Pete Sampras: The Tennis Player Who Made History

After 14 Grand Slam tournaments, tennis player Pete Sampras is second to Nadal, who's still playing to this day, in the Open Era.
Pete Sampras: The Tennis Player Who Made History

Last update: 09 November, 2019

Petros Sampras, also known as Pete Sampras, is a former US tennis player whose career started in 1988. Throughout his time as a player, he conquered 14 Grand Slam tournaments, two of which were Australian Open finals -1994 and 1997-, seven Wimbledon finals -1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000- and five US Open finals -1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, and 2002-.

It’s worth noting that he never managed to win at a Rolan Garros, but he did get to one of its semifinals on a clay court.

Pete Sampras: a journey full of titles

The American tennis player accumulated 286 weeks as the number one on the ATP rankings. This means he’s the second-best in the Open Era, after Federer.

Pete Sampras' game.

Pete achieved eleven ATP Masters Series titles, of which three were in Miami and Cincinnati, and one in Rome, plus nineteen finals. He also took over five consecutive ATP Tour World Championships editions.

For a long time, people saw Sampras as the best tennis player of all time until Swiss player Roger Federer began his career. Paul Annacone, the North American coach who worked with Pete Sampras several times during his career (and also with Roger Federer between 2010 and 2014), claims that he finds multiple similarities in both tennis players.

What Sampra’s rivals feared most: his serve and his forehand

Pete Sampras earned the nickname “Pistol Pete” because it appeared as if he drew a gun, cowboy style when he prepared for his next shot.

Also, thanks to his “eastern” forehand with a closed grip, from the back of the court, he managed to achieve many powerful winning points.

John McEnroe – Sampra’s doubles mate in the US Davis Cup – helped him perfect his serve and volley technique by giving him some tips. This helped him play an aggressive, natural and creative game.

His powerful, varied and natural serve allowed him to use all possible effects that can be made on a tennis ball. However, since his serve reached 135 miles per hour, it’s still a subject of study due to its mechanical and technical aspects.

Regarding his backhand, he also did the “eastern” grip and for his slice backhand, he used the classical continental grip.

His personal mark was the “smash flying” or “jumping smash”, which always made the audience stand up; it was simply spectacular, especially after he smashed the opponent’s ball.

A very complete game style

On fast courts such as grass, carpet, and concrete, he was unstoppable. But in slow courts, such as clay, his serve wasn’t as decisive.

Despite his shortcomings on clay courts, experts still see his game as one of the most complete in tennis’ history. Since on hard courts, Sampras could always make every possible shot perfectly, and in high-pressure situations.

Pete Sampras' journey.

Moreover, he was able to win a match both from the back of the court, by alternating with occasional offensive hits at the net, and on the contrary, with the serve-and-volley game for almost an entire match.

He kept polishing his mind games and strategy throughout the years, and he learned to show determination and courage during key moments; he managed to overcome adverse situations, rivals, and markers.

Some of the most renowned experts in this sport, such as Bud Collins, point out that he could still take the title of best player in history, though Federer has won the Grand Slam more times. Collins mentions that the generation of tennis players was so numerous and talented on all surfaces, that it was really hard to dominate the way Sampras did.

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