Duel Match Stats/Report - Sampras vs Becker, Year End Championship finals & round robin, 1994

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Pete Sampras beat Boris Becker 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 the Year End Championship (World Tour Finals) final, 1994 on carpet in Frankfurt, Germany

This was Sampras' second title at the event, capping a year in which he won a career best 10 tournaments, including Australian Open and Wimbledon. Becker was returning to the event after failing to qualify the previous year. He had won the last time he played the event the year before that

Both players serve-volleyed off all their first serves. Becker serve-volleyed off vast majority of second serves, Sampras rarely

Sampras won 131 points, Becker 113

Serve Stats
Sampras...
- 1st serve percentage (67/112) 60%
- 1st serve points won (57/67) 85%
- 2nd serve points won (27/45) 60%
- Aces 9, Service Winners 6
- Double Faults 3
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (37/112) 33%

Becker...
- 1st serve percentage (85/132) 64%
- 1st serve points won (68/85) 80%
- 2nd serve points won (16/47) 34%
- Aces 30
- Double Faults 12
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (61/132) 46%

Serve Patterns
Sampras served...
- to FH 35%
- to BH 64%
- to Body 1%

Becker served....
- to FH 36%
- to BH 55%
- to Body 9%

Return Stats
Sampras made...
- 59 (18 FH, 41 BH)
- 9 Winners (8 FH, 1 BH)
- 31 Errors, all forced...
- 31 Forced (10 FH, 21 BH)
- Return Rate (59/120) 49%

Becker made...
- 72 (22 FH, 50 BH), including 8 return-approaches
- 6 Winners (3 FH, 3 BH)
- 22 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (1 FH, 4 BH), including 1 return-approach attempt
- 17 Forced (6 FH, 11 BH)
- Return Rate (72/109) 66%

Break Points
Sampras 3/12 (7 games)
Becker 1/2 (2 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Sampras 48 (15 FH, 14 BH, 7 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 6 BHV, 4 OH, 1 BHOH)
Becker 24 (6 FH, 3 BH, 6 FHV, 8 BHV, 1 OH)

Sampras had 18 from serve-volley points
- 9 first 'volleys' (5 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 1 BHV, 1 OH, 1 BH at net)
- 9 second 'volleys' (2 FHV, 3 BHV, 2 OH, 1 BHOH, 1 BH at net)

- 9 returns (8 FH, 1 BH), all passes
- FHs - 4 cc, 1 dtl, 1 inside-out and 2 inside-in
- BH - 1 inside-in

- non- return passes -
- FHs - 1 net-to-net cc, 2 dtl and 2 inside-out
- BHs - 3 cc, 5 dtl and 1 inside-out

- non-pass groundstrokes
- FHs - 1 inside-in and 1 longline
- BHs - 2 net-to-net (1 running-down-drop-shot cc)

Becker had 11 from serve-volley points
- 7 first volleys (4 FHV, 3 BHV)
- 3 second volleys (1 FHV, 2 BHV)
- 1 third volley (1 BHV)

- FHs - 3 cc (2 passes), 2 dtl returns (1 pass) and 1 inside-out return
- BHs (all return passes) - 1 dtl and 2 inside-in

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Sampras 25
- 8 Unforced (3 FH, 1 BH, 2 FHV, 2 BHV)
- 17 Forced (4 FH, 12 BH, 1 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 57.5

Becker 34
- 14 Unforced (7 FH, 1 BH, 4 FHV, 2 BHV)
- 20 Forced (4 FH, 7 BH, 4 FHV, 2 BHV, 2 BH1/2V, 1 BHOH)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 57.1

(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...
- 53/66 (81%) at net, including...
- 47/60 (78%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 42/52 (81%) off 1st serve and...
- 5/8 (63%) off 2nd serve
--
- 1/3 (33%) forced back/retreated

Becker was...
- 58/100 (58%) at net, including...
- 50/82 (61%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 38/55 (69%) off 1st serve and...
- 12/27 (44%) off 2nd serve
--
- 3/8 (38%) return-approaching

Match Report
Good match on a great court. Conditions are fast, but not to the extent it virtually makes everything but the serve superfluous (as other editions of the event did... according to commentators, the slower speed is due to heavier balls). That doesn't stop Boris Becker trying to make everything about the serve though. Sampras plays a balanced game, while Becker is balls-to-the-walls aggressive, especially with the serve.... he basically plays like Goran Ivanisevic. Sampras is by far the better player overall

