Rafael Nadal playing as if he ‘feels like his career is over’ says Sampras, but ‘he’ll be fine’
Pete Sampras believes Rafael Nadal is fighting through a mental struggle the likes of which he has never had to endure before.
Saying he sees “anxiety” and nervousness in Nadal, the American legend nonetheless says he believes the Spaniard will find a return to form.
“It just seems like anxiety is creeping in, he seems a little bit nervous, he’s hitting a lot of short balls,” Sampras told “The Tennis Podcast”.
“Guys don’t fear him as much and it’s tough to play defence out there. Mentally and physically he’s been out there a while and it’s taking its toll.”
Nadal, the 2010 and 2013 US Open champion, is currently enduring the worst slump of his career and saw his world ranking slip to a 10-year low after losing his French Open title in June.
But Sampras stresses Nadal is doing the right things to get back to his elite level.
“I think he is still working hard. He is doing all the right things, he is just not playing as well.
“When Rafa struggles, I think he feels like his career is over. But he’ll be fine, he’ll get back to where he once was.”
Sampras, now 44, also said it would be foolish to write off Roger Federer’s chances of winning an 18th major at the US Open despite the Swiss having just turned 34.
Federer’s last grand slam crown came at Wimbledon in 2012, and his three-year drought is the worst dry spell of his career.
But Sampras, a 14-time grand slam title winner, insists the veteran can collect a sixth US Open to add to the five he won between 2004-2008 when the season’s final major gets underway in New York on August 31.
“I do think there is,” Sampras said on the podcast when asked if Federer had a chance in New York.
“I think he’s playing well, he’s fit, he hits the ball great, he’s doing everything that he’s been doing for years.”
But it won’t be an easy road for Federer even if he still wouldn’t be the oldest champion at the US Open.
That distinction belongs to Australia’s Ken Rosewall who was just two months short of his 36th birthday when he triumphed in 1970.
“It is tougher as you get older and now Novak (Djokovic] and (Andy) Murray, they’re in their prime now,” added Sampras.
“I think for Roger to win, things need to fall into place. I think if he has to play Murray, Djokovic, then Rafael Nadal in one week or back-to-back, it gets more difficult.
“Wimbledon I think is his best chance, but the US Open he’s won there five times, he knows what he’s doing. I think he’s got a good shot, but I think obviously Novak is the man to beat.”
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Updated: August 17, 2015 04:00 AM