Where does Sampras go from here?

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/P/Petesampras.jpg' class='caption'> Pete Sampras tries to make sense of his latest defeat at Wimbledon and figure out where to go from here in his career.

Updated: February 25, 2007 09:27 IST
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New York:

Bent over in his chair, staring sadly at his racket, straightening the strings as if it mattered anymore, Pete Sampras tried to make sense of his latest debacle and figure out where to go from here. In his dizzying descent since winning his seventh Wimbledon and record 13th Grand Slam title two years ago, he had hit bottom. Two rounds and out on his favourite surface. A five-set loss to a player ranked No. 145, George Bastl of Switzerland, a guy only his friends, family and the most fanatic tennis fans know. Is it time for Sampras to quit, admit to the obvious that he's now gone two years and 30 tournaments without winning a title? That at 30 years, he's not nearly as quick to the net as he once was. That his serve is uncertain and doesn't scare everyone anymore. That his name and record no longer make opponents quiver when the match is on the line. Or is it time to dig in, to resist retirement until he can go out with a modicum of dignity, trying to add one more major trophy to his collection? Sampras lingered a long time after the match yesterday on Court 2; the notorious "graveyard of champions". On a shocking day of upsets - Andre Agassi of the United States falling to Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan and Russia's Marat Safin losing to Olivier Rochus of Belgium - Sampras took his defeat the hardest. Agassi, who had been seeded No. 3, knows he still has life in the game and will be a threat at the next major - the US Open. Safin, the 2000 US Open champion who had been seeded No. 2, is young enough to shake off this loss quickly. Sampras realizes that if he can't win on the grass at Wimbledon, he might not be able to win anywhere anymore. "This one is the one that's always kind of saved my year," he said. Yet, sitting there on the court after losing to Bastl, Sampras didn't want his career to end so abruptly and on such a flat note against an obscure player. Instead of waving goodbye dramatically to the crowd, he halfheartedly lifted one arm to acknowledge the cheers as he trudged off. "I plan on coming back next year and the years after as long as I feel like I can do it," Sampras said. "This is not the way I'm going to end my time here". Five years ago at Wimbledon, German Boris Becker gently placed his hand on Sampras' shoulder at the net after losing, leaned over and whispered that that match was the last he would ever play on Centre Court. Sampras looked stunned. They stood there a few moments in the fading light, Wimbledon's dominant men of the 1980s and '90s, at the time each a three-time champion, and spoke with a mutual admiration that transcended a sometimes testy rivalry. "I was glad it would be against him," Becker said, "because I respect him so much, and because he's such a great champion." Becker knew that retirement was the right decision. Right or wrong, Sampras believes he will be able to work his way out of his slump and challenge for a major title once more. That's why he won't quit. (AP)

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