A lot has been made of Roger Federer's recent form; the 13-time Grand Slam Champion and former World No. 1 has not won a Masters 1000 event since August 2007 in Cincinnati, and the Swiss maestro has not won a title of any description since he triumphed in the ATP event in his hometown, Basel, in October 2008.
Federer's recent form has led many to believe that he will never win another major. I find this view quite amusing, to say the least. The great man is still the holder of the US Open and has made the finals of the other three majors the last time that he competed in each of them.
Such was Federer's dominance of the sport between 2003 and 2007, it seemed as though he just needed to turn up to a major to be victorious. The regularity of Federer's success meant that Federer's greatness would never be overlooked, but perhaps at times the achievement, hard work, and toil needed to win a major was not completely apparentgiven how easy Federer was making it seem.
This is why I believe that when Federer wins his next major title, it will be his proudest and the sweetest of all. If Federer needs any inspiration at all, he just needs to look to Pete Sampras.
Sampras is, almost to the day exactly, 10 years older than Federer, and in many ways Federer's career has mirrored the legendary American's. Sampras won his first Wimbledon title in 1993, while Federer was triumphant at SW19 for the first time in 2003.
However, perhaps the most relevant similarity between these two legends is the fact that between Wimbledon 2000 and the US Open 2000, Sampras, too, suffered a lean period: The American did not win a title in that time, and many pundits, and even former players, believed that Sampras would never hit the heights again.
Sampras went into the 2002 US Open having lost to the Australian journeyman Wayne Arthurs a few weeks earlier and having suffered an embarrassing second round loss at Wimbledon to the Swiss player George Bastl.
Despite these setbacks, Sampras said at a press conference on the eve of the 2002 US Open that he still believed he had one more major in him, and that when he pulled it off, it would be his greatest accomplishment given what he had gone through. Many journalists in that press conference had the audacity to snigger at these sentiments from Sampras.
Even Sampras' opponents seemed to write off his chances. Prior to his third round match against Sampras, Britain's Greg Rusedski, claimed that Sampras "was a great player in the past." After losing to the American in five sets, Rusedski simply said, "He is a step-and-a-half slower than he was in years gone by."
Sampras' reply was brutal, honest, and to the point: "Well, I don't need to be a step-and-a-half quicker to beat him."
Such comments only served to bring out the best in Sampras and take him to another level. After claiming the first set of his semifinal against Dutchman Sjeng Schalken, Sampras pumped his fist and mouthed to the media box, "That's what I am talking about."
Sampras would go on to defeat his longtime rival Andre Agassi in the final and win his 14th Grand Slam, which, to date, makes him the most prolific major winner of all time.
The man poised to break Sampras' prestigious Grand Slam record is Federer himself, and while the titles may not have been coming, there is every chance that Federer could once again mirror Sampras and have a fairytale fortnight that answers his critics with such disdain yet such flair.