Pete Sampras

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Pete Sampras
Country: United States
Residence: Los Angeles, California, USA
Height: 185 cm (6'1")
Weight: 77 kg (170 lb)
Plays: Right
Turned pro: 1988
Retired: 2002
Highest singles ranking: 1 (1993-04-12)
Singles titles: 64
Career Prize Money: US$43,280,489
Grand Slam Record
Titles: 14
Australian Open W ('94, '97)
French Open SF (1996)
Wimbledon W ('93-'95; '97-'00)
US Open W ('90, '93, '95, '96, '02)

Pete Sampras (born August 12, 1971, in Washington, DC), is a former World No. 1 Greek-American tennis player. He is considered by many to be the greatest male tennis player of all time, having won a record 14 Grand Slam men's singles titles and finished the year as No. 1 on the ATP world rankings for a record six consecutive years. He won the men's singles title at Wimbledon a record seven times. He also won the US Open five times and the Australian Open twice. However the one major championship which eluded him was the French Open.


Tennis career

From an early age, Sampras showed signs of outstanding athletic ability. The young Sampras discovered a tennis racquet in the basement of his home and spent hours hitting balls against the wall. In 1978, the Sampras family moved to Palos Verdes, California, and the warmer climate there allowed seven-year-old Pete to play more tennis. The Sampras family joined the Peninsula Racquet Club, where they played a great deal of tennis together. It was here that Pete's ability became apparent. At the age of 11 he had already learned the solid serve and volley tactic that would become the hallmark of his game. He was spotted by Dr. Peter Fisher, a pediatrician and a tennis enthusiast, who became his mentor for a long part of his career. He oversaw his training and arranged coaches. Pete Sampras would face later the twin blows of his career when Peter Fisher was convicted for child molestation charges, which he also accepted and later the death of his beloved coach Tim Gullikson. But Pete Sampras maintained that Dr. Peter Fisher's behaviour towards him was normal and straightforward.

Sampras turned professional in 1988 at the age of 17. He won his first top-level singles title in February 1990 at Philadelphia. In August that year, he captured his first Grand Slam title at the US Open. He defeated Ivan Lendl in the quarter-finals and John McEnroe in the semi-finals, to set up a final showdown with another up-and-coming American player, Andre Agassi. Sampras beat Agassi in straight sets to become the US Open's youngest-ever male singles champion at the age of 19 years and 28 days. The rivalry between Agassi and Sampras was to become the dominant rivalry in tennis in the 1990s, and Sampras would win 20 of the 34 matches they played.

1991 saw Sampras capture the first of five career titles at the year-end ATP Tour World Championships. In 1992, he finished runner-up at the US Open and played on the US team which won the Davis Cup (he would help the US win the cup again in 1995).

In April 1993, Sampras reached the World No. 1 ranking for the first time. His rise to the No. 1 spot was controversial at the time as he had not recently won any Grand Slam titles. But he justified the ranking three months later by claiming his first Wimbledon title, beating former World No. 1 Jim Courier in the final. This was swiftly followed by his second US Open title. He finished the year as the clear No. 1 and set a new ATP Tour record that year by becoming the first player to serve over 1000 aces in a season.

Sampras dominated Wimbledon for the rest of the decade following his breakthrough title in 1993. He won three consecutive titles in 1993-95. He had a surprise quarter-final loss in 1996 to Richard Krajicek, who went on to win the title that year. Sampras then followed this by winning four consecutive titles in 1997-2000, to become the most succesful male player in Wimbledon history. His win in 2000 also allowed him to break Roy Emerson's record of 12 Grand Slam men's singles titles.

Sampras best surface was undoubtedly the fast-playing grass courts. However he was also known for his good all-round game and a strong competitive instinct. He won back-to-back US Open titles in 1995-96. He also won the Australian Open twice in 1994 and 1997. Sampras' only real weakness was on clay courts, where the slow surface tended to negate his natural attacking serve-and-volley game. His best performance at the French Open came in 1996, when he reached the semi-finals, and his failure to win that title is the one blemish on his otherwise exceptionally impressive career record.

