Duel Match Stats/Report - Becker vs Sampras (final) & Sampras vs Agassi (quarter-final), Stuttgart Indoor 1996


Hall of Fame
Boris Becker beat Pete Sampras 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the Stuttgart Indoor final, 1996 on carpet

The pair would go onto to compete in two similarly competitive matches on the same surface at the Year End Championship - with Becker winning in the round robin , and Sampras the final (https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...or-1996-atp-champs-sampras-and-becker.171388/)

Becker won 139 points, Sampras 137

Both players serve-volleyed off all first serves. Becker occasionally also did so off seconds

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (75/138) 54%
- 1st serve points won (62/75) 83%
- 2nd serve points won (29/63) 46%
- Aces 29 (1 second serve), Service Winners 4
- Double Faults 11
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (59/138) 43%

- 1st serve percentage (88/138) 64%
- 1st serve points won (67/88) 76%
- 2nd serve points won (23/50) 46%
- Aces 14, Service Winners 3
- Double Faults 7
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (50/138) 36%

Serve Patterns
Becker served...
- to FH 45%
- to BH 49%
- to Body 6%

Sampras served....
- to FH 44%
- to BH 50%
- to Body 6%

Return Stats
Becker made...
- 81 (39 FH, 42 BH), including 1 runaround FH and 3 return-approaches
- 1 Winner (1 FH)
- 33 Errors, comprising...
- 7 Unforced (1 FH, 6 BH)
- 26 Forced (12 FH, 14 BH)
- Return Rate (81/131) 62%

Sampras made...
- 68 (22 FH, 46 BH)
- 6 Winners (2 FH, 4 BH)
- 26 Errors, comprising...
- 2 Unforced (2 FH)
- 24 Forced (14 FH, 10 BH)
- Return Rate (68/127) 54%

Break Points
Becker 4/14 (8 games)
Sampras 3/9 (5 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Becker 21 (8 FH, 7 BH, 4 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 BHOH)
Sampras 39 (6 FH, 10 BH, 7 FHV, 10 BHV, 6 OH)

Becker had 7 from serve-volley points
- 2 first 'volleys' (1 FHV, 1 FH at net)
- 5 second volleys (3 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 BHOH)

- 7 passes (3 FH, 4 BH)
- FHs - 1 cc return, 1 dtl and 1 longline from mid-court
- BHs - 1 cc and 3 dtl

- regular groundstrokes 7 (4 FH, 3 BH)
- FHs - 2 cc and 2 inside-out
- BHs - 2 dtl and 1 dtl/inside-out

Sampras had 24 from serve-volley points
- 15 first 'volleys' (4 FHV, 6 BHV, 3 OH, 1 FH at net, 1 BH at net)
- 9 second volleys (3 FHV, 3 BHV, 3 OH)

- 13 passes (4 FH, 9 BH)
- FHs - 3 dtl (2 returns) and 1 inside-out
- BHs - 4 cc (2 returns), 3 dtl and 2 inside-in returns

- 1 non-pass FH dtl

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Becker 37
- 12 Unforced (4 FH, 3 BH, 3 FHV, 2 BHV)
- 25 Forced (8 FH, 5 BH, 5 FHV, 6 BHV, 1 BHOH)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 50

Sampras 52
- 19 Unforced (6 FH, 5 BH, 3 FHV, 5 BHV)
- 33 Forced (15 FH, 10 BH, 1 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 4 BHV, 2 BH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 50

(Note 1: All 1/2 volleys refer to such shots played at net. 1/2 volleys played from other parts of the court are included within relevant groundstroke numbers)

(Note 2: the Unforced Error Forcefulness Index is an indicator of how aggressive the average UE was. The numbers presented for these two matches are keyed on 4 categories - 20 defensive, 40 neutral, 50 attacking and 60 winner attempt)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
Becker was...
- 46/78 (59%) at net, including...
- 38/64 (59%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 30/43 (70%) off 1st serve and...
- 8/21 (38%) off 2nd serve
- 2/3 return-approaching
- 0/1 forced back

Sampras was...
- 55/81 (68%) at net, including...
- 52/74 (70%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 50/71 (70%) off 1st serve and...
- 2/3 off 2nd serve

Match Report
A sweet match, largely dominated by serve - and turning on key points. Becker plays particularly well in the last 3 sets, though both men have their ups and downs

Its a regular carpet court - meaning fast paced - and both players serve-volley off all first serves. Becker also does off second as a surprise tactic (without much success - 38% points won), while Sampras does only 3 times. So we have a match with big serving, serve-volleying, volleying & passing and baseline exchanges. Everything, in short

