sport

Fed backed for Wimbledon win

Pete Sampras would not be surprised to see Roger Federer win a record eighth Wimbledon title.

The pair currently share the Open era high mark of seven crowns, with Federer's victory over Andy Murray on Centre Court in 2012 giving him the last of his record 17 grand slam trophies.

Federer's struggles in 2013 led to many in the game writing off his hopes of another slam title, but the 32-year-old began this season looking rejuvenated.

Back problems that dogged him last year appear to be in the past, for now at least, while he has got to grips with a new, bigger-headed racquet and is enjoying working with part-time coach and boyhood hero Stefan Edberg.

Federer showed form of old in defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Murray to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open before an all-too familiar defeat by Rafael Nadal.

Sampras was in Melbourne for the match, and was encouraged by what he saw from Federer, who will return to action next week at the ATP tournament in Dubai.

Sampras believes Federer is capable of winning another slam, with the lawns of the All England Club representing his best chance.

He said: "I thought his level (in Australia) was quite good. When you're playing against Rafa and if you're not quite on your game then it can seem like you're struggling. Rafa's a rock.

"But I do see Roger building from that, I think he's going to do well this year. Things need to fall into place and he needs to play well but I do think he can do it (win a slam). I think it is what he's playing for."

Federer has stated his intention to play on at least until the Rio Olympics in 2016, by which time he will be 35.

Sampras called it a day at 31 after winning his 14th slam title at the US Open in 2002.

He said of Federer's longevity: "He's done everything in the game and he could walk away feeling great but he still wants to travel and compete and I'm in awe of it.

"As long as Roger is enjoying it and he's healthy, I can see him playing for another two, three, four more years. He truly loves the sport.

"Clearly the majors are his motivation but he's happy to still travel and play the other events. I found myself getting tired at 30 or 31."

Sampras' fairytale finish came courtesy of a four-set win over his great rival Andre Agassi at Flushing Meadows.

The pair will lock horns again in the World Tennis Day Showdown at Earls Court Two on March 3, which will also feature a clash between Ivan Lendl and Pat Cash.

Sampras estimated he and Agassi have faced each other only four or five times in the intervening 12 years.

The American pair were far from the best of friends during their playing days, and Sampras said: "It's a keen rivalry.

"We both want to play well and give the fans their money's worth but clearly we're a lot more relaxed than we once were.

"I had great success in London and I've been looking forward to it all year. It brings back memories of Wimbledon and great times."