ATP Greatest Rivalries – Agassi vs. Sampras
My favorite rivalry of all time is Agassi-Sampras. These guys tore up the 90’s and picked up the baton from McEnroe and Connors in the 80s. Their rivalry was as exciting if not more exciting than Borg McEnroe. The contrast of personalities really shone through as well. Agassi was a risk taker, a rebel, and flashy. His game just looked so cool. Every kid out there wanted to hit a forehand or backhand like Andre Agassi. In contrast, Sampras was cool, calculated and efficient. He had an almost unbreakable serve, and at times looked lethargic in his return game. People complained that watching him play was boring. That’s actually a compliment to Sampras in my opinion, because he knew that all he needed was one good game to break – the serve would take care of everything else.
That being said, if there was one man who could return his serve consistently and effectively, it was Andre Agassi. And although Andre did not win 14 Grand Slams, he did manage to win 8 Grand Slams, and after all has been said and done, his record against one of the all-time greats, makes Agassi an all-time great as well.
Sampras holds a 20-14 edge on this rivalry. In Grand Slams Sampras holds a 6-3 edge, while in ATP Masters series they are tied 5-5. Given the importance of those Masters tournaments, the fact that they split the wins shows that the rivalry was closer than people think.
In terms of my top three matches between these two legends, I’d say they are as follows.
1990 US Open Final. Agassi was favorite by a country mile. However, this was Sampras’ coming out party, and he shocked Agassi in a routine straight set win for his first Grand Slam.
1995 Australian Open Final. Agassi wins 4-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-3. This win came immediately after Andre Agassi’s unlikely win at the 1994 US Open, where he came out of nowhere to beat Michael Stich in the final. By January, Agassi was 100% back, and ripping through everyone that got in his way. He put together a masterpiece to take the title down under.
2002 US Open Final. Agassi came in favored again in this last meeting between the two greats. Sampras was underperforming on tour and players had begun stating that he had lost a step. This was not the case for Agassi. In 2002 Agassi, through his fitness and hunger, was at the very top of the game, where he would stay for another remarkable four years. Agassi was not able to withstand a vintage Sampras who showed up serving lights out and breaking when he needed. By the time Agassi woke up it was the third set and a comeback improbable. Sampras retired after this win, while Agassi was able to shake it off, and go on to win the 2003 Australian Open.