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View Full Version : Why Did Pete Sampras' Career Decline?


lordmanji
02-14-2007, 11:40 PM
When you look at Sampras's game, serve and volley for the majority though early on he stayed back, it's not very taxing on the body. I think that shows in his domination of the game for roughly a decade. But then towards the turn of the century, he started to lose more and people started saying he was on the downside. So why do you guys think Sampras's career declined?

My own theory is that he had nothing left to prove after breaking the all time grand slam list + tired of the life + slowing of the courts which resulted in baseliners being able to return his serve more and pass him more frequently as well as his volleys losing just a bit of sting on the slower court.

just thought of this one: with pete breaking the rec, i believe he also slacked off in terms of improving his game. ive seen a few of his matches and except for very early pete, pete's game that kept him number 1 six years is pretty much the pete we saw at the end minus the conditioning. so in short the game also started to pass him by since he was coasting. he didnt improve his backhand and then his volleys started to go...in contrast, look at federer who used to have an attackable backhand but now is almost as good as his forehand and his net game is even better than a couple years ago. i think that shows how effectively one-sided and good pete's game was in order for him to win all those years.

Polaris
02-15-2007, 12:05 AM
My own theory is that he had nothing left to prove after breaking the all time grand slam list + tired of the life + slowing of the courts which resulted in baseliners being able to return his serve more and pass him more frequently as well as his volleys losing just a bit of sting on the slower court.
That is a pretty good theory. Add to those three reasons, the fact that his athletic prime came to an end.

caulcano
02-15-2007, 03:11 AM
When you look at Sampras's game, serve and volley for the majority though early on he stayed back, it's not very taxing on the body. I think that shows in his domination of the game for roughly a decade. But then towards the turn of the century, he started to lose more and people started saying he was on the downside. So why do you guys think Sampras's career declined?

My own theory is that he had nothing left to prove after breaking the all time grand slam list + tired of the life + slowing of the courts which resulted in baseliners being able to return his serve more and pass him more frequently as well as his volleys losing just a bit of sting on the slower court.

just thought of this one: with pete breaking the rec, i believe he also slacked off in terms of improving his game. ive seen a few of his matches and except for very early pete, pete's game that kept him number 1 six years is pretty much the pete we saw at the end minus the conditioning. so in short the game also started to pass him by since he was coasting. he didnt improve his backhand and then his volleys started to go...in contrast, look at federer who used to have an attackable backhand but now is almost as good as his forehand and his net game is even better than a couple years ago. i think that shows how effectively one-sided and good pete's game was in order for him to win all those years.

You pretty much summed it up.

However, I think Federer will want to carry on improving & therefore continue to dominate longer. Ultimately he wants his achievements to stay longer in the record books.

Coria
02-15-2007, 05:21 AM
For one thing, he wasn't getting quite as explosively up to the net off his serve, making his first volley harder to control the point. Also, he lost some of his quickness in general. He was still very quick, but not at the level of ages 19-28. In his last three years, I also don't think he had the same ability to come back as strong the day after a tough match.

But, not closing the net quite as quickly hampered his serve and volley game. Just losing 1/2 step can make all the difference between "dominating" on the serve and volley game and just being very, very good. I also think players in general got better returning Pete's serve over the years. If he was really, really on--like he was against Andre in the 2002 US Open final, he was still almost impossible to break. But, in his last few years, he only had those type of matches about 20% of the time. In his prime, his serve and volley game was "on" 80% of the time.

DariusRaiden
02-15-2007, 09:55 AM
His game toward the end had the "wheels falling off" appearance which was tough to watch for a Sampras fan. I think he actually had more power in his all around game, but his consistency was totally lacking. He would go for winners on nearly every forehand and missed about 1 in 5 backhands. Early in his career, his backhand was considered weaker but was his most consistent shot since he hit it with much more spin than his forehand. When he was really on (like in 2002 at the US Open) he demolished players, but if he missed a few more forehands per set (like the rest of the year), the results were disastrous.

Obviously, he was past his athletic prime and felt he had nothing to prove and so his conitioning suffered. As a result, he tried to end points with fewer swings. On most court surfaces, this tactic didn't work consistently and so a decline was inevitable.

fastdunn
02-15-2007, 10:36 AM
I think 1999 was the key to his decline.
He always appeared not to care much about records but I can assure
that he actually had a burning desire to play until mid-30 and 20 slams.

