Djokovic emulates Sampras’ resolve in Indian Wells
Originally published on: 16/03/10 13:03
When Philipp Kohlschreiber won nine straight games to build a seemingly match-winning 3-0 advantage in the final set of his third round tie with Novak Djokovic in Indian Wells on Monday, the Serb looked set for an extremely disappointing day.
The world No.2 – who finished a runner up to Rafael Nadal in 2007 before defeating Mardy Fish to win the BNP Paribas Open the following year – looked odds on for a repeat of his defeat to the German in the third round of last season’s French Open.
But in typical tennis fashion – where a dodgy line call, or a single casual forehand can make all the difference – fortunes swung back in favour of the world No.2, who not only saved three match-points to defeat the 26-year-old, but finished the day in delighted mood after meeting his ‘lifetime idol’ Pete Sampras.
The fourteen-time Grand Slam champ – still in the vicinity after his involvement in the ‘Hit for Haiti’ fundraiser on Friday evening – had been practising with Roger Federer at nearby La Quinta before meeting up with the Serb.
“I was very happy to meet Pete, who is my lifetime idol,” Djokovic told the assembled press after booking his place in the fourth round with a 6-3 2-6 7-6 victory over Kohlschreiber.
“When the kid meets an idol, I surprised myself. I thought: ‘It’s not going to be a big deal. I’m on the tour for many years. I’m grown up.’ But it was incredible, you know.
“I mean, you looked up to somebody and then you meet him and shake hands with him, and he tells you that you win with your mind and your heart,” said the Serb, who won his first and only Grand Slam title in Melbourne in 2008.
“I fulfilled my childhood dreams because he’s the one who gave me a lot of motivation to become a professional player. I saw him winning Wimbledon when I was four, five years old.
“Because I didn’t have anybody playing tennis in my family, I had to do it myself. To be able to meet him for the first time was just amazing.”
Sampras achieved 64 career titles and notched up 762 wins on tour with his uniquely commanding serve-and-volley style, but it is his mental strength that most inspired the 22-year-old Djokovic.
“Definitely his commitment and mental mindset, the way he approaches matches, tournaments,” Djokovic responded, when asked what he admired most about the American.
“He’s just one of the biggest ever that played this game.
“I wish one day I can hit with him. He promised me he’s going to hit with me, so I’ll keep him for the word.”
Andre Agassi has apologised for poking fun at his former-rival during the Hit for Haiti on Friday night, admitting he was “out of line”.
In an exchange that started light-heartedly, but turned a tad sour – Sampras ended up firing a serve high and hard at Agassi’s head – forcing the Las Vegan to duck out of the way.
“I was trying to be comedic, I only had a split second to make a decision. I went for it and it fell flat,” said the 39-year-old of his attempted banter.
“I was trying to get past it, but Pete didn’t really let me get past it. He didn’t really roll with it. I’ve texted Pete to ask him if I can apologize in person.”