Pete Sampras

Pete Sampras
Missing image
"Sampras had exquisite touch at the net"

Country: United States
Residence: Los Angeles, California, USA
Height: 6'1" (185 cm)
Weight: 170 lb (77 kg)
Plays: Right
Turned pro: 1988
Retired: 2002
Highest singles ranking: 1 (4/12/1993)
Singles titles: 64
Career Prize Money: $43,280,489
Grand Slam Record
Titles: 14
Australian Open W (1994, '97)
French Open SF (1996)
Wimbledon W (1993-'95; 1997-'00)
U.S. Open W (1990, '93, '95, '96, '02)

Pete Sampras (born August 12, 1971, Washington, DC), is a retired American professional tennis player. He is considered by many to be the greatest male tennis player of all time for winning a record 14 Grand Slams and finishing the year as No. 1 on the ATP Rankings for a record 6 consecutive years. He also won Wimbledon, tennis' most prestigious tournament, a record seven times; although he never won the French Open, the one major tournament championship that eluded him.



Sampras was the third son of Greek immigrants, Sam and Georgia Sampras. From an early age, Pete showed signs of outstanding athletic ability. The young Pete discovered a tennis racquet in the basement 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 has become the hallmark of his game.

On September 30, 2001, Sampras married American actress Bridgette Wilson.

Sampras has thalassemia minor, a mild form of an inherited disease that causes anemia. 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.


Sampras's pro career began in 1988 at the age of 16. His first victory in a Grand Slam tournament came at the US Open in 1990, when he defeated, among others, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, and in the final, an up-and-coming young player named Andre Agassi. At only 19 years 28 days, Pete Sampras was the youngest tennis player ever to win the US Open Men's title. The rivalry between Agassi and Sampras lasted throughout the 1990s.

Sampras' US Open victory was surprising and he was hailed as the game's next hope. Admittedly feeling the pressure, Sampras fell back to earth although he did win the 1991 IBM World Championship and in 1992 played on the American team that won the Davis Cup. His rose to superstardom began in 1993, when he rose to No. 1 and won a much-awaited breakthrough Wimbledon. He set a new ATP Tour record in 1993 when he became the first player to serve over 1000 aces in a season. Afterwards, he dominated Wimbledon for much of the 1990s, taking the title there in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000, looking invincible except for his loss to Richard Krajicek in 1996. He also has been very successful at Queen's Club.

Whereas the grass courts of Wimbledon played to Sampras's strengths, his only real weakness was on clay, where the slow surface tended to negate his natural attacking serve-and-volley game, and he never progressed beyond the semi-final stage at the French Open. His businesslike attitude during play 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.

He was known for his good all-round game and a strong competitive instinct. He holds the record for the most wins in Grand Slam men's singles events, having won a total of 14 (7 Wimbledon, 5 US Open, and 2 Australian Open). Sampras led the world tennis rankings for six consecutive years, from 1993 to 1998. After a period of time during which he, by his own admission, lacked the drive and hunger needed to remain at the top, Sampras officially retired on August 25, 2003. However, in what turned out to be his final event, Sampras stunned the tennis world by winning his 14th Grand Slam title, the 2002 U.S. Open. Even more fittingly, his final match was played against his longtime-rival and fellow-future-hall-of-famer, Andre Agassi.


Missing image
"Pistol Pete Serve"

Sampras was known for several extraordinary facets in his game, in particular:

  • great disguise on both his first and second serve
  • an accurate and powerful first serve, one of the best in history;
  • a second serve nearly as powerful as his first, possibly his most dangerous weapon;
  • his forehand, 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 arguably posessed 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, being extremely focused and coming up with his best game at crunch times.

The sampras style changed dramatically from the early 90s to 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, possibly after 1998, Sampras served and volleyed on both first and second serves. On the grasscourts of Wimbledon Sampras serve 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. Opponents frequently played to his backhand which was deemed his weaker side. Sampras' aggressive strategies worked best on "fast" surfaces like concrete (and grass in particular), but were weaker on "slow" surfaces like clay. As a result, he dominated Wimbledon (played on grass) and never won the French Open (played on clay).


  • 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 6 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 Connors, Agassi and Lendl 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 4th in the all time list of players with most career titles.
  • He won 11 Masters Series titles, which places him 2nd 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 Tennis Masters Cup (ATP World Championship) 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 Apr. 12th became 11th player in history of ATP Rankings to hold No. 1.
  • 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 percent of all the matches he played in 15 years.


  • ATP Player of the Year six straight years from 1993-98.
  • ITF World Champion six straight years from 1993-98.
  • U.S. 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 is a close friend. They agreed once to play in the Davis Cup only if the other also played.
  • 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 74 pounds.
  • As a junior player, he was a defensive baseliner playing with a two-handed backhand. His coach, Pete Fischer, changed him to be an all-court player with a one-handed backhand with Wimbledon in mind.
  • He was never a notable junior player; he was still adjusting his game and playing at higher age groups to train himself.

Famous matches

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

  • U.S. Open 1990 Quarter-FInal: defeated Ivan Lendl, 6-4 7-6 3-6 4-6 6-2. Sampras ended Lendl's amazing streak of 8 U.S. Open finals.
  • U.S. Open 1990 Final: defeated Andre Agassi, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, Sampras' first Grand Slam tournament victory.
  • U.S. 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 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 5th 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.
  • 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 generation.
  • Wimbledon 1996 Quarter-final: lost to Richard Krajicek, 7-5, 7-6, 6-4, Sampras' only loss at Wimbledon between 1993 and 2000 inclusive.
  • U.S. 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.
  • U.S. 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 Ivanisevic, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, in a thrilling 5-set final.
  • U.S. Open 1998 Quarter-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.
  • 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 (10-12) 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 6-2 in a 172 minute match twice interrupted by rain to claim his record-breaking 13th Grand Slam title.
  • 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, which ended his 21-match winning streak. Another sign of his gradual decline, especially the fact that it came on his best surface. It is also notable because it was a harbringer of the future dominance of Federer.
  • U.S. 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. It was also notable because Greg Rusedski, whom Sampras had dispatched in the Fourth round in a tough 5-set match, made unsportsmanlike comments calling Sampras "a half-step slow". Contrary to Rusedski's predictions that Sampras would lose the next match, Sampras defeat Tommy Haas in the quarter-finals. As it turned out, this was Sampras's last competitive match; he did not play in any subsequent tournaments before making his retirement official.

Grand Slam titles (14)

Year   Championship             Finalist                    Score
1990   U.S. Open                Andre Agassi                6-4, 6-3, 6-2
1993   Wimbledon                Jim Courier                 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3
1993   U.S. 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   U.S. Open                Andre Agassi                6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5
1996   U.S. 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   U.S. Open                Andre Agassi                6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4

External links

Template:Tennis World Number Ones (men)

bg:Пийт Сампрас da:Pete Sampras de:Pete Sampras es:Pete Sampras fr:Pete Sampras he:פיט סמפראס it:Pete Sampras ja:ピート・サンプラス nl:Pete Sampras no:Pete Sampras pl:Pete Sampras sv:Pete Sampras


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