He got exhausted at the end of 1998 laborously made year end #1
for 6th straight years. And then he skipped Australian Open.

For the whole 1999, I could sense he was very anxious to prove
to everyone he is still the #1. He uncharacteristically tried to bagel
or over-power top players. He did unusually many his signature scissor kick
overhead smashing. He was visiably anxious to make sure everybody
understand that nothing has changed. I think he exerted himself a bit
too much in that process. It was not his style. His style was to play
minimum to win and conserve energy.

Then this unfortunate injury of herniated disc happened.
After that, there was no real Sampras anymore, IMHO.

stormholloway
02-15-2007, 10:38 AM
He started using marijuana.

scaino
02-15-2007, 10:53 AM
Why does any career decline? Age, loss of interest, opponents figuring out your game, etc. In Sampras's case I think the third factor does not apply so much, but the first two certainly. He was a phenomenal talent. I remember him beating McEnroe en route to his first US Open title, thinking he would be number one before too long. Sampras set certain goals and fulfilled them, and once he did he felt he had nothing left to prove to anyone, including himself. Surpassing Emerson for the highest number of Slams was paramount, even if previous greats didn't necessarily view that mark as the most prestigious record (Sampras made tennis a bit more like golf, establishing himself as Nicklaus atop the mountain of Slams/majors, with Federer now like Tiger on the assault). The one big goal Sampras never achieved was winning at Roland Garros; he tried many strategies, but his movement was just too poor on clay, even given his other strengths. By the end of his career Sampras seemed to have resigned himself to not winning the French title, and felt he achieved all he could. I myself thought Sampras retired too early, and could very well have achieved more. His win over Safin at the 2001 US Open proved the game had not passed him by. He would hold his own against today's pros, including Federer on occasion, though I do think the Swiss would win more often than not. Sampras could have won more titles, including perhaps another Slam or two, especially in 2003 when many seemed to be up for grabs. It will be interesting to see Sampras become more involved in seniors play; a continuation of the Sampras-Agassi rivalry may even be in order.

nickb
02-15-2007, 01:29 PM
Age, not having anything to prove

The Gorilla
02-15-2007, 01:32 PM
I think sampras would beat fed, the difference betwwen fed and sampras is that while fed wants to be the best he can be, sampras had only one goal:to be the best in the world, he would rise to the occassion and beat fed.

ACE of Hearts
02-15-2007, 01:51 PM
U probably talking prime, i am the other way, i feel Federer would have a winning record vs Pete but Pete would win his share of matches as well.

Nick Irons
02-15-2007, 01:54 PM
Age, not having anything to prove

That's about it

urban
02-15-2007, 02:06 PM
What is decline? You could say, that Sampras declined from the highpoint he reached in spring 1994. After being beaten by Courier at RG, he never regained the complete, smooth control on all surfaces over the field, he had achieved between late 93 and Rome 94. I always thought, that his Korda loss at USO 1997 was a turning point, he lost his hardcourt supremacy, focussed on his grass record, and overall it became more of a struggle and workman-like effort then. I think he played his best tennis first half of 1994, late 1996 to first half of 1997, and in the summer of 99.

tricky
02-15-2007, 02:17 PM
What Fastdunn said. His strokes depended heavily on the quality of his natural movement. You can't play net game with a bad back.

Fed's game is less physically intensive. But take away Fed's foot speed and suddenly Fed's defensive game and blocking returns don't work nearly as well. It can happen anytime and suddenly.

TGV
02-15-2007, 02:24 PM
You could say, that Sampras declined from the highpoint he reached in spring 1994.

This chart proves that Sampras's abosulte peak - in terms of points - was mid 1994. He also had peaks in late 1995 (won Wim & USO) and summer 1997 (won AO & Wim):


http://www.tennis28.com/charts/Sampras_Federer_rankingpoints.GIF

fastdunn
02-15-2007, 04:21 PM
His lower back injury in 1999 wasn't entirely career threatening.
He just went for way less number of jumping overhead smashing
and surprizingly lost zip on his running forehand. In 2000 or later,
he subsequently played more "in the middle"(Agassi quoted),
because he lost his coverage of running forehand).

I really think he could extend his career a bit more if he took it
a bit slowly in 1999..