1 break per set decides the match. Other than the breaks, overwhelming majority of games are easy holds

First set, Becker serves at 75% and bangs down 10 aces - 1 more than Sampras managed all match(!) With Sampras not being able to get into return games, it just takes one bad service game from him to give Becker the set. And bad it is - an easy FHV error, a hasty third ball BH dtl winner attempt error and double fault puts him down 15-40... and Becker finishes the job with a powerful FH inside-out return winner. Sampras does have 2 break points to prolong the set in the next game though, which he raises with two precise passes, set up by good returns that draw weak volleys. He has a good look at the pass on the first break point... but nets it. And Becker goes on to serve the set out

Second set is a complete flip. Becker serves at 49% and whimpers up 7 double faults - 4 more than Sampras managed all match(!). In fact, he has 5 doubles in a single game that lasts 12 points to virtually gift Sampras the break. Poetically, Sampras finishes the job with powerful FH inside-out passing winner. Sampras should actually have won the set 6-2. He has break and set point on Becker's serve when the German hits a FH long, but its called in as a winner - and Boris goes on to hold, leaving Sampras to serve out the set to love

Sampras gains the break in game 11 of the third set and this one's down to his good play. Becker serve-volleys on all 8 points (6 first serves), Sampras manages to put 6 back in play and Becker pays the price for too predictably volleying to Pete's BH. Powerful passes and an elegant lob force the necessary errors to gain the break

In 4th set, the break comes in game 5. Couple of good shots by Sampras, couple of not good ones from Becker. A not-good volley allows Sampras to flay away a BH dtl pass, a good return forces a weak half-volley first 'volley' that Sampras can deal with at net and silly attempt to volley to Sampras' BH leads to an unforced error. And a double fault, of course
 
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Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Strategy - Serve & Return and Play
Becker plays like a man who knows he has nothing going for him other than a big serve. Not sure if that was justified

Noteworthy is his ridiculously impressive serving numbers - 46% unreturned serves to Sampras' 33% and 30 aces to Sampras' 9 - isn't all "boom booming". In the first set, he serves within himself power wise, and the aces are a product of hitting lines. For most of the rest of the match though, its mostly full power stuff

Note despite going all out on the first serve, he still has an excellent 64% first serve in count, which is high in general, even more so for him. In short, he's squeezed everything he possibly could out of the first serve. Draws tons of unreturned serves with it and sets up easy volleys

Becker shows he's capable of adjusting. For first two sets, he serves slightly more to Sampras' BH - in other words, he serves quite a lot to the FH. Look at what that gets him. Sampras has 8 winners out of 18 FH returns made - including at least 1 of all 4 basic shot types. Wisely, Becker shifts his pattern to focus more on the BH

That's pretty much it though. He doesn't volley well and muffs some very easy volleys. And he's determined to volley to Sampras' BH. This is understandable as not only does Sampras have a much stronger FH than BH but Sampras' FH returning would already have served notice that this wasn't a good day to mess with his FH. Even so, I think Becker overdid... he was foregoing easy volleys into the open court to volley to Sampras' BH, and ultimately, pays the price. Sampras gets into a groove on the BH, and makes the passes as they come. Given the match circumstances - it feels like 1 break will be enough to take the set for either player - it seems inevitable that Sampras would sooner or later get a few good BH passes off - but he does rather better than that. This isn't the typical Sampras missing-12-making-3-that-count performance... he's a real threat on the BH pass (somewhat helped by Becker's so-so volleying), and I would more credit Pete for passing well than discredit Boris for volleying badly

Note Sampras with a total 13 BH errors (12 of them forced... these would mostly be passing shots) to 14 winners... these are not numbers that bode well for Boris Becker (mind you, its even worse on the other wing - 15 winners to 7 total errors)

Becker returns well and fairly consistently. 66% return rate against Sampras on a quick court is good number and he returns reasonably authoritively. Sampras though, is good on the volley all day. He doesn't have to make particularly difficult ones, but deals with medium height, reasonably powerful balls well (a lot better than Becker does)

Again, evident is Becker's unwillingness to test his court skills with Sampras. There's a fair amount of baseline rallies with Sampras staying back on all but 8 second serves. Becker's not interested in rallying. He tries to belt second serve returns for winning plays - and does hit 2 winners and a couple of times, forces third ball baseline error - but also makes errors (5 UEs). If Sampras makes the third ball from the baseline, Becker tries to end the point as soon as possible with ambitious attacking shots or approaches. His return-approaches also, are low percentage just-get-to-net-and-hope-for-the-best affairs... and Sampras' second serve is strong enough that return-approaching against them is no easy job

