Will Roger Federer Be Able to Retire on Top Like Pete Sampras?

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2013

Pete Sampras and Roger Federer play doubles in a charity event.
Pete Sampras and Roger Federer play doubles in a charity event.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Roger Federer respects and admires Pete Sampras

After spending much of his career chasing Sampras' records, could Federer be trying to emulate his idol in one final way?

Like Sampras, could Federer retire on top?

It's hard to imagine Federer lingering like Lleyton Hewitt, hoping for wild cards long after he can no longer play his way into tournaments.

Right now, Federer is far from that. He is ranked No. 3 and is the reigning Wimbledon champion.

However, as each year passes, questions about his retirement mount. When? Why? How?

Just how does one of the greatest of all time call it quits?

Perhaps the way Sampras retired offers some clues.

Sampras announced his retirement at age 32. It was nearly a year after his final match, a win over Andre Agassi in the 2002 U.S. Open final

Up until he won the U.S. Open, Sampras was going through a slump in 2002. He hadn't won a title in two years. He had been beaten badly by a young Marat Safin at the Australian Open. He also suffered a first-round loss in the French Open and a second-round loss at Wimbledon.

Last year, Sampras told ESPN writer Greg Garber that it was the lowest point of his career.

Yet Sampras felt he had one more Slam in him.  

He did. He defeated Agassi, 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, in an epic U.S. Open final.  

After the match, in an interview with Sports Illustrated, Sampras said, "To beat a rival like Andre, in a storybook ending, it might be nice to stop...But I still love to compete. I'll see in a couple of months where my heart is and my mind. My head is spinning."

Even though he hinted at retirement, Sampras made no formal announcement for a while. Tournaments came and went; he simply did not enter.

Perhaps after reaching the mountain top at that age, Sampras felt no need to risk falling back into the valley.

For players like Sampras and Federer who pursue perfection, mediocrity must be unbearable. Hanging around and hovering outside the top 50 have to be unthinkable.   

When Sampras made his retirement official, he told CBS Sports, "I'm done, 100 percent done. I'm 100 percent retired. I'm at peace with it. It's time to call it a career."

He went out on top and on his terms. Will Federer do the same? 

Federer turns 32 in August. Earlier this year he addressed his retirement with BBC Sport

Eventually, it will be clear that it is time to stop but the time is definitely not now…But then again, things change very quickly. You have to be ready for it and open to it. I'm not naive that I can play for 15 more years but I would like to give myself a chance to play for many more years to come.

Federer told the Daily Mail that he's already made plans to play at Wimbledon in 2014. 

Still planning ahead, Federer appears to have no immediate plans to retire. However, as he said, things could change quickly.

A surprise win at Roland Garros might hasten his retire.

He enters the French Open after a horrible loss to Rafael Nadal in Rome. Another French Open title would enhance his legacy, but a win at Roland Garros is a lofty goal with Nadal around. 

Then again, so was Sampras winning the U.S. Open at age 31 against Agassi.  

If Federer manages to win the French Open over Nadal, will he retire?


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