Pete Sampras year end number 1 for six years

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by jorel, Jan 23, 2013.

  1. zagor

    zagor Talk Tennis Guru

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    Sampras was a defending champion and won the last 4 Wimbledons in a row when Fed beat him .

    Again, both were solid wins but nothing earth shattering.

    Edit: Didn't see Gindarka said the same thing before me.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2013
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  2. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    Yes, but Sampras hadn't won a tournament for quite a while. His 2001 matches going into Wimbledon left much to be desired. It was a shock when Federer beat Sampras in the sense that Sampras had been the Wimbledon champion for so long and had just been beaten, but a lot of people were saying during 2001 Wimbledon that Sampras would lose if he didn't up his game. His best tournament in the first half of 2001 was probably being runner-up of Indian Wells, where he was soundly beaten in 3 straight sets by Agassi.

    Lendl, going into the 1990 US Open, was in a much better position. Lendl had won the 1990 Australian Open and the only reason why Lendl wasn't still world number 1 at the time of the 1990 US Open was because he had skipped the entire clay-court season to chill out, play golf, and practice a lot on grass in his obsession with winning Wimbledon.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2013
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  3. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Lendl was always consistent throughout the year, whereas Sampras by 2001 really cared about nothing but the Slams. So comparing their overall season record is misleading here. It makes it seem like beating Lendl in 1990 was a greater achievement than beating Sampras in '01. Really they were very comparable wins.

    Sampras d. Lendl in 5 sets, just like Federer d. Sampras in '01. Sampras made 57 unforced errors against Lendl, and 22 against Federer. That is more or less comparable, because the first match took place at the USO where you would expect more UE's than on grass. But if anything it's arguable that Sampras put up a better performance in the '01 match than he did to beat Lendl in 1990.

    Whether or not that's true, they're comparable victories.

    If Sampras had gotten past Federer he would have faced Henman, Ivanisevic and Rafter, three men whom he had repeatedly beaten at Wimbledon. He had a great chance to win there and continue his streak; he'd won the last four Wimbledons.

    If Lendl had gotten past Sampras in '90, he would have faced McEnroe and Agassi -- again, a great chance for Lendl to continue his great run at the USO (Lendl was not defending champion in '90 but he still owned that tournament as much as anyone did back then).

    So in a lot of ways Lendl at the USO in 1990, and Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001, were comparable "scalps."

    This raises the whole issue of how wins should be evaluated. Let's say you beat a great champion who's had a fantastic year but you did it on a day when that champion was genuinely having a bad day. At another Slam you beat a lower-ranked player whose record for the year is not great (he never has great overall seasons), but you did it on a day when that lower-ranked player was playing lights out, up at the level of the greatest champions. Maybe the lower-ranked player can only reach that level on that one day, but to my mind a victory over him should be worth at least as much as the victory over the off-form alltime great, and probably should be worth more.

    Sampras in '01 was no longer having great seasons and could only bring his top level at the Slams -- and even then, only certain Slams -- but when he did, a victory over him was worth a great deal.

    I just think that the match itself should be evaluated, if possible. In older eras when the match is no longer on video and there are no longer any stats for it, you have no choice but to look at the overall season in order to infer how a champion played in a certain match (for example you would argue: X champion had a great year in 1927, so a victory over him at the 1927 Wimbledon was truly impressive. Or: this other champion was very much on the decline by 1948, so the victory over him at Forest Hills is not so impressive). But today we don't need to go the indirect route to evaluate a victory: the encounter itself can be evaluated on its own terms.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2013
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  4. Feather

    Feather Hall of Fame

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    Throw in the slowing down of courts to the mix. Roger lost two SF to Djokovic having matchpoints twice, in 2011 and 2010. If the US Open was as fast as it was during the late 90s, Roger would have had a great chance to win. Roger had to literally fight with guys 5,6 years younger than his age and his loses were very close. I guess Roger was bit unlucky when you consider the fact that Roger bagelled Novak 6-0 in Cincinnati, a fast court just five months ago.
     
