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  Saturday, 20 July, 2002, 19:09 GMT 20:09 UK
Time for a change?
Pete Sampras
Sampras has not won a tournament since Wimbledon
A new generation overthrowing the old guard is a sporting cliché that is often over-used in tennis.

The minute a lesser-ranked young player beats anyone in the top 10, the headlines declare that a new era is being ushered in and the established stars are consigned to history.

In reality the process is much less dramatic. Young players come through in spurts just as older ones retire in dribs and drabs.

But this year the world of tennis faces losing a glut of big-name players:

Pete Sampras

Two happy events in the year 2000 may have hastened the end of Sampras' long and successful career.

In winning his 13th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, he finally broke Roy Emerson's long-standing record and conquered what had become his major career goal.

Then in September he got married and took an extended honeymoon.

Since Wimbledon, Sampras has not won a tournament and some believe his desire to win has subsided with the acquisition of the Grand Slam record and the discovery of the pleasures of married life.

There is arguably one thing that stands between Sampras and the label of best player of all time - the French Open title.

But his woeful clay form this season makes winning this more unlikely than ever and Pistol Pete, who turns 30 in August, may decide to quit while he is ahead.

Andre Agassi

Sampras may be the most successful player of his generation but Andre Agassi is undoubtedly still the biggest draw in the game.

Andre Agassi
Agassi won the first Grand Slam of the year

His mid-career blip, which saw his ranking plummet to 141, ironically seems to have enabled him to stay longer on the tour.

In winning this year's Australian Open, his game was sharper than ever and his motivation supreme.

But he openly admits retirement is looming and almost weekly speculation about a possible marriage to Steffi Graf only fuels the belief that this will be his last French Open.

Patrick Rafter

It is injury rather than age that threatens the popular Australian - in particular a shoulder and elbow problem that he has been unable to shrug off completely.

Pat Rafter has won the US Open twice
Rafter has won the US Open twice

He hinted at the beginning of the year that this would be his last on the tour although his good run in front of his home supporters in the Australian Open may have made him reconsider.

Then again, he may decide that his new career as a global eco-warrior can no longer be put on hold.

Todd Martin

Another of the 30-something club, Martin's career has been blighted by injury.

Like Sampras, Martin is enjoying the life of a newly wed, having got married in December.

Todd Martin
Martin: member of the 30-something club

A Grand Slam finalist three times, he is destined to be remembered as the man who choked on the brink of victory in the 1996 Wimbledon semi-final.

Roland Garros is his least favourite Grand Slam - he lost in the first round here last year - and another miserable showing on the French clay may help persuade him that this should be his last year on the tour.

Michael Chang

Michael Chang's career has mimicked his on-court game - pluckily refusing to admit defeat until the umpire declares the final score.

Match point may not have quite arrived but the 29-year-old must be well into the final set of a career that has never achieved the precocious heights at which it began in 1989.

It was then that Chang became the youngest winner of a Grand Slam at the age of 17 years and three months when he won at Roland Garros.

That he has stayed so long on the tour is typical of his self-belief and determination but another fruitless visit to Paris could see Chang waving au revoir forever to the scene of his earlier triumph.

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario

The same year that an adolescent Chang won in Paris, Sanchez-Vicario was also striking a blow for youth by becoming the youngest ever women to win the French Open.

Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario
Sanchez-Vicario: Happy memories of Paris

Since then she has finished the year outside of the top 10 just once and has collected several more Grand Slam titles.

But her overcrowded mantelpiece now also contains a wedding photo after her marriage to a Spanish journalist last summer.

She took an extended honeymoon break and skipped the Australian circuit this year, fuelling speculation that her retirement is imminent.

Conchita Martinez

The Spanish journeywoman has ended the season in the top 15 every year since 1989.

She was a surprising Wimbledon winner in 1994 but has not been a real force in the women's game since the mid-1990s.

She did sneak into the final here last year so some may claim she is improving with age.

But all those baseline moonballing rallies must have taken their toll and if she does not improve on last year, it may be time to call it quits.

Monica Seles

From 1990 to 1992, Monica Seles won 21 matches on the trot at the French Open.

Those days of domination are long gone although she did reach the final again in 1998.

But she has never been the same player since returning from a two-year absence after being stabbed on court in 1993.

That unfortunate incident made her realise that there is life outside tennis and it cannot be long before she decides to experience it full-time.

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