbledon bubble 7-5 in the fifth set. As Federer reaches halfway towards the Holy Grail, Sampras greets his achievements as one would expect, with no envy and recognising what it has required for the present world No 1 to have come even this far. “I don’t like to be reminded of the time we played at Wimbledon — he beat me fair and square and though it hurt, I knew he was a real talent,” Sampras said. “From what I see, he is able to play at a higher level with less effort than the rest — a bit like me. You see Andy Roddick and it is work. Roddick’s out there grinding, but it doesn’t take a lot of effort for Federer to play great. He is the complete package, head and shoulders over the rest. “I put up the records and I know that is the most that I could give. If someone breaks those, my hat is off to them because I know what it takes. It seems that Federer has the temperament to stay at the top for as long as he wants.” Within three hours of going to bed on Sunday evening, Federer was up, bright as a button, to appear on morning TV in Australia. He reiterated that his joy was based, for the large part, in disbelief that he had recovered to defeat Marcos Baghdatis, the Cypriot story of the championship, in four sets. He had practised in Australia over Christmas with Tony Roche, his coach, flown to the Middle East to win Doha, played patchily at Kooyong in the pre-championship exhibition, then had to cope with the excessive demands of being forced to play so many matches under lights. As the Australian Open squeezes more and more evening sessions into its schedule, so the big boys — ie, Federer — are required to play to sustain viewer figures. “I had so much time to think about my last four matches here,” he said. “It was nerve-racking. I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous before a grand-slam final. I try to save myself, but it isn’t easy.” Making it look as though it is, makes Federer the champion he is. Andri Baghdatis, the mother of Marcos, had an operation yesterday after being taken to hospital during the Australian Open final. She complained of stomach pains early on Sunday that worsened when she saw her son suffer cramp during his defeat by Roger Federer. Doctors diagnosed gallstones and she watched the end of the match from hospital.