After winning Wimbledon in 2000 Sampras did not win another title for two years. He reached the US Open final in 2000 and 2001, but defeats to young up-and-coming players Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt led many to speculate that Sampras would never capture another major title. But he had one more surprise up his sleeve. Despite being written off by sports commentators after a poor summer, Sampras made an amazing comeback at the 2002 US Open. That tournament was notable because his ya half-step slow". Contrary to Rusedski's predictions that Sampras would lose the next match, Sampras defeated two young and upcoming stars of the game, Tommy Haas in the fourth round and Andy Roddick in the quarter-finals, to reach his third stkuraight US Open final. This time he faced Andre Agassi, whom he'd met in his very kfirst Grand Slam final 12 years ersxarlier. After a four-set battle between the two veterans, Sampras emerged the victor and claimed a record 14th Grand Slam title. The tournament was the last of Sampras' career. He played no tour events in the following 12 months, and officially announced his retirement in August 2003.

During his career, Sampras won 64 ttup-level singles titles and two doubles titles. mshgHe was ranked the World No. 1 for a record 286 weeks, and was year-end No. 1 for a record six consecutive years from 1993 to 1998.

In 2005, TENNIS Magazine named him as the greatest tennis player, from its list of its 40 Greatest Players in the TENNIS Era.

Personal and family life

Sampras is the third son of Sam and Georgia Sampras, Greek immigrants to the United States; his paternal grandmother was Sephardic Jewish. Sampras' older sister Stella is head coach at UCLA and his younger sister, Marion, is a teacher in Los Angeles. His older brother, Gus, is tournament director at Scottsdale ATP event.

On September 30 2000, Sampras married American actress Bridgette Wilson.

On November 21, 2002, son Christian Charles, was born to him and his wife Bridgette Wilson. In 2005, the couple welcomed their second son, Ryan Nicholas.

Sampras has thalassemia minor, a mild form of an inherited disease that causes anemia. Since this is a disease which reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells - vital for athletic activity - this makes his achievements all the more astounding.

Sampras' businesslike attitude to tennis and cautious handling of the press led critics to bemoan his lack of charisma, but his natural talent and work ethic meant that Sampras was always able to let his results speak for themselves.

Grand Slam finals

Wins (14)

Year   Championship             Opponent in Final           Score in Final
1990   US Open                  Andre Agassi                6-4, 6-3, 6-2
1993   Wimbledon                Jim Courier                 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3
1993   US Open                  Cedric Pioline              6-4, 6-4, 6-3
1994   Australian Open          Todd Martin                 7-6, 6-4, 6-4
1994   Wimbledon                Goran Ivanisevic            7-6, 7-6, 6-0
1995   Wimbledon                Boris Becker                6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2
1995   US Open                  Andre Agassi                6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5
1996   US Open                  Michael Chang               6-1, 6-4, 7-6
1997   Australian Open          Carlos Moya                 6-2, 6-3, 6-3
1997   Wimbledon                Cedric Pioline              6-4, 6-2, 6-4
1998   Wimbledon                Goran Ivanesevic            6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2
1999   Wimbledon                Andre Agassi                6-3, 6-4, 7-5
2000   Wimbledon                Patrick Rafter              6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2
2002   US Open                  Andre Agassi                6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4

Runner-ups (4)

Year   Championship             Opponent in Final           Score in Final
1992   US Open                  Stefan Edberg               3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2
1995   Australian Open          Andre Agassi                4-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-4
2000   US Open                  Marat Safin                 6-4, 6-3, 6-3
2001   US Open                  Lleyton Hewitt              7-6, 6-1, 6-1

