Originally Posted by tennis_pro
The most important part that is overlooked here ALL THE TIME is this:
Between 1993 and 1998 - ALL of Sampras' year-end-no-1 seasons, he only faced Agassi a total of 3 times in the majors.
Three. freaking. Times. Once at Wimbledon in 1993 when Agassi played with a broken wrist and pushed Sampras to a 5th set. Once when he beat him at the AO in 1995. And once when Agassi was drained after his SF win against Becker in the US that year. That's it. 3 times. For comparison - Federer faced Nadal 3 times in majors in 2005-2006 and that was just the beginning of their major meetings.
The reality is - the only reason Sampras "main rival" Agassi looks actually like a main rival is because he racked up slams in his 30's when Sampras was past it. Imagine if Agassi went down on himself and retired in 1997 or 1998 after some humiliating losses and his ranking falling to 127 or something. The next in line after Sampras who won the most majors in the 90's would be a guy who won a total of 3 majors which is laughable. Now, while Federer is at 17, Nadal is at 11 (Nadal is VERY MUCH a part of Federer's generation - he's been there since 2005), Djokovic at 6 and Murray is surely going to win a couple.
I am a big Sampras fan - he was the first tennis superstar I watched when getting into the game - however I cannot deny the above.
When Sampras hit his (then) record-equalling 12th slam at Wimbledon 1999, the next best of his generation were Agassi and Courier at 4 each. All credit to Agassi for getting his career to a respectable level by winning another 4 in its latter stages, but let's not pretend he was a constant threat to Sampras throughout the latter's dominant period.
By contrast, Federer has had to face a man who has won 11 slams during the same timeframe, and has faced him many times in slams.
A hypothetical historical equivalent would be Sampras having to face Borg throughout his career, with both at peak/close to peak around the same time. If that had been the case, Sampras would not have finished with 14 majors - probably around 10.