Pete Sampras: Master of the serve-and-volley playstyle

Pete Sampras

Petros “Pete” Sampras is an American former world No. 1 tennis player.

Petros Sampras was born on August 12, 1971, in Washington, D.C. He is the third child of Soterios “Sammy” and Georgia Sampras. At the age of 3, he discovered a tennis racket in the basement of his home and spent hours hitting balls against the wall.

In 1978, the Sampras family moved to Palos Verdes, California, and the warmer climate there allowed the seven-year-old Sampras to play tennis for most of the year. From early on, his great idol was Rod Laver, and at the age of 11, Sampras met and played tennis with the legend.

The Sampras family joined the Jack Kramer Club, and it was here that Sampras’s talent became apparent. As a teenager, Sampras trained with tennis coach Robert Lansdorp.

Sampras turned professional in 1988, at the age of 16, and finished the year ranked world No. 97 after starting the year at No. 893.

Sampras won 64 top-level singles titles (including 14 Grand Slam titles, 11 Super 9/ATP Masters Series/ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles, and five Tennis Masters Cup titles) and two doubles titles. He was ranked the world No. 1 for a total of 286 weeks (the third most in the Open Era after Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer) and was year-end No. 1 for an ATP record six consecutive years from 1993 through 1998.

Sampras was known for his natural attacking serve-and-volley game, all-around game, and strong competitive instinct. Sampras’s best surface was undoubtedly the fast-playing grass courts,[a] Sampras won seven Wimbledon Gentleman’s Singles titles (1993–95, 1997–2000), broken only by a loss in the 1996 quarterfinals to eventual winner Richard Krajicek.

Sampras’s seven Wimbledon Gentleman’s Singles titles, tied with William Renshaw and Novak Djokovic, has only been surpassed by Federer who won a record eighth Gentleman’s Singles title in 2017.

Sampras is lauded by many tennis analysts as one of the greatest male grass-court players of all time. Sampras also shares the record of five US Open titles in the Open Era with Jimmy Connors and Federer.

He won back-to-back US Open titles in 1995 and 1996, despite vomiting on the court at 1–1 in the final set tiebreak due to dehydration in the 1996 quarterfinals against Àlex Corretja. Combined with his two Australian Open titles, this gave Sampras a total of fourteen majors won on grass and hard courts.

Sampras’s only real weakness was on clay courts, where the slow surface tempered his natural attacking serve-and-volley game. His best performance at the French Open came in 1996 when he lost a semifinal match to the eventual winner, Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Despite his limited success at Roland Garros, Sampras did win some significant matches on clay. He won a 1992 clay court tournament in Kitzbühel, defeating Alberto Mancini in the final.

He won the prestigious Italian Open in 1994, defeating Boris Becker in the final, and two singles matches in the 1995 Davis Cup final against Russians Andrei Chesnokov and Yevgeny Kafelnikov in Moscow. Sampras also won a 1998 clay court tournament in Atlanta, defeating Jason Stoltenberg in the final.

His older sister, Stella Sampras Webster, is the women’s tennis head coach at UCLA, and his younger sister, Marion, is a teacher in Los Angeles. His older brother, Gus, has been tournament director at the Scottsdale ATP event. In 2007 he became president of the firm managing Pete’s business activities. Sampras is retired and married with two children.

Sampras was an all-court player who would often serve and volley. Possessing an all-around skill, in the early years of his career, when not serving, his strategy was to be offensive from the baseline, put opponents in a defensive position, and finish points at the net. In his later years, he became even more offensive and would either employ a chip-and-charge strategy or try to hit an offensive shot on the return and follow his return to the net.

He had an accurate and powerful first serve – widely considered among players, commentators, and fans as one of the best of all time. He had great disguise on both his first and second serves, and his second serve was nearly as powerful as his first. He was known for producing aces on critical points, even with his second serves.

Sampras was able to hit winners from both his forehand and backhand from all over the court. He was able to catch attacks wide to his forehand using his speed and hitting a forehand shot on the run. When successfully executed, he won many points outright or put opponents immediately on the defensive, due to the considerable pace and flat nature of the shot. This style did not help him on clay courts, according to some critics.

Due to his achievements, Sampras is regarded by many as one of the greatest tennis players in the history of the sport. In particular, he is remembered for his excellent technique and his mastery of the serve-and-volley playstyle. Sampras is considered to be one of the best serve-and-volley players in tennis history.

Regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, his professional career began in 1988 and ended at the 2002 US Open, which he won, defeating his longtime rival Andre Agassi in the final.

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