The Davis Cup also gives Sampras the rare opportunity to be part of a team. Self-absorption is a prerequisite for extended success in tennis, and for the past decade Sampras, more than any other player, has toiled in isolation. Last week he watched the Super Bowl, shared steak dinners and learned hip hand gestures with teammates. In turn Roddick, James Blake, 22, and Mardy Fish, 20, observed Sampras's every move. "It was like Michael Jordan and the Wizards," said McEnroe. "It wasn't necessarily what Pete said, it was his aura that rubbed off on everyone."
After the surprisingly effective doubles pairing of Fish and Blake sealed the tie for the U.S. last Saturday, Sampras took part in the Davis Cup ritual of circling the court while carrying an American flag. Roddick was supposed to take his own turn as the flag-bearer but ended up joining Sampras on Pete's victory lap. Somehow it was fitting. The best player the sport has ever known might be 30, but he isn't ready to pass the baton just yet.