Performance timeline

Tournament 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 Career
Australian Open - 1r 4r - - SF W F 3r W QF - SF 4r 4r 2
French Open - 2r - 2r QF QF QF 1r SF 3r 2r 2r 1r 2r 1r 0
Wimbledon - 1r 1r 2r SF W W W QF W W W W 4r 2r 7
US Open 1r 4r W QF F W 4r W W 4r SF - F F W 5
Grand Slam Win-Loss 0-1 4-4 10-2 6-3 15-3 23-2 21-2 20-2 18-3 19-2 17-3 8-1 18-3 13-4 11-3 203-38
Tournaments Won 0 0 4 4 5 8 10 5 8 8 4 5 2 0 1 64
Hardcourt Win-Loss 8-7 13-10 27-8 25-7 25-5 43-6 37-3 37-6 46-4 35-5 30-10 23-5 28-7 26-10 20-8 423-101
Grass Win-Loss 0-0 2-2 6-2 5-3 7-2 7-1 11-1 12-0 4-1 8-1 8-1 12-0 11-1 6-2 2-3 101-20
Carpet Win-Loss 2-2 1-4 18-6 19-6 18-4 21-5 17-6 16-5 10-3 10-2 14-3 1-0 1-1 0-0 0-0 148-47
Clay Win-Loss 0-1 2-3 0-1 3-3 22-8 14-4 12-2 7-5 5-3 2-4 9-3 4-3 2-4 3-4 5-6 90-54
Overall Win-Loss 10-10 18-19 51-17 52-19 72-19 85-16 77-12 72-16 65-11 55-12 61-17 40-8 42-13 35-16 27-17 762-222

Playing style

Sampras was an all-court player known for several extraordinary facets in his game, in particular:

  • an accurate and powerful first serve, one of (or arguably) the best of all-time, leading to the nickname 'Pistol Pete';
  • a second serve nearly as powerful as his first, possibly his most dangerous weapon;
  • his athleticism and deceptive quickness;
  • his long arms meant that he could serve like a 7 footer although he was only 6'1;
  • great disguise on both his first and second serve;
  • his forehand, and in particular his "running forehand" (a forehand hit on the run) was considered the best in the world;
  • his net game (Sampras' volleys were superb and he arguably possessed the best overhead smash in the history of the men's game. His slam dunk smash was an effective tool to demoralise his opponents);
  • a reliable one-handed backhand, which he frequently sliced deep to set up a net play;
  • his extraordinary mental game, allowing him to stay focused and play his best game at decisive moments, such as hitting second serve aces at break point down

His style changed dramatically between the early 1990s and the time he retired. Sampras excelled on hard courts. He served and volleyed on his first serve and frequently stayed back on his second serve. Towards the latter part of his career on hard courts, Sampras played a serve and volley game on both his first and second serves. On grass courts Sampras served and volleyed on both serves throughout his career. When not serving, in the early years of his career, Pete's strategy was to be aggressive from the baseline, put opponents in a defensive position and finish points at the net.

In his later years, he became even more aggressive and would either employ a "chip-and-charge" strategy – just chip back the return and run up to the net, waiting for a volley or try to hit an offensive shot on the return and follow his return to the net. Sampras' aggressive strategies worked best on "fast" surfaces – like concrete and, in particular, grass – but were weaker on "slow" surfaces like clay. As a result, he dominated Wimbledon (played on grass) but never won the French Open (played on clay).

Opponents frequently played to his backhand which was deemed his weaker side. To counter this, Sampras often camped on the backhand side while rallying from the baseline and often baited opponents for his great running forehand.


  • Sampras won a record 14 Grand Slam titles over his career.
  • He finished the year as No. 1 on the ATP Rankings for a record six years. He was also the only player to finish as No.1 for six consecutive years (1993-98).
  • He was No. 1 ranked player in the world for a record 286 weeks.
  • He was in the world top ten for 12 years; only Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi have stayed in the top ten for more years.
  • He finished his career with a record $43 million in career prize money.
  • He captured 64 titles over his career, which makes him fourth in the all time list of players with most career titles.
  • He won 11 Masters Series titles, which places him second after Andre Agassi to win the most number of such tournaments (since 1990).
  • He appeared in at least one Grand Slam final for 11 consecutive years (1992-2002), winning in eight straight (1993-2000).
  • He and Ken Rosewall are the only men to win Grand Slam titles as a teenager, in their 20s, and in their 30s.
  • He won at least one title for 11 straight years (1990-2000) and 12 of 13 (except 2001).
  • He captured the ATP World Championship (now renamed the Tennis Masters Cup) a record five times in Germany (1991, 94, 96-97, 99). He shares this Open era record with Ivan Lendl.
  • He compiled a 19-9 career Davis Cup record (15-8 in singles) and member of winning teams in 1992 and 95.
  • He served a career-high 1,011 aces in 1993 to lead ATP circuit; also led in 1995 with 974 aces.
  • He won a career-high 10 titles and compiled a personal-best 29-match winning streak in 1994.
  • He won a career-best 85 matches in 1993 and on April 12th became the 11th player in the history of ATP rankings to reach the No. 1 spot.
  • He was the youngest US Open men's champion at 19 years, 28 days in 1990.
  • He compiled a 40-2 match record on Centre Court at Wimbledon and 63-7 overall at All England Club.
  • He compiled a 762-222 record during his years on the circuit – winning more than 77% of all the matches he played in 15 years.


