The only predictable thing about men's tennis these days is that Pete Sampras is untouchable at Wimbledon.
For the past 12 months, the world's No. 1 player had been pretty average. He lost to journeyman players, suffered from burnout and failed to get past the quarters of the U.S., Australian or French Opens.So what happens when Sampras returns to Centre Court to defend his title at the All England Club?
He becomes Superman again.
"Now I guess I'm out of my slump," Sampras said after his 6-7 (7-2), 7-6 (11-9), 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Goran Ivanisevic on Sunday, the American's fifth Wimbledon title in six years.
Two weeks on grass was enough to lift Sampras back to his dominant best and elevate him a notch higher on the list of greats.
He tied Bjorn Borg for the most Wimbledon titles in the modern era and moved within one victory of Roy Emerson's record of 12 Grand Slam championships, equalling Borg and Laver with 11.
If they played more Slams on grass, Sampras would surely be way ahead by now.
"I'm probably more comfortable on this court than any court in the world," he said. "With the surroundings, and the ball kids and everything, it just seems like it's comfortable. It's like my practice court. I've played a lot of big matches on that court and when you're comfortable playing somewhere, you're going to play well."
No kidding. Since 1992, Sampras has won 44 matches and lost two at Wimbledon.
"If there's one thing that elevates my tennis, it's this place, the court, the historical meaning that this tournament has to me as a kid growing up," he said. "It's not easy each week you play on the tour to get motivated, and I have no problem getting motivated for this one."
Sampras was 8 years old when Borg won his fifth straight title in 1980.
"As a kid when I saw Borg's five, I never thought that I would be a position to tie it," he said. "It's a little overwhelming to think about it."
Sampras plans to savor this victory before thinking about going after Emerson's mark.
"When the U.S. Open comes around, I'll be thinking about trying to achieve another goal," he said. "But I feel like I've got a lot of good years left in me, that I can do it, and it's a number out there that I feel like I can achieve."
Sampras' victory further enhanced his status as the greatest player of his generation. Whether he is the greatest ever remains a matter of debate.
"I put him in the godlike stratosphere with Laver and Borg," three-time champ John McEnroe said. "You have to put those people in the upper echelon. It's hard to say who is the best."