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Pete Sampras Has One Document The 'Large Three' Gained't Contact…

Pete Sampras put collectively one of many nice tennis résumés, profitable 14 Grand Slam titles – essentially the most on the lads’s facet – when he retired after profitable the 2002 US Open. As well as: 64 tour-level titles, an exceptional match document of 762-222 and greater than $43 million in prize cash.

After which he watched because the Large Three started slowly, inexorably, to seek out his best achievements. Roger Federer gained his fifteenth main at Wimbledon in 2009 and, later, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic additionally handed him. Final week in Paris, Djokovic clinched his seventh end as year-end No. 1 within the FedEx ATP Rankings, breaking the document he shared with the American.

However one achievement stays unmatched: For six consecutive years, from 1993-98, Sampras completed the yr No. 1. It could by no means occur once more.

“I believe,” Sampras stated a couple of weeks in the past, beginning to snort, “that’s the one document I’m going to have left.”

Thrice, Djokovic went back-to-back – in 2011-12, 2014-15 and now in 2020-2021 – however the first two reigns have been interrupted by Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. Jimmy Connors, who completed because the year-end No. 1 5 straight years, from 1974-78, was the usual earlier than Sampras. The WTA document for consecutive year-end No. 1s belongs to Martina Navratilova, with 5, from 1982-86. Stephanie Graf  (1987-90) is subsequent with 4. 

“Now that I look again on it, understanding how troublesome it’s to complete No. 1 a few times, however to do it six years in a row,” Sampras stated, “The consistency that I had, the endurance, the need … I believe it’s one in every of my finest achievements. 

“I all the time primarily based my yr on the majors and the bonus past that was to complete No. 1. Novak has seven, however not in a row. Over time, I believe it is going to be powerful to interrupt six straight.”

The core of Sampras’ success was profitable seven Wimbledon titles and 5 on the US Open. In 1993, on the age of twenty-two, he gained them each and 6 different titles as properly earlier than reaching the season finale in Frankfurt, Germany to earn the year-end No. 1 for the primary time. By in the present day’s requirements, his formidable document of 85-16 – 101 matches performed – was astonishing. In 2019, earlier than the worldwide pandemic, year-end No. 1 Rafael Nadal performed a complete of 65 matches. The yr earlier than, Djokovic completed on prime and performed 66.

In 1994, Sampras gained Wimbledon once more, plus the Australian Open for the primary time and the year-end championships for a second. Titles at Wimbledon and the US Open in 1995 gave him a 3rd year-end No. 1. In 1996, Sampras misplaced within the quarter-finals at Wimbledon however had produced his best-ever consequence at Roland Garros, the semi-finals, and beat Boris Becker in an epic remaining on the Nitto ATP Tour Finals. The fifth year-end No. 1 got here in 1997, when he once more paired Wimbledon and US Open titles along with the year-end championship.

“After I did it two, three, 4 instances, I simply felt like there was a minute there the place I used to be simply actually mentally, bodily dominating,” Sampras stated. “I simply felt like I used to be The Man, from 12 months Two to 12 months 5.”

Photograph Credit score: Clive Brunskill/Getty Photographs

That is the outline from an athlete who’s within the zone, completely invincible. He was properly conscious that he had equaled the document set 29 years earlier by Connors.

“It was being talked about,” Sampras stated. “It was in my mind, reminding me each week about breaking that document. So I went over to Europe and I chased it. I stayed over there for an additional month to get the factors, and I used to be simply so wrapped up in that.

“I wished it, and it was a one-time alternative and I took benefit of it. I sacrificed and did what I needed to do.”

It was a grind. His rapidly organized European trip consisted of six straight tournaments: Basel, Vienna, Lyon, Stuttgart, Paris and Stockholm. In a brutal span of 5 weeks, Sampras gained 14 of 19 matches and earned 968 rating factors. He gained the title in Vienna and carried out properly within the Masters 1000 occasions in Stuttgart in Paris. Reaching the semi-finals on the year-end championships was sufficient (270 factors) to get him to No. 1 for the sixth straight yr.

“It was me and [Marcelo] Rios, and it was touch-and-go there for a bit,” Sampras stated. “You’re simply keen your self to get by some powerful instances.

“While you end No. 1 as a tennis participant you don’t have loads of time to take pleasure in it. Persistently going and going and going – that’s the life I used to be main. As soon as I bought to 6, I used to be executed. I used to be executed chasing it. I let up just a little bit and simply tried to win majors. No query, that took lots out of me.”

Pete Sampras
Photograph Credit score: Shaun Botterill/Getty Photographs

In that superb six-year candy spot Sampras collected 43 titles and gained 415 of 499 matches (.832). Sliced one other approach, he averaged seven titles and 65 match wins annually. Solely 4 different gamers held No. 1 throughout these six years – Andre Agassi (32 weeks), Thomas Muster and Marcelo Rios (6 every) and Jim Courier (3). It modified fingers a complete of eight instances earlier than Agassi ended Sampras’ run in 1999.

It’s price noting that Sampras skipped the Australian swing the next yr after six straight appearances Down Underneath as a result of, six weeks after that stint in Europe, he was nonetheless “exhausted”.

Would he have gained extra main titles if he hadn’t pursued the No. 1 with such abandon? 

“Nicely …” Sampras answered. “Perhaps, perhaps. I used to be careworn, I wasn’t sleeping properly, wasn’t consuming like I actually ought to. That’s why I do suppose I [retired] just a little bit on the sooner facet. Gamers in the present day, they’re 38, 35.

“These six years have been powerful. Tennis was my life, and sustaining No. 1 all these years I do suppose it needs to be one thing you actually wish to do. It’s not handed to you, and it’s tougher to remain there than actually getting there.”

[ATP HERITAGE]

Greater than 20 years later, Sampras says he has no regrets.

“On the time once I did it, I simply did it,” he stated. “However now I look again on my profession and the place the sport’s at in the present day – how nice Roger, Rafa and Novak have been – to have executed it six years in a row, from ’93-’98. I’m glad I sacrificed and chased it just a little bit on the finish, particularly the final yr. I really feel happy with what I did.

“It was price it.”

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