Pete Sampras: 'Novak Djokovic is one of the all-time greats'

    Pete Sampras: Why I won't coach on the pro tour
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    Story highlights

    • Tennis great Pete Sampras won 14 grand slams
    • "Djokovic is one of the greats of all time," says Sampras
    • "Something missing in Nadal's game," adds American.

    (CNN)He's one of the all-time tennis greats. A man with 14 grand slam titles tucked away and a name that demands respect.

    Not that Pete Sampras' children -- his main focus since retirement from the game -- seem to be aware.
      "I'm helping them to behave, listen and be good kids. It's not easy," Sampras told CNN's Open Court show.
      "I mean these kids just don't listen to me! I tell them something to do and they do the complete opposite. It's tough being a parent these days.
      "It's definitely much different from my life as a tennis player. Everything was about me. What I was eating, what I was doing. I was traveling. Now it's about my kids."
      That dedication to his craft elevated Sampras into a class of his own in the men's game for so long.
      A breakthrough victory at the U.S. Open in 1990 announced his arrival, and though a fallow period ensued before he bagged grand slam title number two, by 1993 his era of dominance was about to hit full charge.
      In the next seven years the 44-year-old locked down 12 of his majors, seven of them at Wimbledon, despite grass being a surface he admitted to CNN back in 2012 he "hated" at the outset of his career.
      But once he got over that, in his own words: "I was the owner of the place for the next seven years."
      No longer, though, is he the owner of a crown he acquired with a fourth straight win at the All England club in 2000, which established him as the most successful male player ever with 12 grand slams.
      Two more were to follow, only for his 14 titles to be eclipsed by Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2009, with Sampras watching on.
      "I was resigned when I saw Roger do it at Wimbledon," explained the American. "Sure, I would have loved for my 14 to last forever but it was meant to be broken.
      "Roger not only passed me but he has 17 and Rafa (Nadal) has 14 and Novak (Djokovic) has 11. Literally three guys who passed me in one decade or in pretty much 15 years' time. It's incredible, I didn't see it coming."

      'Big Two'

      Federer's quest for an 18th is now in its fourth year. The Swiss has finished runner-up to Djokovic three times during that period, but Sampras says he is stunned Federer is still slugging it out at the top with a generation of younger players.
      "With Roger I'm amazed," said Sampras. "He's 34 now, he's still ranked two, three in the world. He's competing for majors, he's still playing great tennis.
      "He's almost playing better now than he did 10 ten years ago. He's improving!"
      Sampras thinks the so-called "big four" has been halved, with Nadal, from Spain, and Britain's Andy Murray dropping out.
      "I think it's the big two," he said. "Quite honestly those two are the best players in the world," added Sampras, referring to Djokovic and Federer.
      Even so Djokovic is the man way out in front of everybody else at present and only defeat to Federer's compatriot Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final prevented him winning a single-season grand slam in 2015.
      He kicked off the 2016 campaign with a sixth victory at the Australian Open in January to pull level on 11 major titles with Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver in the pantheon of grand slam greats.
      "He's the best in the world and it's impressive," Sampras said of the Serbian. "He's so good, moves so well, has the whole package. Mentally, physically he's so strong.
      "You can tell that he's so focused on being the best in the world and he's dominating at a time when the game is strong. His run in the last couple of years has been incredible.
      "To beat Roger twice at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, to beat Rafa at the French. Truly he's one of the greats of all time. He's won 11 majors, he's only 28.
      "If he keeps this up over the next three, four years, he could very well pass me and get to 16, 17."
      Meanwhile, Nadal has toiled in recent seasons, struggling with injury and a loss of form.
      He's tied with Sampras on 14 career grand slam titles but looks a long way from adding to that tally at present.
      "There's something missing in his game, I'm not sure what," Sampras said. "He's really struggling. He's hitting a lot of short balls. He's not as aggressive. He just seems really tense out there, he's nervous. When he's losing on clay that's shocking to me.
      "But it's not over for him. He's too good. He's won too much. But I feel for him. I went through a couple of years where I wasn't playing well, you lose confidence but I still had a serve."

      Future plans

      Sampras has played a smattering of exhibition matches since hanging up his racket in 2003, but has eschewed the coaching route taken by fellow ex-pros like Boris Becker and Michael Chang.
      And that could be extremely good news for any aspiring tennis players in the Los Angeles area.
      "I don't want to travel and be at these events for more than a couple of days," he added. "I just don't have it in me to put in the work.
      "If there's some young kids that want to hit in L.A. I'm more open to do that but as far as traveling 20 weeks a year it's not something I want to do.
      "You never know, it could change but for the time being I'm happy just to play a little bit here and there."