The Tennis Greats: Pete Sampras
Although not remembered with the same level of affection that is reserved for the likes of john McEnroe or Bjorn Borg, no-one can deny the quality of Pete Sampras’ achievements as a tennis player. Considered dour in personality and robotic in his playing style, it was perhaps Sampras’ misfortune to play during an era when tennis itself came under attack for being dull and serve-dominated. This tends to ignore the fact that he was possessed of a greater degree of touch than many of his opponents, and a high level of stamina.
It is true that Sampras had a cannon of a serve, although there were players with a greater level of power than him playing at the same time. Mark Philippoussis, Goran Ivanisevic and Richard Krajicek could all hit it harder, but between them fell far short of the 14 career Grand Slam titles won by Sampras because they lacked his accuracy and consistency.
Sampras also popularized a shot that has come to be known as the “Tomahawk Smash” which involved winding up to hit a high ball and leaping high off the ground to hammer it into the ground on the other side of the court. This shot was always the final one played in a rally, often because it bounced high into the seats around the court. Although other players may have had greater charisma and more connection with the fans, Pete Sampras was a player you’d back to win a match for you on grass or hard court against anyone.