With his victory last weekend in the Australian Open, Pete Sampras moved into fifth place among men in Grand Slam championships with nine. Considering he's only 25, it's safe to say he's a threat to Roy Emerson's record of 12.
That begs the question of how Sampras ranks among tennis' all-time greats, such as Australian Rod Laver, who has 11 Grand Slam titles. Who better to ask than Laver?
"I think Pete is as good as there's ever been in any era," Laver said from his home in Palm Desert. "I don't mind saying that at all.
"The one thing that separates him from those before him is the competition he has to face week after week. When I was playing, there were 20, maybe 25, good players on the circuit, players that made me think, 'Oh boy, it's going to be a tough match today.' Anybody below 25, I would think, 'If I play my game, I can win.'
"Today, there's a hundred players who can take Pete to five sets."
Like everyone else, Laver marvels at Sampras' serve and running forehand and said his backhand has improved so much in the last couple of years that it's difficult to find a weakness in his game.
In his prime, Laver said he would have enjoyed the challenge. But not with his old wooden racket.
"You get so much more speed with the rackets today," he said. "I've got more today than I had when I was at my best, and I'm not that strong."
Speculation is Phoenix's team in the WNBA will be nicknamed the Mercury. I can see the headlines now: Mercury Rises. Mercury Falls. . . .
Trainer Wayne Lukas has reconsidered his plan to start Boston Harbor's year in the Feb. 8, seven-furlong San Vicente at Santa Anita. Instead, the promising 3-year-old is scheduled to open Sunday in the more challenging 1 1/16-mile Santa Catalina. . . .
In winning the collegiate division at an indoor pole vault meet last weekend in Reno, Scott Slover moved into a tie for second on UCLA's all-time list at 18 feet 2 1/2 inches. He shares that mark with his coach, Anthony Curran. . . .
Because of a conflict with Arizona State's final exams in the spring, the Sun Devils and USC had to reschedule what could be a crucial Pacific 10 baseball series for this weekend, the second of the season, at Dedeaux Field. . . .
UCLA's baseball team, which plays its home opener Tuesday against Pepperdine, scored 45 runs in sweeping three games at Hawaii last weekend. As Al Davis would say, "Pride and Poi." . . .
Former Dodger pitcher Jim Gott and his wife, Cathy, are opening the doors Monday in Altadena to Education Spectrum, a center for autistic children. . . .
Hector Camacho Jr. makes his second professional appearance Friday night at the Chumash Gaming Casino in Santa Ynez. Young Hector might be even more macho than Macho because he has more punch. Joe Frazier is expected at ringside. . . .
Three of George Allen's Ram assistants almost 30 years ago are head coaches in the NFL--Ted Marchibroda, Marv Levy and Dick Vermeil. . . .
Besides Pasadena, cities campaigning for the 1998 Super Bowl if San Diego loses it are Detroit, Minneapolis and Tempe, Ariz. . . .
Former USC linebacker Keith Biggers, best known for literally running through a wall once during practice, is now a reggae singer. He's appearing Saturday night at the Billboard Live on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood under the stage name Raw Dredd. . . .
Free Bill Parcells!
George Foreman came to town Wednesday to pitch his new food product. It has nothing to do with yogurt. Yet, he insisted that "Meatloaf by George Foreman," appearing soon on your supermarket shelves, is, in keeping with his "Knock Out the Fat" campaign, good and good for you.
Naturally, he elaborated on other topics.
His next fight, scheduled for April, is against "a guy from New York who can't fight worth a lick. At least I'm hoping it's him."
Evander Holyfield is not fighting Foreman because "he got $30 million for the rematch with Mike Tyson. I would tell him that's a good decision."
Foreman looks svelte at 315 pounds because of "exercise and designer jeans."
While wondering if they talk smack on KIIS, I was thinking: A couple of athletes the Dodgers should check out are Balazs Kiss and Louis Lipps, it must be hard for Bill Fitch and Larry Robinson to go to work every day, it's good to have Carl Lewis back.