Classic Rivalries – Becker vs. Sampras

AP/Ron Frehm, file

Classic Rivalries – Becker vs. Sampras

In a recent interview with the ATP, Pete Sampras spoke about how difficult it was to play Boris Becker at the ATP Finals throughout the 90s. Obviously, it was difficult because Becker was such a great player. However, it was additionally difficult because the finals were played in Stuttgart throughout the 90s, and that gave Becker an incredible advantage. Both Sampras and Becker were staples in the top 10 throughout the 90s, so it’s no surprise they would meet a total of five times in that tournament.

Out of the 19 times they played, 7 were at the ATP Finals, either in the final or in the round robins. Sampras holds the overall edge on the rivalry with a 12-7 record. They played some classic matches at Grand Slams and other major tournaments. However, the matches they played in Stuttgart do stand out. With Becker playing at home, Sampras was still somehow able to come through given the situation. This is another example of how great Sampras truly was, to come into Becker’s backyard and take a few titles on his home turf.

Let’s take a look at those 7 matches.

1991 ATP Finals

Becker draws Sampras in the round-robin and beats him 6-4, 6-7, 6-1, but fails to qualify out of his group. Sampras on the other hand would qualify, and then beat Lendl in the semis followed by Courier in the finals to win his first ATP Tour Finals.

1992 ATP Finals

Sampras gets revenge beating Becker in the round-robin 7-6, 7-6. Unfortunately for Sampras, he would get beat by Jim Courier in the semifinals, whereas Boris would defeat Ivanisevic in the semis and then easily take care of Jim Courier in three sets to win his second ATP Tour Finals trophy.

1994 ATP Finals

This is the first of two occasions where Becker beats Sampras in the round-robin and then loses in the finals. In the round-robin, he beats Sampras comfortably 7-5, 7-5. Sampras, as usual, comes alive in the finals to beat Becker in four sets, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

1995 ATP Finals

Sampras easily beats Becker in the round-robin, 6-2, 7-6. In what turns out to be a common turn of events, even though he loses in the round-robin, Becker then qualifies, beats Enqvist in the semifinals, and easily beats Michael Chang to win his third and final ATP Tour Finals title.

1996 ATP Finals

Becker pulls out a tough win in two tiebreaks in the round-robin, 7-6, 7-6. They once again meet in the final, and it would be one of their most epic matches, with Sampras coming out on top after five tough sets, which include three tie-breaks. 3-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4. It would be fitting that the last meeting at the ATP Finals would be the most classic.

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