Despite what Sampras says, Federer wa...

Despite what Sampras says, Federer was better -

There are 207 comments on the Newsday story from Aug 30, 2007, titled Despite what Sampras says, Federer was better -. In it, Newsday reports that:

For a man who purposely spent much of his career below the radar, saying little, it was out of character to see Pete Sampras step out of the shadows the other day and throw some thumbtacks under the wheels of ...

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Dan Martin

Dayton, OH

#124 Sep 17, 2007
I am not talking about Courier's results then, I am saying his performance would not stack up well today. That is really a compliment to Courier, Agassi & Chang because they forced a lot of South American and European baseliners to be more aggressive, but what Courier was doing in the early 90's nearly every baseliner in the top 50 could execute today. Courier rarely served beyond 120 and had a soft backhand. No way today can a player play 80% of the court with his forehand on every point. Guys have adapted. Competition makes people better. Courier upped the level of fitness and power in the baseline game and instead of facing soft ballers like Juan Agulera or Javier Sanchez, you have clay court animals crushing shots but not making many errors.
Spartan Warrior

Alameda, CA

#125 Sep 17, 2007
Folks are wrong to suggest Pete's run began in 93, it started in 1990 (so what he flowered earlier than Fed at their respective age, deal with it). If it was not for the heavy competition Pete faced while breaking into the top-10, top-5, he would have had more slams. Take Edberg as one example, Pete lost to Edberg in the 92 USO final & was bounced by Edberg in the AO in 93. Pete crossed three generations of tennis greats. There was the old guard exiting, Lendl, Mac, then we had the Beckers, Stichs, & Edbergs, then even closer were his contemporaries, the Couriers, Changs, Agassi, later we had the Rafters, Kafelnikov, Musters, IVANISEVIC, PHILIPPOUSSIS, Guga, Bruguera , then lastly the young guard, Safin, Hewitt, & Feds of the world. The players today are deeper & technically improved (do not dismiss or minimize racquet & string technology changes) but at the top .. say top-10 .. top-20, they are not on par with previous generations. We are just now seeing some improvement in this area.
Spartan Warrior

Alameda, CA

#126 Sep 17, 2007
As I stated earlier: "do not dismiss or minimize racquet & string technology changes." Look at Mac serving in the 120s plus as he plays on the senior circuit. He never did this during his playing day. it's a shame when people exclude tech changes, surface changes, slam priorities etc. Forget Sampras for a moment, imagine if Laver, Connors, Budge, Hoad, Ashe, Borg, Pancho, Lendl, had the benefit of modern technology, training, & diet. We can do the reverse, lets give modern players some old wooden racquets & see how they peform? I can dig out quotes of current top ATP players who complained of a tired arms during an exo match event using wooden racquets.

Newer does not always mean better:

Wayne Gretzky
Jim Brown
Michale Jordan
Willie Mayes
Ted Williams
Mohammad Ali
Sugar Ray Robinson
Wilt Chamberlain
Kareem Abdul Jabar
Edwin Moses
Carl Lewis
George Forman

Get the picture?
Dan Martin

Dayton, OH

#127 Sep 17, 2007
A couple of things. First, Sampras' prime did not start until Wimbledon 1993. That means Edberg, Lendl, and even Courier took a total of 0 Grand Slams and reached one Grand Slam final during his prime years. Becker won a total of one Grand Slam and was runner-up at one grand Slam during Pete's prime. Agassi's pendulum of good and bad years produced by my count 4 majors during Pete's Prime (July 93-Back injury in August 1999)<the same Agassi who says Federer is the best he faced>.

Also, these GOAT debates always swirl around 2 questions: 1. Who accomplished more? 2. Who would win in a given match all things being equal? Courier has accomplished a lot more than Roddick, Safin or Hewitt to this point, but who would pick Courier at his best to beat any of them at their best on a surface other than clay? Who would pick Muster or Bruguera to beat Nadal or even Davydenko? Heck, I think Muster, Bruguera and Courier would struggle in matches against Ferrer, Verdasco, or Monaco. Why? Well, it is true that fewer net rushers exist today so relatively speaking that aspect is weaker relative to the 1990's. However, I think strings or whatever other explanation one wishes to give, it is equally valid to claim that ground strokes, returns of serve, court coverage, fitness and passing shots are all better relative to the 1990's. That is why I think the baseliners outside of Agassi, who has 1 in 1 billion eye sight, would fail to adapt successfully to today's field. My $.02

For the record, I love Sampras, but he never did a lot of what Federer is currently doing. 10 consecutive major finals, 14 consecutive major semifinals, and 14 consecutive major quarterfinals vs. 3 consecutive major finals, 3 consecutive major semifinals, and 10 consecutive major quarterfinals. Not quite the same.
Spartan Warrior

Alameda, CA

#128 Sep 17, 2007
One can not dismiss the entire body of work. Spin away all you want but pre- peak (top-10) Sampras was a slam threat from 90-93. His climb to the # ranking was retarded by stiff competition.

