Is Sampras as Great as Federer, Nadal and Djokovic?

AP Photo/Kin Cheung

Is Sampras as Great as Federer, Nadal and Djokovic?

It seems that as Federer (20), Nadal (19) and Djokovic (17) surpassed Pete Sampras (14) in the Grand Slam count department, he’s no longer in conversations about one of the greatest ever. Is it fair to discount him from being the same caliber of champion as Federer, Nadal and Djokovic? I don’t think so. I think he’s right up there with those guys, and I might even put him ahead of both Nadal and Djokovic. Obviously, he was terrible in clay, but on hard courts and grass, he’s an all-time great. Let’s take a trip back in time to put in perspective some of Pete’s incredible achievements in tennis, and compare them to Fed, Novak and Rafa.

• Pete finished the year ranked number one six years in a row. Roger, Rafa and Novak have managed to finish the year number one five times

• Pete Sampras has the best overall match record on grass, at 90%, in front of Borg (88.9%), Federer (88.6%), and Djokovic (87.8)

• Pete Sampras has the third best hard-court overall match record at 86.6%, behind Federer (86.8%) and Djokovic (88.6%)

Although these stats and facts are impressive, what is most impressive about Pete Sampras is the arguably deeper competition during his reign. Sampras won his first Grand Slam in 1990, and his last in 2002. Coincidentally, both his first and last Grand Slam, the US Open, were against 8-time Grand Slam winner Andre Agassi. Andre and Pete had many memorable matches. However, think about the tough competition that was around in 1990, when Pete made his big break. Ivan Lendl (8-time Grand Slam Champion) was still a top three player. Boris Becker (6-time Grand Slam Champion) and Stefan Edberg (6-time Grand Slam Champion) were in the middle of their Hall of Fame careers. That’s quite a list of Hall of Famers to contend with as Pete won his first few Grand Slam titles.

In the middle and late nineties, it was more about his rivalry with Agassi. However, other than Agassi, he had to contend with Hall of Fame and multiple Grand Slam champions such as Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and Pat Rafter. I know everyone loves to talk about how amazing this era of tennis is. Is it because Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal are that amazing? Or is it because everyone else has been so terrible? Sure, Murray and Wawrinka have been phenomenal in spurts. However, they are no Edberg, Lendl, Becker, or Agassi. I would say Murray and Wawrinka are more like a Rafter and Kafelnikov.

So, let’s give Sampras his due. He came first with the massive Grand Slam haul. And he still has some stats and facts that put him up there with the discussion of being as good as Federer, Djokovic or Nadal. Let’s start giving Sampras his due again.

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