The Gorilla
02-15-2007, 04:25 PM
What Fastdunn said. His strokes depended heavily on the quality of his natural movement. You can't play net game with a bad back.

Fed's game is less physically intensive. But take away Fed's foot speed and suddenly Fed's defensive game and blocking returns don't work nearly as well. It can happen anytime and suddenly.


perfect analysis, look at tim henman for example, who also has a bad back.

WhiteSox05CA
02-15-2007, 04:26 PM
Sampras hasn't declined! He's just as good now as ever! He could kick the butt off the ATP!

tricky
02-15-2007, 04:44 PM
He's just as good now as ever! He could kick the butt off the ATP!

Honestly, if it's a one set exhibition match and competitive, I'd give him a shot with most of the top 75.

drakulie
02-15-2007, 04:53 PM
He got older, and started getting laid.

bluetrain4
02-15-2007, 05:11 PM
I think examining Sampras' career is very interesting. I agree with almost everything everyone has said.

Pete is known as the GOAT, and deservedly so. His 14 slams were spread out over 13 years (1990 U.S. Open to 2002 U.S. Open). He never won 3 slams in a year like Fed, and their were gaps in his dominance, even on fast surfaces (the USO Yzaga loss for example). Of course all great players have such losses.

I sometimes think that if he was more intense throughout the whole season he would have won more titles and more Slams. But, on the otherhand if he "got up" for all events and made the finals all the time like Fed, I think he would have flamed out sooner. He saved himself for the Slams.

To me his decline is completely natural, no major event, just age, movement (a half step means a lot), motivation.

Moose Malloy
02-15-2007, 05:27 PM
His 14 slams were spread out over 13 years (1990 U.S. Open to 2002 U.S. Open). He never won 3 slams in a year like Fed, and their were gaps in his dominance,

I think that statement is a little misleading. Sure he's no Fed, but pre-Fed only Sampras & Borg had as prolific as 3 year slam streak as Fed('93-'95 & '78-80)

sampras won 9 slams over a 5 year period('93-'97), which was the best 5 year period in the open era until Fed passed that this year.

I'm sure it wasn't your intent, but I've read that '14 slams over 13 years' comment on this board before. Its almost like Sampras is being put down for being the youngest US Open champ in history(1990) when being compared to Fed, who when he won his first major was a lot more complete a player at age 21. sampras wasn't some hank aaron type, getting a major record by just playing longer than anyone else, he was very dominant until he was 25. some commentators were predicting 16-17 slams after '97, but he unexpectedly slowed down.

scaino
02-15-2007, 05:42 PM
To Moose Malloy:

I agree that Sampras in the mid-1990s was nearly as dominant as Federer. Sure, he lost more matches, but he also (arguably) faced a slightly tougher group of foes. What gets undervalued is that Sampras was a much better player as a teenager than Federer, winning his first US Open title by taking out Lendl, McEnroe and Agassi in succession. Federer's great upset of an aging legend was his 2001 Wimbledon win over Sampras, after which he was rather easily dispatched by Henman. Sampras had both the talent and the stamina at a young age to face down Lendl and McEnroe, then crush the favored and much more seasoned Agassi in the final. An astonishing feat! I do believe that Federer is a better player than Sampras, but only slightly. Sampras was capable of reaching the same heights as Federer, though he did so less frequently. It will be interesting to see how Federer ages, whether he will still be winning Slams in his thirties, like Sampras, or if he burns out more quickly due to his 'brighter' and more concentrated peak. He seems to have the commitment, the pure love of the game, and perhaps the ego, to play even longer the Sampras, but it is hard to know in advance how one will respond to physical wear and tear, and if one will be able to adapt one's game to accommodate for being a step slower.