The posts on Becker are again wrong.

Andre won the bulk of his slams (5) when Pete retired. Go reread what I posted on Pete's injuries earlier (pages 2 & 3).

Becker, Rafter, Moya, Guga, & Kafelnikov say Pete is better. Chang agrees about the soft players at the top of today's mens tennis.

Muster, Guga, & Bruguera would give Nadal all he could handle & more.

Sorry, but the Courier remarks are just way off.

I do not dismiss the improvements in ground strokes, return of serve, etc, but racquet & string technology makes a world of difference too. Look at Fed prior to his use of Luxilon strings especially the back hand circa 00-03 then compare after. Like Pete said, the changes in string tech make a great player even greater. The field is deeper & technically more sound but the top-10 .. top-20 is mentally soft & has been for awhile, not the case in the 90s, 80s, 70s, or 60s.
Spartan Warrior

Alameda, CA

#129 Sep 17, 2007
"For the record, I love Sampras, but he never did a lot of what Federer is currently doing. 10 consecutive major finals, 14 consecutive major semifinals, and 14 consecutive major quarterfinals vs. 3 consecutive major finals, 3 consecutive major semifinals, and 10 consecutive major quarterfinals. Not quite the same."

I answered this earlier (see pages 2 & 3) even if Pete were to come back & play today with current technology my guess is his won-loss #s would be about the same. Pete's anemia disorder & his focus on the Slams played a bigger factor in his won loss record resulting in losses to unheralded players. There have been other greats who were more dominant during their peak than Pete during his run yet Sampras is regarded as GOAT for other reasons. Keep in mind by the same age Pete had won 10 slams to Fed's 12 Slams & their won-loss record are very similar.
Dan Martin

Dayton, OH

#130 Sep 17, 2007
You said it all 12>10 Complete body of work for Federer will not be in until 2012 at the earliest. Even if Federer only wins 3 slams and 20 tournaments between now and 2012 he will be well out in front for his body of work.

Also, Guga said he got to present the French Open trophies to the best clay court player ever and the best player ever at the 2007 FO so he changed his vote. Mac and Courier both say Federer is already better. Heck, I spoke with Tom Gullickson at Cincy 2006, and he basically said Roger was better. Pete could have won 4 consecutive U.S. Opens but lost to that great player Jamie Ygaza in 1994 in the rd of 16. I guess Ygaza is proof of the thougher tests Pete faced in the 1990's.

Pete turned pro in 1988 when Wilander won 3 majors in a single year. Why did Pete never win 3 majors in a single year? Roger has done it 3 times now. I could see it happening once due to weaker competition as you claim, but 3 times??? Roger is 100-5 in Grand Slam play since January 2004. 100-5 over 16 2 week events on 4 surfaces played over 4 years. The 5 losses to Nadal, Safin and Guga. Law of large numbers suggests that these stats are not an anomolly. Roger is just that damn good.
johnny chow

Johor Bahru, Malaysia

#131 Sep 17, 2007
lets just go watch it live, and see whos the winner between federer and sampras. debating history dont prove nothing.

New York, NY

#132 Sep 17, 2007
Brugera would get absolutely dusted by Nadal. Watch him play, I own the matches; much weaker, much poorer court coverage. Guga would be a good matchup, Borg would be his best clay matchup, but how could you possibly compare Brugera to Nadal on clay, I challenge you to find expert that would agree with you.
And can you please document where and when you heard that Becker said Pete was better than Roger? Becker has said that Pete was the best he ever played against - on grass.
I watched the US Open Ferrer-Nadal match courtside, 1st row...unbelievable tennis, unbelievable athletes...from a 15th seed.


#133 Sep 18, 2007
roger is by far the best tennis player ever
his the best


#134 Sep 18, 2007
roger is the best person ever to hold a tennis racqet
Spartan Warrior

San Pablo, CA

#135 Sep 18, 2007
Context matters. We were talking about the level of competition & for Pete the clock started early(1990).