The court speed doesn't demand this much aggression or promise it will be rewarded even if its well executed. I can only think Becker felt he would be outmatched playing Sampras normally from the baseline

Look at Becker's poor second serve-volley numbers (44%). Staying back off second serves, he's 4/8 at 50%, mostly playing wildly. Sampras with 60% second serve points won - including 22/34 at 67% from the baseline, is clearly the better court player. Pete isn't exactly passive baseline-to-baseline himself... he just doesn't take it to the extreme Becker did and is willing to construct points a bit. Becker usually strikes - win or lose - before much point construction can take place

Note the UEFI, Sampras 57.5, Becker 57.1, I believe the highest I've tracked for a match overall. 7/8 of Sampras' UEs are winner attempts (the other is a neutral shot). For Becker, its 10/14, the remaining 4 being attacking shots

Summing up, measured attacking stuff from Pete Sampras - he's aggressive but in a controlled way - coupled with good passing. Good serve-botting from Becker on a court not ideally suited to such a strategy. Could have worked, but he would have needed Sampras to crack under pressure or/and not play well

Be interesting to see what was different in the round robin match...
 
Here's a thread on this match from July(lots of intersting observations)
As far as sampras having a lower unret % than Becker, that was usually the case when they played in Germany. You should look at @slice serve ace's old posts on this, he took stats on almost all their matches and wrote about how Becker would put much more effort into his return game in Germany than when they played anywhere else.

The atmosphere in the YEC finals of 94 and 96 was basically like that of a grand slam final
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
In the round robin stage, Becker beat Sampras 7-5, 7-5

Becker won 88 points, Sampras 73

Becker serve-volleyed off all first serves and majority of seconds. Sampras serve-volleyed off all but 1 first serve and about half the time off seconds

(Note: I'm missing 1 Becker service point won by Becker. I've guessed that a service point by Becker was a second serve - the point was won by Sampras)

Serve Stats
Becker...
- 1st serve percentage (40/74) 54%
- 1st serve points won (31/40) 78%
- 2nd serve points won (22/34) 65%
- Unknown serve point (1/1)
- Aces 13 (2 second serves)
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (34/74) 46%

Sampras...
- 1st serve percentage (46/86) 53%
- 1st serve points won (36/46) 78%
- 2nd serve points won (16/40) 40%
- Aces 12 (1 second serve), Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 6
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (28/86) 33%

Serve Pattern
Becker served...
- to FH 40%
- to BH 49%
- to Body 11%

Sampras served...
- to FH 25%
- to BH 69%
- to Body 6%

Return Stats
Becker made...
- 53 (14 FH, 39 BH), including 2 return-approaches
- 3 Winners (3 BH)
- 15 Errors, all forced...
- 15 Forced (1 FH, 14 BH)
- Return Rate (53/80) 66%

Sampras made...
- 38 (17 FH, 21 BH)
- 6 Winners (3 FH, 3 BH)
- 21 Errors, comprising...
- 2 Unforced (2 BH)
- 19 Forced (7 FH, 12 BH)
- Return Rate (38/72) 53%

Break Points
Becker 2/5 (4 games)
Sampras 0/2 (1 game)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Becker 23 (5 FH, 8 BH, 3 FHV, 3 BHV, 4 OH)
Sampras 21 (4 FH, 6 BH, 5 FHV, 5 BHV, 1 OH)

Becker had 11 from serve-volley points
- 6 first 'volleys' (1 FHV, 1 BHV, 3 OH, 1 FH at net)
- 4 second volleys (1 FHV, 2 BHV, 1 OH)
- 1 third volley (1 FHV), a diving volley

- FHs - 1 cc, 2 dtl passes and 1 inside-out
- BHs (all passes) - 2 cc (1 return), 2 dtl (1 return), 1 inside-in return and 3 lobs

Sampras had 10 from serve-volley points
- 4 first volleys (3 FHV, 1 BHV)
- 6 second volleys (1 FHV, 4 BHV, 1 OH), the OH was played net-to-net

- FHs - 2 cc passes (1 return), 1 inside-in return pass and 1 net chord dribbling return
- BHs (all passes) - 3 cc (1 return), 2 dtl (1 return) and 1 inside-in return

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Becker 22
- 11 Unforced (3 FH, 3 BH, 5 FHV)
- 11 Forced (2 FH, 6 BH, 1 FH1/2V, 1 Behind Back)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 51.8