Sampras goes down 0-40 in the opening game and is broken. He's able to break back twice in the middle of the set though (while warding of the 2 break points he faces with aces) to take the set. This is the only set with more than one break in it. The key would be Becker's poor 11/25 first serve percentage - and his losing 5/5 of second serve points he follows to net. Sampras breaks first on the back of passing Becker's second serve net misadventures and the second time with Boris making 4 errors (2 on the volley). In set 1, Sampras is the better player

Question of who was the better player for the rest of the match doesn't really come up. These are two players that stats can't do justice to and with both riding on their serves, everything comes down to a few key points

Second set, Becker saves four break points over two games - all of them with unreturned first serves (1 ace). And converts his sole chance (2nd serve point, neutral BH UE from Sampras)

Third set, Becker holds to love in all but 1 game. Only he's broken to love in that one game - so there goes the set

Fourth set, its Becker with chances in 3 games (Sampras 0), and he converts on one

Final set.... both men step it up and play with more visible intensity. Sampras comes back from 0-40 down with an ace and forcing passing errors but is eventually broken. Becker brings up break point with a FH dtl pass and seals it with an excellent BH inside-out/dtl winner. The German had also return-approached (he only did so 3 times in the match, Sampras 0) to take the first point of the game

Playing Dynamics & Stats
Everything looks about even. Identical second serve points won (46%), Becker higher on first serve points won (83% to 76%), compensated for by Sampras having a higher serve percentage (64% to 54%)

Becker with a sizeable advantage in unreturned serves (43% to 36%) as well as 33 aces/service winners to 17... but look at the first volley winners. Sampras 15, Becker 2 (overall winners from s/v - Sampras 24, Becker 7)… and that's further balanced out by forced groundstroke errors (Becker 13, Sampras 25) - a large chunk of these would have been facing an at net opponent.

Both players serve 138 points. Becker wins 139, Sampras 137

How could it be closer? Its just they've gone different routes to winning points - Becker using the serve more aggressively, Sampras using the serve to set up volley plays.

Becker I thought was better off the ground. Sampras' FH stands out in this match because it doesn't stand out.... nothing really happening off that wing for Pete (good or bad). If anything, his BH is more impressive

Sampras plays a bit robotically. Serve-volley off first serve, stay back on second. Look at his returns. Not 1 runaround shot, not 1 return approach - or any attempts at either. In BH-BH rally situations, he just keeps playing BHs cc... while Becker occasionally mixes it up by running around to hit FH inside-outs

Becker return-approaches at time. He serve-volleys randomly off second serves. He mixes up returning conventionally and taking big cuts (note the 7 return UEs for Becker, a product of his trying to attack. Sampras has 2)

So Becker is the more creative, playmaker. Not that it matters much - both players serving the same number of points and Becker winning a grand total of 2 more tells you that regardless, the two men were all but equal.

Probably the stat that best indicates slight superiority for the winner are the break points. He conjures them in 8 games, to Sampras' 5

Neither player volleys particularly well. Both miss easy volleys and both miss make-ably difficult ones. Neither makes many volleys that would astound

Summing up... a very even match. Becker the more eager and creative... but ultimately, next to nothing between the two. I've noted that stats often fail to capture the streaky essence of these two players.... and when they're playing one another in a style that leads to all-court action, that's doubly true. No stat you can point to and say "that was the key to the match"... a point here, a point there decides it. Becker is the better player for the last two sets and was the more willing to make plays, so a well deserved win for the German in his home country

(Will add the Sampras-Agassi match later...)


Hall of Fame
Earlier in the quarter-final, Sampras beat Andre Agassi 6-4, 6-1

Agassi had won the previous Super Nine event in Cincinnati, as well as the Olympic Gold medal that year

Sampras won 63 points, Agassi 41

Sampras serve-volleyed off all but one first serve

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (38/59) 64%
- 1st serve points won (27/38) 71%
- 2nd serve points won (7/21) 33%
- Aces 9, Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (24/59) 41%

- 1st serve percentage (21/45) 47%
- 1st serve points won (9/21) 43%
- 2nd serve points won (7/24) 29%
- Aces 2 (1 second serve)
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (6/45) 13%

Serve Patterns
Sampras served...
- to FH 50%
- to BH 50%

Agassi served....
- to FH 30%
- to BH 68%
- to Body 2%

Return Stats
Sampras made...
- 38 (9 FH, 29 BH), including 2 return-approaches
- 5 Winners (3 FH, 2 BH)
- 4 Errors, comprising...
- 2 Unforced (1 FH, 1 BH)
- 2 Forced (2 FH)
- Return Rate (38/44) 86%

Agassi made...
- 34 (15 FH, 19 BH), including 1 return-approach
- 8 Winners (4 FH, 4 BH)
- 14 Errors, comprising...
- 2 Unforced (1 FH, 1 BH0
- 12 Forced (7 FH, 5 BH)
- Return Rate (34/58) 59%