No kidding 12 > 10. I said similar not exact, slam totals, winning % etc. BTW no, Fed does not reach 20 slams. Fed's resume will be stronger than Pete's (I said earlier their have been other great who had a more dominant run during their prime than Pete yet Pete is considered GOAT) & one could argue other variables involved (it's not the first time we've seen dominance in weaken era or league in sports folks) however, if we are talking about peak Sampras (95-97) in a H2H with peak Fed then the matches would be a toss up with the exception of clay.

Mac has gone back & forth on Fed V Pete. He narrows his list down to Laver, Fed, & Pete. He likes Pete on grass, indoor carpets, a toss up on hard courts, Fed on clay.

Gee, I also spoke with Gully & he said something different. ;)

Jaime Yzaga in R16 US Open. Pete's injuries included: back & blisters plus Thalassemia fatigue. The same injuries that would nag Pete through the 95 AO.

Yeah, I guess Wilander > Sampras. BTW, did ya remember a 18 year old Pete snapping Wilander USO run in 1989 - a prelude to his 1990 USO title.

Roger's #s are not an anomaly & he is that damn good but it still does not change the fact that Pete faced tougher competition at the top. One fact does not invalidate another.

Courier & Andre siding with Fed says a bit but as Pete has said, at his peak, a prime Sampras is another story against a peak Fed. There are people who still argue Borg as GOAT. There are many who argue Laver as GOAT. Sorry, but there will never be unanimity.
Spartan Warrior

Pittsburg, CA

#136 Sep 18, 2007
Joe: I agree with you on Guga & Borg being a better H2H on clay. Muster would be interesting but the match I would love to see is the Guga one. The earlier point being that Pete did not have it easy on clay (it was Muster's consecutive clay win streak that Rafa eclipsed)& that a lot of his clay court losses during his prime years came against either former or future/eventual FO champs.

RE: Becker, they're are numerous times Boom boom has said Pete was the best.

July 1997
Post-Wimbledon interview to CNNSI

Boris Becker: "For me, he was always the most complete player. He has the power, he has the speed, he has the touch. He is the best player ever."

During Pete's tribute (2003 USO) Becker again made comments to that effect. The most recent time came during this year during the NBA All Star Game in an interview. Here is a thread from another tennis forum on that interview:

Becker (like Chang) is also critical of today's mens field: "But others are hesitant. Sampras himself and Boris Becker, who won Wimbledon three times, say Federer benefits from not having to face a top serve-and-volleyer like themselves."

Not you, but to some other folks, to minimize Pete's competitions is folly. Losing to Edberg in the 92 USO or being bounced by him in the at the 93 AO or losing to Goran in 92 Wimbledon are some examples of the strength of schedule faced by Sampras. Up through his retirement, the competition was heavy.

Chicago, IL

#137 Sep 18, 2007
It is incredibly amazing to see the endless list of clever excuses that Pete and his followers conjure up.

- Competition is weaker now.(And Roger’s parents have conceived their baby at exactly the right time)
It is only a matter of time before current players take serious umbrage to this brazen insult and a patently false and irresponsible remark. It is an established consensus that over time technology and depth of competition only increases. But seeing the world from Pete's jealous lenses for a moment, why did he not once say that his competition was (much much) weaker than the ones that Connors, Borg, McEnroe, and Lendl faced?
Had he said that wouldn’t he have more credibility with this current statement? But then his 14 GS record falls to tatters, would it not?

- Strings are the reason (for Roger's dominance)
Pete said he is hitting the ball better today than he did at his prime. That is apparently because of strings. With this he hopes to insinuate that it is the strings, stupid that Roger is so good. Ok, what stops others from using the same strings? Matter of fact many do. If a 36 year old can play better with the new strings than he did as a 26 year old, what about all the 20-30 year tour pros today with the same new strings? Wouldn’t that make the world a much more dangerous place? Isn't competition infinitely greater, even with this one technology, that everyone's natural ability is multiplied? See, Pete thinks he is throwing a monkey wrench, but with every new one he throws out there, he stupidly contradicts himself with his earlier foolish statements.

- Pete said he is sorry that he did not use a bigger racket at French.
See again, Pete does not want to take any accountability for his personal inabilities, or failings. He just want to take credit for the 14 GS (all due to his GOAT ability), but when he can’t even make it one single French final, that is the result of not having the right racket in his bag? Common, this has got to be the height of excuses. He doesn’t say it in as many words, but throws enough hints from which he wants the world to fabricate this elaborate justification scheme as to why he did not win as many, why he lost to nameless opponents, why he did not dominate as much, why he couldn’t compete on clay, but nevertheless as to why he should still be the GOAT.