skuludo
02-15-2007, 07:15 PM
Why does any career decline? Age, loss of interest, opponents figuring out your game, etc. In Sampras's case I think the third factor does not apply so much, but the first two certainly. He was a phenomenal talent. I remember him beating McEnroe en route to his first US Open title, thinking he would be number one before too long. Sampras set certain goals and fulfilled them, and once he did he felt he had nothing left to prove to anyone, including himself. Surpassing Emerson for the highest number of Slams was paramount, even if previous greats didn't necessarily view that mark as the most prestigious record (Sampras made tennis a bit more like golf, establishing himself as Nicklaus atop the mountain of Slams/majors, with Federer now like Tiger on the assault). The one big goal Sampras never achieved was winning at Roland Garros; he tried many strategies, but his movement was just too poor on clay, even given his other strengths. By the end of his career Sampras seemed to have resigned himself to not winning the French title, and felt he achieved all he could. I myself thought Sampras retired too early, and could very well have achieved more. His win over Safin at the 2001 US Open proved the game had not passed him by. He would hold his own against today's pros, including Federer on occasion, though I do think the Swiss would win more often than not. Sampras could have won more titles, including perhaps another Slam or two, especially in 2003 when many seemed to be up for grabs. It will be interesting to see Sampras become more involved in seniors play; a continuation of the Sampras-Agassi rivalry may even be in order.


I am lost. I am lost. I am lost.

Anyways, to the post above mine you need a semicolon instead of a comma before but. When you use listing and try to join sentences together, use a semicolon for and plus but. Normally it is a comma, but in that last sentence it is a semicolon. Also, the last sentence is a run-on. Put a period after tear and end the sentence there.

You can ignore this post if you want. I need to put somthing here to delete my last comment.

drakulie
02-15-2007, 07:26 PM
What gets undervalued is that Sampras was a much better player as a teenager than Federer, winning his first US Open title by taking out Lendl, McEnroe and Agassi in succession. Federer's great upset of an aging legend was his 2001 Wimbledon win over Sampras, after which he was rather easily dispatched by Henman.


Funny how when Sampras beat Lendl and Mcenroe at the US Open it is considered an astonishing accomplishment, but when Fed upset Sampras at the 2001 Wimbledon he only beat an "aging legend".

I will remind you that Lendl and Mcenroe were both "aging legends" as well when Sampras beat them at the 90 US Open.

scaino
02-15-2007, 07:30 PM
That was quite my point, Drakulie. Sampras took down not one aging legend but two, then came out and dominated young Agassi, who was favored to win. Federer, by contrast, beat Sampras in a great match, then immediately lost to Henman. Both could summon high-level tennis at a young age, but Sampras managed to piece together several great matches and win a Slam, while Federer took several more years to reach the same level of consistency.

scaino
02-15-2007, 07:37 PM
To Skuludo:

I am sorry if my post confused you. I generally do not put much effort into style when writing on these Internet forums, but write quickly and informally, as it comes into my head. If I were writing for publication, I would certainly pay more attention.

whistleway
02-15-2007, 07:41 PM
This chart proves that Sampras's abosulte peak - in terms of points - was mid 1994. He also had peaks in late 1995 (won Wim & USO) and summer 1997 (won AO & Wim):


http://www.tennis28.com/charts/Sampras_Federer_rankingpoints.GIF

Look at that. If that doesn't prove who is a better player at 25, I am not sure what else would..

couch
02-15-2007, 08:26 PM
When you look at Sampras's game, serve and volley for the majority though early on he stayed back, it's not very taxing on the body. I think that shows in his domination of the game for roughly a decade. But then towards the turn of the century, he started to lose more and people started saying he was on the downside. So why do you guys think Sampras's career declined?

My own theory is that he had nothing left to prove after breaking the all time grand slam list + tired of the life + slowing of the courts which resulted in baseliners being able to return his serve more and pass him more frequently as well as his volleys losing just a bit of sting on the slower court.

just thought of this one: with pete breaking the rec, i believe he also slacked off in terms of improving his game. ive seen a few of his matches and except for very early pete, pete's game that kept him number 1 six years is pretty much the pete we saw at the end minus the conditioning. so in short the game also started to pass him by since he was coasting. he didnt improve his backhand and then his volleys started to go...in contrast, look at federer who used to have an attackable backhand but now is almost as good as his forehand and his net game is even better than a couple years ago. i think that shows how effectively one-sided and good pete's game was in order for him to win all those years.

Um, he got older. Just wait, it will happen to you too.

Rabbit
02-16-2007, 05:52 AM
Um, he got older. Just wait, it will happen to you too.

Finally!

What led to Sampras's decline?