Break Points
Sampras 6/10 (6 games)
Agassi 3/6 (4 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Sampras 22 (6 FH, 11 BH, 3 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 1 OH)
Agassi 14 (7 FH, 6 BH, 1 FHV)

Sampras' returns (3 FH, 2 BH)
- FHs - 2 cc and 1 inside-in
- BHs - 2 dtl (1 pass)

- regular FHs - 1 dtl, 1 runaround inside-out and 1 running-down-a-drop volley cc hit at a very fine angle
- regular BHs - 2 cc (1 pass), 4 dtl and 2 inside-out

- 4 from serve-volley points
- 3 first 'volleys' (1 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 1 BH at net)
- 1 second volley (1 FHV)

Agassi's returns (4 FH, 4 BH)
- FHs - 2 cc (1 pass), 1 inside-in pass and 1 dtl
- BHs - 1 cc, 1 dtl and 2 inside-in passes

- other passes - 2 FH (1 cc, 1 inside-in) and 1 BH (1 cc)

- non-passes - 1 FH cc and 1 BH dtl

- the FHV was from a return-approach and was a stop shot

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Sampras 20
- 10 Unforced (3 FH, 7 BH)
- 10 Forced (3 FH, 4 BH, 2 FHV, 1 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46

Agassi 16
- 9 Unforced (5 FH, 4 BH)
- 7 Forced (1 FH, 6 BH)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 42.2

(Note 1: All 1/2 volleys refer to such shots played at net. 1/2 volleys played from other parts of the court are included within relevant groundstroke numbers)

(Note 2: the Unforced Error Forcefulness Index is an indicator of how aggressive the average UE was. The numbers presented for these two matches are keyed on 4 categories - 20 defensive, 40 neutral, 50 attacking and 60 winner attempt)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
Sampras was...
- 21/32 (66%) at net, including...
- 17/27 (63%) serve-volleying, all first serves
- 2/2 return-approaching

Agassi was...
- 5/8 (63%) at net, including...
- 0/1 serve-volleying, a first serve
1/1 return-approaching

Match Report
A strange but highly entertaining match, featuring fabulous shotmaking of the ground by Sampras, tremendous returning from both men, a huge difference in movement (Sampras the hare, Agassi the tortoise) - and the usual Sampras serve

First point of the match, Agassi puts away a BH inside-in return passing winner. He adds a regular BH dtl to bring up break point which Sampras aces away. Next thing you know, Sampras stays back on a first serve - but Agassi still hits a return winner. Sampras needs the big serve to get him out of trouble in this game - and he adds 2 more aces before going on to hold with a serve-volley, BH at net winner

The rest of the set is a return fest. In total, Agassi is broken 4 times and Sampras 3. How often does Pete Sampras get broken 3 times on a quick carpet court? Bud Collins describes the surface as slow - his frame of reference is that serves are being returned comfortably and all the breaks. Its not slow.... the players are getting value for their attacking groundies (no shortage of winners), Agassi returns exceptionally well and damagingly and his serve isn't big enough to trouble Pete. The final also indicated the fast pace of the court

So many excellent shots. Agassi breaks first in game 3, highlighted by an inside-in FH return pass and later, back-to-back cc passes (1 of each wing). Sampras breaks back in a game with attacking groundstrokes - he hits a BH dtl winner in it. And then goes on to hold, despite Agassi starting the game with an amazing get - a near dive volley sent Agassi off the court and Sampras puts the volley in play... only to have Agassi come back from outside the screen somehow and put away a FH inside-in pass. Sampras ends this game - the only hold in 8 successive games - with a lovely touch, FH1/2V winner

Pete breaks again, this time to love - starting with 3 successive BH winners (inside-out, dtl and cc pass). Agassi breaks back to 15, with 3 return passing winners (back to back dtl's - 1 of each side - and later, BH inside-in)

And now the ball is back in Sampras' court, who breaks again with 4 winners, broken up by an Agassi ace. BH cc, BH dtl return, BH dtl from outside the court and FH dtl. He can't serve it out though and for once, the break comes about as a result of the servers poor play: a double fault and a pair of errors, including a simple FH at net. No problem though - Sampras breaks to take the set. He opens with a FH cc return winner, but its Agassi who yields errors on lively baseline points to lose the game

Second set is more one sided. Agassi continues to get broken, but Sampras has tightened up his service game and holds comfortably. There are still great shots on show - Agassi return-approaching and hitting a stop FHV, Sampras miraculously running down a drop volley and putting it away at the finest of angles in the forecourt, more return winners from both players. In between, Sampras is winning a lot of points with unreturned serves.... Agassi hardly any

Playing Dynamics & Stats
The fun is in the baseline battles - and the returning.