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  5. zagor

    zagor Talk Tennis Guru

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    Yes, Pete's "slams only matter" attitude got even more pronounced as he got older, in 2000-2002 period Sampras won 2 slams and made 4 slam finals overall (3 in a row at USO), Lendl by comparison made 2 slam finals winning one in the same period while being ranked higher, having better winning %, performing better in non-slam tourneys etc. so their career trends continued into their "twilight" years.

    This is where it gets a bit harder to compare, an all-out serve and volley affair like Fed-Sampras is bound to have less UFEs, IIRC (I didn't watch that match in a while) Sampras-Lendl USO match had much more baseline points, longer average rally length etc.


    Agree.

    Oh no doubt, if Sampras continued the level he showed against Fed I would have given him an excellent chance to win the whole tourney.

    Same with Lendl, I always disagree when the topic is about slams Pete took away from Agassi (slams which Dre would have won if Pete wasn't in the field) and people mention 1990 USO, IMO without Sampras Lendl would have won that USO, he was still doing very well against Agassi at the time (and Agassi was still known to be a bit of a choker).

    I agree that individual matches should be evaluated but the decline in general and potential level of play also plays a role, I'm not one of the people who believe that as players age it's merely their consistency in playing their best tennis that is worse, I think their best level also loses a lot of its potency.

    For example I do think Sampras played his at the time best tennis he was capable of against Fed in 2001 but his best tennis of 2001 wasn't his best tennis of 1993 and 1994 for example.

    Sure, he served great against Fed but the memory gets muddled over the years and people forget how quick Sampras was in his peak days (that's one of his most underrated attributes), Fed IMO in addition to returning Pete's serve well also exposed how much his movement declined from his peak years.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2013
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  6. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    I believe that Pancho and the Rocket can beat that.
     
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  7. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Very much agree with this. Just want to reply to the part I bolded.

    Match stats are definitely tricky, but other stats can be just as problematic. Seasonal win/loss records, or number of titles won, can give the wrong impression about a match -- and even at their best, those stats remain indirect ways of inferring how a match was played. They can never be more than that -- so if there's some indication that there's a problem with them (if for example you have someone like Sampras who does not, or cannot, put his best tennis into a year-round effort, but is still capable of raising his level of play for the occasion), then match stats cannot be any worse, and may in fact be much better.

    I think you largely agree with that, but I'm just saying: if all types of stats are potentially problematic, then why not wade through match statistics like winners and errors and first-serve percentages despite how tricky they can be?

    Just making my push for that.

    You mention the UE's. Good point: but the SV-fest at Wimbledon was not excessively different from the Sampras-Lendl match. Sampras came in 127 times against Lendl; he stayed back some, but not a whole lot. At Wimbledon, against Federer, he came in behind all his serves. Federer, meanwhile, was largely staying back on second serve. Lendl came in 34 times in the '90 match. So yes, definitely less net play in the '90 match, compared to the '01 meeting; definitely longer rallies; but the difference in amount of net play is less than you might expect.

    Also, even though both matches went five sets, the Federer match was a good deal longer (60 games compared to 50). Which makes Sampras' low UE count against Federer even more impressive than it already is.

    I still think the stats look comparable: I'm just saying, the stats for the '01 match look very good and are arguably better.

    Also, Sampras served at 70% against Federer, an impressive number esp. on grass. I'm not aware of any comparably special stat in the Sampras/Lendl match.

    Yes I agree with you that Sampras' level in '01 was not as high as in previous years. His speed was diminished and some of his bread-and-butter shots were failing.

    Yet as you know all that was true of Lendl in the '90 match, too.

    Two AP stories below, to give some sense of Lendl's performance.

    Lendl was not at the top of his game, frequently hitting wide balls hit high to his backhand. And his usually constant forehand produced 17 forehand errors, most coming in the first two sets.

