Over the years, Pete Sampras has played many memorable matches. Here are "The Best of the Best" as compiled by our Samprasfanz member, Csilla Kiss. (Originally posted on the messageboard in December, 2002)
1) ’96 USO QF vs. Corretja
2) ’95 AO QF vs. Courier: these 2 are total no-brainers
3) ’96 RG QF vs. Courier: what is this about QFs? Like I often said, my favourite period in 1996: he was the cutest then. This was just another example of pouring all that emotion & heart into a tennis match (“He’s got a big heart & will leave it on the court”- Courier) It’s not fair he didn’t win Roland Garros that year.
4) ’00 Wimbledon 2nd rd vs. Kucera: compared to the top 3, relatively muted drama, but considering the circumstances (the record & the rotten luck he had the previous 3 slams): & the grit of playing through pain & winning not only this, but the next 5 matches, virtually on one leg deserves a mention.
5) ’97 AO 4th rd vs. Hrbaty: should’ve been a straight set win for Pete, shouldn’t it? What was he thinking? Knowing how he hates the heat & a break & 15-40 down in the 5th, my heart stopped. “There was nothing going through my mind: I just tried to hang on there & play a good point”- oh, the simplicity of it…)
+1 : ’94 USO 4th rd vs. Yzaga: usually don’t like remembering “wonderful losing performances” by Pete, but this one needs to be included just for the heart he showed there, fighting so much for that match.
(I know the ’95 Davis Cup match would probably belong here, but since I never saw that apart from the last point & the following collapse, I’ll let someone else include it on his/her list.)
1) ’99 Wimbledon Final vs. Agassi: total domination of a resurgent Agassi. ‘Nuff said.
2) ’96 Hanover Final vs. Becker: an idiot (aka Bud Collins) said that the recent Hewitt-Juan Carlos Ferrero final was the best ATP/Master’s final ever. Give me a break. Watch Pete beat Boris in a breathtaking highly charged roller coaster that could’ve gone either way till the very end.
3) ’93 USO QF vs. Chang (last 2 sets): Pete in a zone. Weak backhand? You must be joking…
4) ’01 USO QF vs. Agassi: I was there…
5) ’97 AO QF vs. Costa: personal fave. One 5-setter of great slow-hardcourt tennis where I wasn’t worried that Pete could lose, even when it went to the 5th…
+1: ’97 RG 1st rd vs. Santoro: vintage Pete. The best claycourt match ever played. If only…
1) ’99 Hanover Final vs. Agassi: Andre Agassi had everything going for him, while I was happy to see Pete play without pain.
2) ’02 USO QF vs. Roddick: nice run, Pete now step aside & pass the torch to the youngster. Got me unnerved for the day. In the end though keep the torch & pass the crow to all the pundits.
3) ’01 USO 4th rd vs. Rafter: I really just hoped he’d make it respectable…
'99 Wimbledon Final vs. Agassi: the diving volley.
It set the tone, there'd be no holding back, no points conceded & nobody beats the king of grass. That point by Agassi would've been a winner against anyone else, but look at Agassi's face as he saw that volley drop for a winner. Bonus: despite grazing his elbow & making painful faces, he did it again, in the last game. (Was I the only one who wanted to run with the antiseptics?) I loved the bandage on his arm afterwards: as someone said it emphasized the hero-aspect.
2) '97 AO SF vs. Muster: around the netpost. Muster just raised his arms & bowed.
3) '97 Wimbledon SF vs. Woodbridge: Pete hit the ball, slipped, got up & hit the returning ball for a winner. ("I said just give me something, something for nothing"- Woodbridge)
4) '95 USO Final vs. Agassi: 1st set SP: the best baseline point ever. And some would say Pete has no groundies.
5) '02 USO QF vs. Roddick: the low volley in set 3 where his knee almost touched the ground & he smiled as he watched it drop for a winner. ("This is Sampras's way of rubbing it in"- McEnroe)
We know there were aces & there were many, aces to start the match & set the tone, aces to punctuate a victory & aces to dig himself out of trouble time & time again. However, some aces are more valuable than others & here're the best.
1) '96 USO QF vs. Corretja: TB 2nd serve ace at 90 mph which set up MP for him: a no-brainer isn't it? Where did it come from?
2) '96 RG QF vs. Courier: 5th set, he climbed his way back from a 0-2 deficit & here he was facing 2 BPs. Saved the first then broke the string on serving at the second. Change rackets, came back & saved the BP with a 2nd serve ace. That's courage.
3) '95 AO QF vs. Courier: 5th set ("I've never seen anyone acing through tears". - Mary Carillo. 'Nuff said.)
+1 '99 Cincy Final vs. Rafter: not technically an ace as it did hit the opponent's racket: hit it? It went right through it, boring a hole. (Not bad from a "boring" guy - silly pun intended.)
If I could change the past... if you could change just one point
1) '01 Wimbledon 4th rd vs. Federer: the overhead smash into the net on SP (3rd set). Pete, that's your best shot!
2) '01 USO Final vs. Hewitt: 1st game 30-15 serve called out. Don't think it would've changed much, but set a very bad tone for the match.
3) '98 Cincy Final vs. Rafter: MP overrule: I don't think it would've changed the outcome of the match, but I hated seeing him that way.
Best of '02
It’s a no-brainer: the US Open, & everything about it, the atmosphere on Louis Armstrong during the 3rd round, the smile on his face after those tough victories, the dismissal of Roddick & of course #14 & the look on his face.
Worse of '02
Another no-brainer: Wimbledon & everything about it, Pete self-destructing on Court 2 & then Hewitt winning it.