The wear and tear of winning 14 Grand Slams. Hey, it's easy for a guy to lose first round in 20 - 30 Slams. Go 7 rounds in 14 of them and lose in the finals of how many more?
Turning 30 - you younger guys wait. You think 30's fun, wait until you hit 40.
Marriage.
And finally, Father Time himself. Nothing lasts forever. Sampras was damned fortunate he had a Ted Williams ending.

fastdunn
02-16-2007, 04:09 PM
Aging is obvious answer. Even an injury can be sign of aging.
But that was too easy answer for me.

I bet Sampras regret the year 1999 most when he looks back his career.
He got somewhat careless in 1999 after 6 years of carefully crafting his
career. I think his injury at the end of the year was somewhat of its
consequence.

Almost all players have suffered some down years with injury.
Some never really come back after injury.
Injuries are very serious threat to professional athelete's career...
Rios with bad back, Guga with hip injury. Agassi successfully recovered
from wrist surgery. I mean no one's free of injury..

NamRanger
02-16-2007, 04:52 PM
Sampras married Bridgett and not Mirka.

psamp14
02-16-2007, 07:22 PM
injuries had a part to do with sampras' decline....i know i made up a thread about this, and here is a list of sampras' injuries since 1999

1999 san jose-left ankle strain
1999 barcelona-lower back spasms
1999 indianapolis-hip flexor strain
1999 us open-herniated disc
1999 paris indoor-back spasms
2000 australian open-right hip flexor
2000 scottsdale-lower back strain
2000 davis cup-lower quad muscle pull
2000 wimbledon-tendinitis (left shin/foot)

joeyscl
02-16-2007, 07:29 PM
He finally lost his virginity...

Hops
02-16-2007, 08:22 PM
Look at that. If that doesn't prove who is a better player at 25, I am not sure what else would..

just want to emphasize, as creator of the chart, that it's rescaled to current system. Sampras never actually had 6500 points, but it's a good approximation.

Federer over 8000 ... it's just insane. Hard to translate prior to 1990, but Mac 1984, Laver 1969, Connors 1974, maybe Borg 1980 are possible comps.

skuludo
02-17-2007, 02:13 AM
I couldn't delete my post. My previous post was just a filler. I had no choice but to type something.

maneater
02-17-2007, 09:03 AM
I think examining Sampras' career is very interesting. I agree with almost everything everyone has said.

Pete is known as the GOAT, and deservedly so. His 14 slams were spread out over 13 years (1990 U.S. Open to 2002 U.S. Open). He never won 3 slams in a year like Fed, and their were gaps in his dominance, even on fast surfaces (the USO Yzaga loss for example). Of course all great players have such losses.

I sometimes think that if he was more intense throughout the whole season he would have won more titles and more Slams. But, on the otherhand if he "got up" for all events and made the finals all the time like Fed, I think he would have flamed out sooner. He saved himself for the Slams.

To me his decline is completely natural, no major event, just age, movement (a half step means a lot), motivation.

i totally agree! and he was great to watch cos he wasn't as predictable as Federer, with Sampras you still had those little butterflies in your stomach because he was great but still beatable so you got nervous for him, and seeing him pull through a tough match and win slams was more exciting. Now when you see Feds name in a draw you dont get that buz of watching the game anymore cos u know he's gonna win the dam thing..right?

ACE of Hearts
02-17-2007, 09:17 AM
I thought watching Sampras was more predictable.It was a serving contest back then.I always thought that Pete never really liked to expand energy.Lets not forget that he retired winning a slam.He chose to go out that way.Who knows what would have happened had he stayed.

maneater
02-17-2007, 05:10 PM
i was suprised he won the last slam, i mean it was a dream way to bow out, but he did suprisingly well, i was so happy for him, he was my hero growing up and im glad he won against a great player...just a dream ending for a fabulous player

bluecephas
02-18-2007, 11:26 PM
Why did Sampras' career decline?
Because it was fulfilled.

RiosTheGenius
02-19-2007, 12:23 AM
his career never really had a decline.... he just got a little older, just like Moya right now, getting beaten by guys who never dreamed about losing to.

Phil
02-19-2007, 12:32 AM
his career never really had a decline.... he just got a little older, just like Moya right now, getting beaten by guys who never dreamed about losing to.

Uhmm...wouldn't that be, by definition, a "decline"?

Young Pete
02-19-2007, 12:45 AM
Sampras married Bridgett and not Mirka.

yes sampras definitely wins hands down in this category!!