  • ATP Player of the Year for six straight years from 1993-98.
  • ITF World Champion for six straight years from 1993-98.
  • US Olympic Committee "Sportsman of the Year", first tennis player to receive award in 1997.
  • Named GQ Magazine's Individual Athlete Award for Man of the Year in 2000.
  • Selected No. 1 player (of 25 players) in past 25 years in a panel of 100 current and past players, journalists and tournament directors to commemorate 25th anniversary of ATP in 1997.
  • Voted 48th athlete of Top 50 Greatest North American Athletes of ESPN's SportsCentury (also youngest on list).


  • Sampras' greatest rival is Andre Agassi, who Sampras said brings out the best game in him.
  • The Sampras-Agassi rivalry reached its height in 1995 when each man agreed to play in the Davis Cup only if the other also played, concerned that if one played while the other rested during the weeks leading up to the French open, the one who rested would obviously have a competitive advantage heading into the season's second major.
  • His childhood idol, whose game he modeled after, is Rod Laver.
  • He used a very demanding racket, a small 85-square-inch Wilson racket which was strung at a tight 75 pounds.
  • As a junior player, he was a defensive baseliner playing with a two-handed backhand. His coach, Pete Fischer, changed him to be a serve and volleyer with a one-handed backhand with Wimbledon in mind.
  • He was not a particularly notable junior player; he was still adjusting his game and playing at higher age groups to train himself.
  • His parents had never attended any of his matches (due to nervousness watching him play) (except his 1992 GS loss to Stefan Edberg) until his Wimbledon title match in 2000. After Sampras won, he ran into the stands to hug his parents. (At the on-court interview he was asked if they had ever seen him before, and he said "Yes, they saw me lose in 1992")Strange because the 1992 made him aim to break the GS record he broke at the Wimbledon final
  • Sampras admitted to not speaking about his condition with thalassemia minor, because that would have lessened his aura of invincibility against fellow players.

Famous matches

Some of the most famous matches Sampras played include the following:

