Peter “Pete” Sampras (//; born August 12, 1971) is a retired American tennis player and former world no. 1. During his 14-year tourcareer, he won 14 Grand Slam singles titles and became recognized as one of the greatest tennis players of all time.
Sampras debuted on the professional tour in 1988 and played his last top-level tournament in 2002 when he won the US Open, defeating rival Andre Agassi in the final. He was the year-end world no. 1 for six consecutive years (1993–1998), a record for the Open Era. His seven Wimbledon singles championships is an Open Era record shared with Roger Federer, while Sampras’ five US Open singles titles is an Open Era record shared with both Federer and former world no. 1 player Jimmy Connors. Sampras is the last American male to win Wimbledon (2000) and the ATP World Tour Finals (1999).
Rivalry with Andre Agassi
Sampras won 20 of the 34 matches he played against Agassi.
The 1990 US Open was their first meeting in a Grand Slam tournament final. Agassi was favored because he was ranked world number 4, compared to the world number 12 ranking of Sampras and because Agassi had defeated Sampras in their only previously completed match. However, Agassi lost the final to Sampras in straight sets.Pete Sampras serving, 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Their next meeting in a Grand Slam was at the 1992 French Open, where they met in the quarterfinals. Although Sampras was higher ranked, Agassi prevailed in straight sets. Their next Grand Slam meeting was at the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 1993, where Agassi was the defending champion and Sampras was the newly minted world number 1. Sampras prevailed in five sets, and went on to win his first Wimbledon championship.
With both Sampras and Agassi participating, the U.S. won the Davis Cup in 1995. Notable Sampras-Agassi matches of 1995 included the finals of the Australian Open, the Newsweek Champions Cup, the Lipton International Players Championships, the Canadian Open, and the US Open, with Sampras winning the Newsweek Champions Cup and the US Open.
The next time Sampras and Agassi met in a Grand Slam final was at Wimbledon in 1999, where Sampras won in straight sets. For both, it was considered a career rejuvenation, as Sampras had suffered a string of disappointments in the last year while Agassi was regaining his status as a top-ranked player after winning the French Open. Sampras forfeited the world number 1 ranking to Agassi when injury forced Sampras to withdraw from that year’s US Open. They faced each other twice in the season-ending ATP Tour World Championships, with Sampras losing the round-robin match, but winning the final.
They played each other only once in 2000. The top-ranked Agassi defeated world number 3 Sampras in the semifinals of the Australian Open in five sets.
In arguably their most memorable match, Sampras defeated Agassi in the 2001 US Open quarterfinals 6–7, 7–6, 7–6, 7–6. There were no breaks of serve during the entire match. Reruns of the match are frequently featured on television, especially during US Open rain delays.
The final of the 2002 US Open was their first meeting in a US Open final since 1995. The match also was notable because they had defeated several up-and-coming players en route to the final. Sampras had defeated world number 3 Tommy Haas in the fourth round and future world number 1 Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals, while Agassi had defeated world number 1 and defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in the semifinals. Sampras defeated Agassi in four sets. This was the final ATP tour singles match of Sampras’s career.
On August 2010 Sampras played an exhibition game with Andre Agassi at the indoor arena Coliseo Cubierto El Campin in Bogotá, Colombia.
Rivalry with Patrick Rafter
Sampras won 12 of the 16 matches he played against Rafter, including eight of their first nine. Their rivalry began to truly develop after Rafter shocked the tennis world by winning the 1997 US Open, a tournament that many expected Sampras to win, having won in 1995 and 1996. The win catapulted Rafter to the year-end no. 2 rankings behind Sampras. Many, including seven-time Grand Slam champion John McEnroe believed Rafter to be a “one-slam wonder”, since it was only his second career ATP title.
In 1998, after Rafter defeated Sampras in the Cincinnati Masters final, Sampras, at the time winner of 11 Grand Slams, when asked about the difference between himself and Rafter, famously stated “Ten grand slams”, that a controversial line-call cost him the match, and that a player had to come back and win another Grand Slam title in order to be considered great. The two met in the semifinals of the 1998 US Open, with Rafter winning in five sets. Sampras cited a leg injury as the reason Rafter won, an attitude that upset the generally mild-mannered Aussie: “He really does say some funny things at the wrong time”, said Rafter, “We are out there busting our guts and he doesn’t show a lot of respect at the end of the day. He tries to play down the reason why he lost, giving no respect to the other player, and that is what really upsets me about him and the reason I try to piss him off as much as I can.”
Following his successful defense of his 1997 U.S. Open title by defeating Mark Philippoussis in the 1998 final, when asked about Sampras’ earlier comments about having to win another Grand Slam in order to be considered great, Rafter replied: “Maybe you can ask him that question, if he thinks that now. For me, I won another Slam, and it hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s very, very exciting for me, especially to repeat it”. For his part, Sampras said about Rafter, “When I see him holding the US Open trophy, it pisses me off.”
After losing for a third consecutive time against Rafter, Sampras won their final four meetings, including a four-set victory in the 2000 Wimbledon final, after being down a set and trailing in the second-set tiebreaker. The victory gave Sampras his 13th Grand Slam title, breaking the record of 12 by Roy Emerson and at that time giving Sampras the most Grand Slam titles in history, until his record was eclipsed by Roger Federer following the 2009 Wimbledon final.
Sampras used one racket type, the Wilson Pro Staff Original, for his entire professional career – a racket first introduced in 1983. He played with Babolat natural gut, with all his rackets re-strung before each match (used or not) at 75 lbs tension (more or less, depending on conditions). His rackets had weight added to bring them close to 400 g, but the frame proper was a production model manufactured at a Wilson factory on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. The handles were custom-built.
Post-retirement, Sampras has used a slightly modified Pro Staff Tour 90 and, from 2008, a new version of the original Pro Staff, produced with in-between head size of 88 square inches and heavier weight at 349 grams unstrung.
Since mid-2010, Sampras has been spotted at multiple exhibitions playing with a Babolat Pure Storm Tour, along with Babolat’s popular RPM Blast strings.
“I need a little more pop…I need it if I’m going to play some tennis,” he said after playing Gael Monfils in an exhibition at the SAP Open.
During a good part of 2011, Sampras used a racquet that was painted all black, with Tourna Grip and Tourna Damper.