- There are no serve and volley players to challenge Roger. Every one is simply staying on the baseline and let Roger dictate. First of all that is not true.
Second of all, If S&V is the Kryptonite to counter the superman Roger, then why would not players use it? The fact is that everyone knows that S&V players cannot survive today in a world of slow courts, balls and luxelon strings, and super fit athletic players who chase down and hit winners off of winners.

And now, this, the mother of all excuses:
“Pete's anemia disorder & his focus on the Slams played a bigger factor in his won loss record resulting in losses to unheralded players. There have been other greats who were more dominant during their peak than Pete during his run yet Sampras is regarded as GOAT for other reasons.”

One begins to wonder if anemia is the only disorder we are talking about here :)
Spartan Warrior

Alameda, CA

#138 Sep 18, 2007
1. Sorry, but Pete is not the only person to knock the current/recent level of competition.

2. Who cares, let current players take umbrage, the evidence points to the contrary. Players are technically better & the field is deeper but the top-10 .. top-20 are mentally soft. Blake? Roddick? Gonzales? I could go on but why bother with streams of stats/data. Anyone can see that Fed is a major talent in any era. Still, at the top, the competition was stronger back in 80s & 70s as well.

3. Of course new technology benefits everyone, like Pete said, it makes a great player even better (Schumaker & Ferrari are a winning combo no?). Anyone watching Fed from 00-03 can see a difference in his game pre & post luxilon string. It's not to say Fed does not improve as he develops but to dismiss technology changes is folly.

Mac on Sampras after their WTT match:

"The guy hit the outside of the line like 20 times. It was unbelievable," McEnroe said. "It's incredible how many lines he hits. It's unbelievable - I've never played a guy who can consistently do that."

Sampras: "I hit the ball better today than I did in my prime because of the bigger racket"

4. Pete's attitude about clay was p%ss poor. A larger racquet would have helped but a change in training & attitude would have helped more. 14 out of 18 slams is nothing to sneeze at. Mind you, two of those slam losses was more a result of a fading Pete playing back to back days SF & Finals at the USO.

5. Show me a quote where Pete says he is the GOAT? Pete has consistently said that he hopes (when it's all said & done) that his name is on a short list players for that honor. Stop fabricating & hating.

6. RE: S&V, go reread what i posted earlier. It's a very demanding style of play & not something to just pick up. Even Fed said he could improve his S&V game & eventually become a more complete player but that that transition would hurt his production/wins in the short term. It's a shame b/c Fed showed a lot S&V ability earlier in career. Lets not forget surface changes, coaching at the junior level, & tech changes that have contributed to the decline of S&V. Pete does not buy it & feels players have surrendered to the condition visa vi S&V.

7. Thalassemia is not an excuse but a fact. By all accounts Pete should have never been a pro athlete. Look at Pete's play, many times the guy looked narcoleptic. Remember the 92 SF USO against Courier? How about the 96 marathon USO match against Alex Corretja where he was vomiting? 96 FO etc. They're all excuses right? It's a good bet this caused Pete to be more a S&V player later in his career. Pete always looked to end the rally s quickly (he was criticized for being boring) but why this style of play ... I would guess it's more medical related.

The only disorder are newbie Fed fans who want to simplify things in black & white.

FWIW, had we seen Pete v Fed at their peaks, I think both players would have brought out more & the best out of each other. Their slam totals would be less but their games better.
B Real

Manorville, NY

#139 Sep 18, 2007
What Sampras says is true. Who the hell is he playing? Roddick is no Agassi. Hell he's no Courier. Hes too inconsistent. Im not saying Federer isnt great, but he has only 2 guys to worry about. Sampras had Agassi, Chang, Courier, Safin, Hewitt, Becker, Rios, Edberg, Rafter, omg its not even close

San Mateo, CA

#140 Sep 18, 2007
@Roddick is no Agassi

Roddick would have looked at least half Agassi if Federer was not around.
Dan Martin

United States

#141 Sep 18, 2007
B Real - Federer has had to worry a lot more about Hewitt and Safin than Sampras ever did. That would be like me saying Agassi was more of a rival to Federer than Sampras. Fed played Agassi 4 times in majors, but no dice. Andre played Pete 9 times in majors. Similarly, Safin played Pete & Roger 3 times in majors, but has played Roger more often (7 vs. 10 times). Sampras and Hewitt played 9 times in total and 2 times in Grand Slam play. Fed and Hewitt have played 20 times and 5 times in Grand Slam play to this point.

Courier, Chang, Rios,(I'll throw in Bruguera and Muster) are not (with Spartan's objections noted) in the same galaxy as today's back court players. Besides Rios was really good from January 1998 - June 1998. Rios had the talent to do much, much more, but he was never a rival to Sampras.