  • US Open 1990 Quarter-final: defeated Ivan Lendl 6-4, 7-6, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2. Sampras ended Lendl's amazing streak of eight consecutive US Open finals.
  • US Open 1990 Final: defeated Andre Agassi 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Sampras' first Grand Slam tournament victory.
  • US Open 1992 Final: lost to Stefan Edberg 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2. Sampras recalled that this loss hit him hard. It was the turning point of his career where he dedicated himself to be the best player.
  • Wimbledon quarterfinal 1993: defeated Andre Agassi 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4 in one of only two 5 set matches this rivalry would produce (the other one being the 2000 Australian Open semis).
  • Wimbledon 1993 Final: defeated Jim Courier 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 in his first Wimbledon win. It was the beginning of an era where he dominated men's tennis.
  • Australian Open 1995 Quarter-final: defeated Jim Courier 6-7(4), 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in an unbelievable match. This match is also remarkable for the fact that Sampras broke down into tears during the start of the fifth set, when a fan shouted out for Sampras to win the match for his coach Tim Gullickson. Gullickson had earlier been diagnosed with brain cancer and died in May 1996.
  • Australian Open 1995 Final: lost to Andre Agassi 4-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-4 in what would prove to be his only loss to Agassi in a Grand Slam Final for his career. As a result of this match, Agassi became the top-ranked player on the tour.
  • Wimbledon 1995 Final: defeated Boris Becker 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in a clash of two of the top grass-court players of their generations.
  • US Open 1995 Final: defeated Andre Agassi 6-4 6-3 4-6 7-5. This was perhaps one of the highest rated tennis matches on TV in the 1990s due to the Sampras-Agassi rivalry and Agassi's marraige to Brooke Shields. It was also notable because Agassi stated that the winner would become number one; Sampras regained the top ranking and Agassi's loss hurt him mentally for several years to come.
  • Wimbledon 1996 Quarter-final: lost to Richard Krajicek 7-5, 7-6, 6-4. Sampras' only loss at Wimbledon between 1993 and 2000 inclusive.
  • US Open 1996 Quarter-final: defeated Alex Corretja 7-6, 5-7, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6, after being physically ill on the court, and coming back from being match point down. Sampras vomited twice during the match and required half a gallon of intra-venous fluids after the match.
  • ATP World Championships 1996 Final: defeated Boris Becker 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(4), 6-7(11), 6-4 in a four-hour-long match. Sampras and Becker struggled against typical season-end fatigue on the indoor carpet in Hannover, Germany. Sampras had the match point in the fourth-set tie-break, but was unable to capitalize as Becker came back with the crowd behind him and forced Sampras to play a final set. Many thought Sampras was physically exhausted and mentally beaten, but he came back stronger than ever and won one of the most difficult matches in his career.
  • US Open 1997 Fourth round: lost to Petr Korda 6-7, 7-5, 7-6, 3-6, 7-6. An upset victory for Korda.
  • Wimbledon 1998 Final: defeated Goran Ivanišević 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in a thrilling 5-set final.
  • US Open 1998 Semi-final: lost to Patrick Rafter 6-7, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a sign that his dominance was fading.
  • Wimbledon 1999 Final: defeated Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 in what Sampras called one of his best matches ever to equal Roy Emerson's record of 12 Grand Slams. Sampras grazed his elbow during the match. It was also remarkable because Agassi had regained his competitive form.
  • Australian Open 2000 Semi-final: lost to Andre Agassi 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-1 in an exciting match that featured brilliant shot-making from both players.
  • Wimbledon 2000 Final: defeated Patrick Rafter 6-7(10), 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-2 in a 172 minute match twice interrupted by rain to claim his record-breaking 13th Grand Slam title. Afterwards, Sampras ran into the stands to hug his parents, perhaps the only time his parents saw him play.
  • US Open 2000 Final: lost to Marat Safin 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Another signal that his dominance was fading. With a remarkable winner:unforced-error ratio, Safin "demolished" Sampras. Sampras later stated that Safin was the next dominant player in tennis.
  • Wimbledon 2001 Fourth round: lost to Roger Federer 7-6(7), 5-7, 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-5. Ended his 31-match winning streak at Wimbledon. Another sign of his gradual decline, especially the fact that it came on his best surface. It is also notable because it was a harbinger of the future dominance of Federer.
  • US Open 2001 Quarter-final: defeated Andre Agassi, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6, a classic duel that featured a remarkable zero breaks of serve. Many people dubbed this as the best Sampras-vs-Agassi match ever.
  • US Open 2002 Final: defeated Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in yet another memorable battle with his long-time rival. This was Sampras' first tournament win in over two years, since his record breaking 13th Grand Slam win at the 2000 Wimbledon. This was also the highest rated match on TV since the US Open 1995 Final. As it turned out, this was Sampras's last competitive match, his spectacular career thus ending with a stunning achievement.

External links

Association of Tennis Professionals | World No. 1's in Men's tennis
Andre Agassi | Boris Becker | Björn Borg | Jimmy Connors | Jim Courier | Stefan Edberg | Roger Federer | Juan Carlos Ferrero | Lleyton Hewitt | Yevgeny Kafelnikov | Gustavo Kuerten | Ivan Lendl | John McEnroe | Carlos Moyà | Thomas Muster | Ilie Năstase | John Newcombe | Patrick Rafter | Marcelo Ríos | Andy Roddick | Marat Safin | Pete Sampras | Mats Wilander
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