RiosTheGenius
02-22-2007, 10:31 PM
Uhmm...wouldn't that be, by definition, a "decline"?
but not really... because there can't be a decline when your last match is a slam final and you win it.

BeckerFan
02-23-2007, 12:13 AM
That last US Open win was Sampras's Abbey Road.

A miraculous finale for a career that had been going downhill for some time.

Max G.
02-23-2007, 12:19 AM
but not really... because there can't be a decline when your last match is a slam final and you win it.

Sure there can be. Because in his prime, he would have a whole bunch more accomplishments besides just that one slam.

Sure, even in his decline he was good enough to win a Slam. That means he was an amazing player. It doesn't mean he wasn't declining, compared to where he used to be.

Ethan04
02-25-2007, 11:33 AM
he finally learned how to have a life beyond tennis. got distracted and gained weight.

barryb306
02-25-2007, 01:14 PM
When you look at Sampras's game, serve and volley for the majority though early on he stayed back, it's not very taxing on the body. I think that shows in his domination of the game for roughly a decade. But then towards the turn of the century, he started to lose more and people started saying he was on the downside. So why do you guys think Sampras's career declined?

My own theory is that he had nothing left to prove after breaking the all time grand slam list + tired of the life + slowing of the courts which resulted in baseliners being able to return his serve more and pass him more frequently as well as his volleys losing just a bit of sting on the slower court.

just thought of this one: with pete breaking the rec, i believe he also slacked off in terms of improving his game. ive seen a few of his matches and except for very early pete, pete's game that kept him number 1 six years is pretty much the pete we saw at the end minus the conditioning. so in short the game also started to pass him by since he was coasting. he didnt improve his backhand and then his volleys started to go...in contrast, look at federer who used to have an attackable backhand but now is almost as good as his forehand and his net game is even better than a couple years ago. i think that shows how effectively one-sided and good pete's game was in order for him to win all those years.
More than anything Sampras quit working. Dont know if i agree with the serve and volley game not being taxing. As soon as i get tired the first thing i abandon is the serve and volley. I would rather stay on the baseline and try to end it with one shot. It takes a lot of explosiveness to charge the net and then try and hit your split step and than have to explode to a ball. Your reactions have to be quicker

jktennis59
02-25-2007, 06:57 PM
More than anything Sampras quit working. Dont know if i agree with the serve and volley game not being taxing. As soon as i get tired the first thing i abandon is the serve and volley. I would rather stay on the baseline and try to end it with one shot. It takes a lot of explosiveness to charge the net and then try and hit your split step and than have to explode to a ball. Your reactions have to be quicker

There are many factors:
He was getting older.
Need to say more? He lost quickness in his serve and volley game. The declination is a natural fact.

A great newcomer generation
Safin, Hewitt, Federer, González....

Lack of motivation.
14 GS, a lot of tournaents, 33 y/o, married, father, and almost 50 millions (or more) in his bank account.

His last US Open was an epic final to a great career.

My favorite player: Pistol Pete.

Deuce
02-26-2007, 01:37 AM
Why Did Pete Sampras' Career Decline?

His strength was in his hair.

Fedace
02-26-2007, 07:17 AM
his career never really had a decline.... he just got a little older, just like Moya right now, getting beaten by guys who never dreamed about losing to.

He did decline, His foot speed lost a full step, and conditioning declined as well. So he was lunging for volleys that he normally would be in perfect position for. you can see this in his last cinci masters.

Eviscerator
02-26-2007, 11:19 PM
One wonders if age played a part in his decline.:roll:

Alexandros
02-27-2007, 05:54 PM
A great newcomer generation
Safin, Hewitt, Federer, González....


Why is Gonzalez mentioned in the same line as a pair of two time slam winners and a ten time slam champ?

jktennis59
02-27-2007, 07:07 PM
Why is Gonzalez mentioned in the same line as a pair of two time slam winners and a ten time slam champ?

Winning a major is really a great achievement but it's not the only important thing in tennis. Obviously González have not reached his top but I think he is gonna be one of the best contenders for the next two or three years. Ríos never won a major but he was a real genius of tennis. Ivanisevic made the miracle of winning Wimbledon but he was one of the greatest before that.

stormholloway
02-27-2007, 10:08 PM
If your last match is a grand slam final victory, people need not talk of a decline.