Sampras 24
- 12 Unforced (5 FH, 1 BH, 2 FHV, 3 BHV, 1 OH)
- 12 Forced (4 FH, 5 BH, 1 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 1 BHV)
- 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...
- 38/57 (67%) at net, including...
- 37/53 (70%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 20/29 (69%) off 1st serve and...
- 17/24 (71%) off 2nd serve
--
- 0/2 return-approaching
- 1/1 forced back

Sampras was...
- 34/53 (64%) at net, including...
- 32/50 (64%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 23/33 (70%) off 1st serve and...
- 9/17 (53%) off 2nd serve

Match Report
Another tight contest, as are almost all between these two and again, one break per set to decide matters. its a good match, but a step down from the finals.

Using the final as a frame of reference, take a look at the second serve points, especially with respect to serve-volleying. In final, Becker won 46% while here, its 65% and he serves-volleys about the same amount (most of the time). Sampras won 60% in the serve-volleying just 8 times, here he's 40% doing so a about twice as often

Note the serving patterns also. Becker serves a balanced 40% to FH, 49% to BH... which is about the ratio he was going at in the final. Here, it works. In the final, Sampras starts blasting FHs... and Becker shifts to a more BH targeted pattern

You could say both players played the finals in accordance with the results they obtained here

Becker again with a huge 46% unreturned serves, but there's a catch. In the finals, it was all about his great serving. Here, its in large part due to Sampras' lazy returning. Pete doesn't tank the match by any means but he does lose interest in return games fairly early when down

There are far more sloppy errors from both players in this match. Some of the volleys missed are putaways and others are downright easy. The worst of the lot is Sampras smacking an OH half way between the line judges and the baseline. Both players make these sloppy errors. In the final, it was mostly Boris

Main difference is Becker. He's playing an attacking, net seeking game and serving aggressively... but not to the Ivanisevic-esque degree he did in the final. No suicidal approaches, no going for winners from the baseline within a shot or two every point

First set is... what's the word? "Tough" doesn't seem appropriate for these smoothies. Drawn out? There are 99 points in it. 8/12 games go to deuce. Still, break points are scarce - Sampras has 2 in 1 game, Becker has 4 across 3 games. As ever, both guys know just how to deliver with serves when under pressure

Becker returns particularly well. When Sampras serves to the body, he moves around to hits the ball in a flash... you won't see anyone move so against Pete Sampras' serve - its reminiscent of how smoothly good returners move to deal with second serves from gentle returners (e.g. Djokovic to Nadal's serve) on a slow surface. I think he read Sampras' serve better than just about anybody

A word on Becker's style at net in general and in this match. All that stretching and jumping and diving looks great... is it because he covers the net so well? Or because he anticipates poorly? I think the latter. You don't see other players (including Sampras) doing it to the degree Becker does and they don't look so 'busy' at net. If it was just Becker's greater vigour (and not poor anticipation), then you'd expect Becker to get passed a lot less than he does (since he'd have anticipation + acrobatics, while others just have anticipation), but that's not what we see comparing him to Sampras or Stefan Edberg. You also don't see him wrong footed at net as others occasionally are. He seems to not anticipate, but react to balls while at net... and hence, needs to react more quickly than others and end moving about so much in the forecourt

There's a diving FHV winner and a couple of other funky shots from Becker. He tries a behind the back shot to a volley but the balls sails well long (which means he got a healthy racquet on it). On another point, a wrong footed Becker does a 360 instead of changing directions to hit a pass, but Sampras puts away the volley. Agassi played the same shot to Becker in 1990 US Open, but he ended up winning the point

As in the final, there's next to no touch shown by Becker. Its one of great things about his play. He's a powerhouse, at times brutally so, but will throw out occasional touch shots that McEnroe would be proud of. Not in these two matches (at least at net). Don't think he plays a single drop volley in the two matches

The exception comes on the baseline. 3 lovely BH lob winners from Boris, beautiful and difficult shots one and all

Another strange pattern that emerges in Boris' play in general are significant passages of play when his first serve goes AWOL. Happens in the final, but not here

Both players look to volley to the others BH, which is sound. Becker doesn't overdo like he did in the final. Seeing this emphasizes he missed a trick in the final, completely the opposite how he altered his serving pattern

Baseline play is fairly normal. Both players look to attack, but not crazily so. Sampras comes in a bit off rallies (his ability to do so in the final is limited by Becker ending points quickly one way or the other). More neutral shots here. There are two neutral UEs in the first game itself - 1 more than the entire final. Note the UEFI difference - 50 and 51.8 in this match to 57.1 and 57.5 in the final

Summing up, good match, a dialled down version of the final (more appropriate to the conditions) but also sloppier of errors (especially in the forecourt). Superior returning of second serves from Becker being the key difference

Which bring us to...
 
