Classic Rivalries – Michael Chang vs. Pete Sampras

AP/ Ron Frehm, file

Classic Rivalries – Michael Chang vs. Pete Sampras

Michael Chang and Pete Sampras were part of a generation of great American tennis players that came up in the late 80s and 90s. This list included Andre Agassi and Jim Courier. Together they all won Grand Slam titles and sat at the top of men’s tennis for the better part of the 90s. The United States is still waiting for another great generation of tennis players. Unfortunately, it has not come. What we’re left with is their legacy of classic matches. Pete Sampras and Michael Chang did not disappoint. They had their share of classic matches during their rivalry.

In all they would meet 20 times, with Pete leading the rivalry 12-8. That’s quite a record against Pete Sampras, especially given the fact that Pete won 14 Majors and finished number one in the world six years in a row during the 90s. The fact that this rivalry was so close is a testament to how good Michael Chang was during the late 80s and 90s. Here’s some interesting stats regarding this rivalry:

Michael Chang beat Pete the first five times they played. This included a complete annihilation in the second round of the 1989 French Open, where he would beat Pete 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.

In Grand Slams, Pete would hold the edge. They would meet a total of five times. After the French Open win, Chang would never beat Pete in a Grand Slam again.

They would only dispute one Grand Slam final, at the 1996 US Open. Pete would easily prevail in straight sets. 6-1, 6-4, 7-6.

On clay they would only meet once more after the 1989 French Open encounter. It would be at the 1998 ATP Masters in Rome round of 16. Chang would win that encounter 6-2, 7-6.

It would have been interesting to see Chang and Sampras play more matches on clay courts. One gets the sense that Chang would have notched more wins, especially if they would meet later in the 90s, when Sampras was not posting good results on the surface. On the other side of that coin, it would have been equally interesting to see more clay court matches in the early 90s, when Sampras was posting some solid results on clay. Let’s not forget that Sampras would capture the Italian Open in 1994!

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