You can see the high number of return winners both men have - Agassi 8, Sampras 5. That's about a winner for every five serves returned.... and they're all fantastic shots

The big difference in the baseline dynamics is movement. Sampras is particularly quick this day... by contrast, he looks downright lazy in the final against Becker. And he seems keen to duke it out with the heavy hitting Agassi. Heavy hitting he might be but his movement is among the worst I've seen from him in this match. He looks a tad overweight (he's wearing a loose shirt, but one can still see it)

None of that patternized, BH-to-BH stuff with Pete playing defensively, Agassi trying to break it down and maybe risking a dtl which puts him in the path of Pete's running FH.... this is double winged, shot making and court opening tennis. Shot making is about equal, but the huge difference in movement gives Sampras the advantage. His supposedly frail BH is particularly impressive - hitting winners inside-out and down the line and even outside-in/dtl. Agassi's by contrast, looks one dimensional - heavy, but sticking to standard cc's

Curious that Sampras, who was so dynamic off the ground in this encounter, played largely reactively in the final against Becker. There, I thought Becker was the stronger player from the back - and Sampras' movements, without being bad, also didn't catch the eye as especially good. Note also Sampras return-approaching twice.... didn't even try doing it once in the final

Note again like in the final, Sampras' net points made up almost entirely off first serve-volley points (27/32 for 84%). In the final, it was 71/81 at 88%. Not a lot of seeking the net by Pete... just mechanical serve-volleying behind a humongous first serve. He struggles on the volley against Agassi's powerful passing shots. Taking the two matches together, I would say Sampras' volleying is no more than adequate/average

Note both men doing poorly on second serve points won (Sampras 33%, Agassi 29%). Both have just one double, so that's not an issue. Credit here to the returners. Sampras is quick to jump on Agassi's weak second serve, as he did Chang's in the US Open final earlier in the year (https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...t-sampras-vs-chang-us-open-final-1996.609562/) with taking it early and/or big cut returns. Agassi is more impressive still - standing inside the baseline to deal with Sampras' powerful second serve and usually hammering it

Summing up, a fun little shot making and attacking returning fest. Sampras outdoing himself on both fronts to hold about even in these areas with the generally stronger Agassi.... and he has his large comparative advantage on the serve to fall back on to doubly ensure the final result. Great first set, a thrashing in the second - and good entertainment always


From The Independent (London):

Boris Becker proved yesterday that he is back to his impressive best after a serious wrist injury when he defeated the world No 1, Pete Sampras, in the final of the Stuttgart Open.​
Becker delighted his fanatical home fans by coming back twice from behind to end Sampras's 21-match unbeaten run. He won 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.​
Sampras had been seeking his fourth consecutive tournament victory, including the US Open, but he was stopped by a resurgent Becker who surprised himself in a final lasting just under three hours.​
"I am a bit perplexed. I never expected to be able to beat him," Becker said. "But you try everything against Pete Sampras in a final like this. My legs hurt in the final set."​
Becker's first victory over Sampras since the 1994 World Championship should see him qualify for the same end of season event in Hanover next month....​
"He was just too good today - a great comeback," Sampras said graciously. "There's only one king in Germany and his name is Boris. Becker is the best indoor player I've ever played."​

I actually charted this Becker-Sampras match once, but didn't post my numbers because I was missing several points. Your count, Wasp, is more complete than mine on Sampras' unreturned rate, among other things, but these stats below are not missing anything.

Becker made his first serve on 7 of 9 break points (78%), Sampras on 9 of 14 (64%).

When facing break point, Becker won 5/7 on first serve (71%) and 1/2 on second (50%). Sampras won 8/9 on first serve (89%) and 2/5 on second (40%).

Sampras lost only 1 point on first serve in the third set. That ended a streak of 17 points won on first serve, including his last 12 of the second set. After losing that sole point he went on another streak of 8 straight, including his last 6 of the third set.

Becker was broken at 1-2 in the third set and thereafter held 12 consecutive times, without facing a break point, to close the match. In fact after that break, he won 8 straight service points to close out the third set, plus 6 more to open the fourth. From the service break forward he won 18 straight points on first serve, a streak ended in his last service game of the fourth set. He also won his last 8 first-serve points of the match.

In the fifth set:

Becker made 16 of 30 first serves (53.3%), winning 7/14 on 1st (50.0%) and 21/30 on 2nd (70.0%)
Sampras made 21 of 29 first serves (72.4%), winning 16/21 on 1st (76.2%) and 3/8 on 2nd (37.5%).

Pete was broken in this set despite making 5 of 8 first serves in that game (and he won 3 of those 5 points). In this set he didn't win a point on second serve (5 straight lost points) until his last service game, at 3-5, when Becker could look forward to serving out the match.

Sampras’ first-serve percentage of 63.8% for the match was the highest that Sampras would ever have in a loss to Becker.

None of us here has charted their 1990 meeting in Stockholm and the ATP of course has no stats for it, but a boxscore of the stats -- including the aces and the "service winners" -- are displayed at the end of the match here: