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Samprasfanz » Archives 2003 to 2011 » Sampras was the equal of my idol Laver

Sampras was the equal of my idol Laver

[August 24, 2003 John McEnroe] I have to admit to being a little surprised that Pete Sampras has taken the decision to retire, but then I’m not very big on retirements, having never taken the trouble to announce my own. Technically speaking, I still haven’t retired, but I never had the chance to go out on a high note as Sampras has, as the US Open champion – albeit one year late.

At a special ceremony at Flushing Meadows tomorrow night the curtain will be officially brought down on the career of one of the all-time greats, thereby upstaging, not for the first time but probably the last, Michael Chang. Poor Chang, who is on something of a farewell tour this year, seems to have spent his entire career in the shadow of Sampras and his contemporaries Jim Courier and Andre Agassi.

I never saw Don Budge, Fred Perry or Lew Hoad play, but I have either watched or played against the greatest players of the open era and, for me, Sampras ranks alongside my idol Rod Laver as the greatest of that period.

I am loathe to put anyone ahead of a player who twice achieved the Grand Slam as Laver did – not to mention one who was a fellow leftie – but Sampras, the 14-time slam winner, was at least the Australian’s equal in terms of ability.

In fact, if they could have played each other in their prime, I’ve no doubt Sampras would have won more often. He had all the shots and was also a much better athlete than people gave him credit for. If his volleying was not quite as good as the rest of his game when he started, it was at least as good long before the end of it. It was the same with the mental side of his game

Filed under: Archives 2003 to 2011

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