    “I wasn’t hitting the ball well enough to take full advantage,” Lendl said. “I knew he was going to play better in the fifth (set) than he did in the third and fourth. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to put pressure on him from the beginning."​

    Another:

    Lendl didn’t dump this match at all. He played well but suffered a few critical lapses, such as a wide backhand at set point in the first set.

    Lendl had broken to 5-4 and was serving for the set in the second, but Sampras wouldn’t fold. Sampras won the first three points and broke back at 15 by driving a forehand approach smack on the baseline. Lendl could barely get his racket on it and looped it long with a forehand.

    Lendl had four break points and had four deuces in the 11th game before Sampras held. In the tiebreak, Sampras opened with an ace, broke Lendl’s serve with a running backhand pass and hit two service winners to go up 4-1. Two more service winners later made it 6-3, and Sampras won it with a running forehand that kissed the lines in the corner.

    Lendl found a chink in Sampras’ game -- the backhand -- and exploited it repeatedly to tie the match at 2-2. Lendl also began serving better, rapping many of his 13 aces and 12 service winners in those two sets.

    But Sampras asserted himself when he won the opening game of the final set with a service winner. Lendl began to unravel -- a crying baby bothered him so much that Lendl yelled, “Take the kid out” in the second game. Sampras pushed him to three deuces in the fourth game, and on his second break point drove a forehand down the line that Lendl chased but couldn’t touch.

    Lendl acknowledged that he was still held hostage by his preparation for Wimbledon, in which he spent three months training on grass. The effort was in vain, since Lendl lost in the semifinals to eventual winner Stefan Edberg.

    “I haven’t played that well the whole summer, and I still felt today that lack of match play was the problem,” Lendl said. “I paid for the preparation for Wimbledon. I haven’t had enough play and I haven’t felt as comfortable on my ground strokes.”​
     
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  8. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    ^^

    agree with almost every point of yours in that post ...:)

    given that, I am just a bit surprised you didn't really agree about the fed/nadal AO 2009 final and the fed/murray AO 2010 final winner-UE stats making a convincing enough case for plexi having slowed down from 2010 onwards ....;)
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2013
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  9. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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    I think he's talking about the open era, AND after the establishment of the ATP.
     
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  10. RF20Lennon

    RF20Lennon Legend

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    No one on this forum disagreed with Sampras being one of the best
     
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  11. zagor

    zagor Talk Tennis Guru

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    Interesting post, especially the tidbit about stats comparison between 2 matches, it seems that the less number of net approaches is offset by the the longer duration of the Fed-Sampras match.

    You also have a point about Pete's serve, if we presume that for Lendl his biggest weapon was still the FH we can conclude that Pete's main weapon was working better in his 2001 Wimbledon match against Fed than Lendl's in his 1990 USO match with Sampras.

    Of course, Sampras went on to win the tourney so overall his level of play was better in 1990 USO than Fed's was in 2001 Wimbledon but that doesn't necessarily mean that Fed didn't display higher level of play in that specific match with Sampras, especially given how wildly inconsistent he was from one match to another in those days (coupled with Henman being a tough match-up for him at the time).

    Lendl's post match interview you posted is in stark contrast to Pete's, that might be seen as another indicator of 2001 match being higher quality but could just as easily been due to Sampras being more humble (don't know what other term to use), IMO at that point in his career he had a tendency to overpraise young players who beat him at the big stage (calling Hewitt's ROS better than Agassi's for example).
     
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  12. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I'm a little lost here, what's the connection between the two debates?

    If I recall, I didn't view the Fed/Nadal/Murray argument as evidence against the surface slowing down, I just thought it was less convincing evidence than your argument using the two Fed/Djokovic semis. Your latter argument used two players rather than three, which is always less problematic; and the latter argument took matches in their entirety rather than just taking certain sets, which again is naturally less problematic.

    Throwing in a third player is an additional factor that naturally raises questions; and evaluating only partial matches, dropping some sets while including others, again raises additional factors and questions that simply don't appear when matches are taken in their entirety.

    Still lost, though, about the connection with this Sampras/Lendl/Federer debate (?)
     
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