Rafter and Becker ... well the whole serve volley thing is an interesting point. I will concede that today's net rushers are not as good as long as it is also recognized that today's baseline players are much better.

Edberg, a smooth moving player, was 2-1 vs. Sampras in Grand Slam matches. Smooth moving players had decent success vs. Pete ... interesting to say the least. Imagine if Stefan could have hit a forehand.

One final thing, if Pete chose not to focus on smaller tournaments and Masters Series/Super 9 events in the same way Roger has, that is not Roger's fault. Federer posted 11 wins in 04, 11 in 05, & 12 in 06 when Pete's best single season title count was 10 in 97. Roger already has 3 more Masters Series/Super 9 titles than Pete had for his career (14 vs. 11). Roger is the only player in the Open Era to have 3 years with over a 90% winning percentage/Pete 0 years with over a 90% winning percentage. Roger won 24 consecutive tournament finals, had a record 26 match winning streak vs. top 10 players, has the longest grass court & hard court winning streaks of all time. Pete could maybe have done some of that stuff and perhaps broken the 30 year old consecutive weeks at #1 streak that Roger broke, but he either couldn't or didn't care to try to do so. Once again Pete's decisions are not Roger's fault and do not diminish Roger's unparalleled dominance.

Roger and Pete do have different approaches to non-Grand Slam events. Roger tries to win any event he enters. As a ticket holder or TV viewer, I like that more than Sampras losing to Leander Paes to save himself for the 98 U.S. Open. If one GOAT candidate has more stamina than the other, doesn't that account for something? After all, this an athletic debate. Being more durable is part of the equation.

When Roger is the 1st guy since the 1920's to win 4 straight U.S. Opens (do not tell me Ygaza was the tougher competition that prevented Pete from pulling this 93-96), 1st guy since Borg to win a Slam w/out losing a set, 1st guy since Borg to win 5 consecutive Wimbledon titles, you know many players had the opportunity to do what Fed is doing and failed.

Chicago, IL

#142 Sep 18, 2007
Federer is the victim of his own success. It is a zero sum game. For every slam he wins, a Roddick, Nadal, Djokovic, Safin, Hewitt, Gonzales, or Baghdatis has one less. And if he wins them all, then others - no matter how good - have none. One can spin this any way they want, but it is a simple fact of arithmetic.

That's where the spin machine comes in.
Federer is not an American and he doesn't have the US media/spin machine behind him. In a market which worships its own sports heroes and sports, media does not see that it is in its interest to hype him as they do a Woods. How many products does Roger sell here in the US? It is all about ad dollars. When that changes you will hear of his real rivalry with Nadal and Djokovic and not just the drummed up one between Sampras and Agassi. It is the media that feeds this oozing nostalgia of great matches between Pete and Andre. Pete owned Andre in grand slams. And I did not a see a whole lot of S&V by Pete in his matches with Andre.

Roger is a global player. He plays in four (big) tournaments in the US. It would help his popularity here if he played LA, Memphis, Indy, Washingoton and the other little ones. If you look at the US greats they have always loaded up on the big, small and dinky tournaments in the US. Fans here love to see their local stars win, no matter who they are beating. And they don't care about all the dirt ball tournaments in Europe. It would help ATP to bring back the Masters Cup back to the US.
Spartan Warrior

Alameda, CA

#143 Sep 18, 2007
"Federer is the victim of his own success. It is a zero sum game. For every slam he wins, a Roddick, Nadal, Djokovic, Safin, Hewitt, Gonzales, or Baghdatis has one less. And if he wins them all, then others - no matter how good - have none. One can spin this any way they want, but it is a simple fact of arithmetic."

Not true, to repost again:

Federer turned 26 between Wimbledon and the U.S Open. To get a more accurate perspective you should post the # of slam finals


by those people when Sampras had just turned 26, also between Wimbledon and the U.S Open in 1997:

Becker = 10 finals (who had just retired at this point in time BTW)
Edberg = 9 finals
Agassi = 7 finals
Courier = 7 finals
Chang = 4 finals
Bruguera = 3 finals
Stich = 3 finals
Ivanisevic = 2 finals
Kafelnikov = 1 final
Muster = 1 final
Krajicek = 1 final
Kuerten = 1 final
Rafter = 0 finals

Nadal = 5 finals
Roddick = 4 finals
Safin = 4 finals
Hewitt = 4 finals
Ferrero = 3 finals
Moya = 2 finals
Gonzalez = 1 final
Baghdatis = 1 final
Nalbandian = 1 final

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