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Waspsting

Hall of Fame
The Biggest Unforced Error of the Tournament?
Between this match and the final, Sampras was on the verge of elimination. By my calculations -

If Stefan Edberg beat Becker in the final round robin match, Edberg would have gone through and Sampras would have been out

If Edberg won in straight sets, he would have finished first, Becker second

After 2 sets, the Becker-Edberg match stood 6-7, 6-4

From that point on, if Edberg won the last set....

a) anything short of tiebreak - Edberg first, Becker second
b) 7-6 - Becker first, Edberg second

Not sure how things were shaping in the other group. If the group was completed, it would be known the first placed player of this group would face Sergi Bruguera and the second placed player Andre Agassi in the semi-final. If the second groups wasn't decided, the safe assumption would be Agassi would finish first

Ideal situation for Becker would be -
- losing to Edberg but finishing first (eliminating Sampras and avoiding Agassi in the semis), for which he would need to have lost in a final set tiebreak

Becker won the last set 7-5
Summing up, Becker losing to Edberg in the final match would have eliminated Sampras, while Becker would have gone through. If he lost too badly, he would have drawn Andre Agassi in the semi-final (as far as what he would have been aware of, very likely or definitely)

If he lost by certain margin, Becker would have gone through, avoided Agassi in the semi, eliminated Sampras and kept Edberg (who he had a thoroughly dominant record over and who in 1994 was a good 2 steps down from how good he had been in years gone by) in the draw as a possible finals opponent. This would be ideal situation for Becker

That ideal situation for Becker was completely in his hands as the Edberg match played out

Too honest? Or not clever enough?
 
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krosero

Legend
Aggressive Margins in '94 final:

Sampras 36.48%
Becker 29.1%

In the round robin stage, Becker beat Sampras 7-5, 7-5

Becker won 88 points, Sampras 73

Becker serve-volleyed off all first serves and majority of seconds. Sampras serve-volleyed off all but 1 first serve and about half the time off seconds

(Note: I'm missing 1 Becker service point won by Becker. I've guessed that a service point by Becker was a second serve - the point was won by Sampras)

Serve Stats
Becker...
- 1st serve percentage (40/74) 54%
- 1st serve points won (31/40) 78%
- 2nd serve points won (22/34) 65%
- Unknown serve point (1/1)
- Aces 13 (2 second serves)
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (34/74) 46%
The ATP has Becker serving on 75 points, making 41 first serves, winning 32 of them. So that point you're missing is almost surely a first serve -- and very possibly an ace, since the ATP gives Becker 15 aces.

Strategy - Serve & Return and Play
Becker plays like a man who knows he has nothing going for him other than a big serve. Not sure if that was justified....

Summing up, measured attacking stuff from Pete Sampras - he's aggressive but in a controlled way - coupled with good passing. Good serve-botting from Becker on a court not ideally suited to such a strategy. Could have worked, but he would have needed Sampras to crack under pressure or/and not play well
I thought this '94 final was entertaining and well-played, and it didn't leave me with an impression that Becker was serve-botting. But some of the stats bear out what you're saying.

Whenever Becker's serve was returned, he won only 23 points and lost 36.

Sampras did much better when his serve came back, winning 47 and losing 25.

But their 5-set final in '96 was different. Sampras still healthy when forced to rally: won 72 points and lost 46. But Boris now has good numbers too, winning 56 and losing only 30.
 

BorgTheGOAT

Hall of Fame
First set, Becker serves at 75% and bangs down 10 aces - 1 more than Sampras managed all match(!)
Guess there is a mistake somewhere as this would mean Sampras hit 9 aces in the whole match, while under serve stars it says 6. What I find impressive in general is that usually in their encounters Becker out-aces Sampras by a huge margin, while Sampras is widely considered the better server and - I think - he also has the better stats regarding #aces per year etc. maybe Becker was simply a player who did not get aced so much.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Guess there is a mistake somewhere as this would mean Sampras hit 9 aces in the whole match, while under serve stars it says 6
You guess correctly - should read 9 aces. Thanks for the catch

Bunch of in-built double checking mechanisms for mistakes like this

For aces, that'd be it lining up with the other players Return Errors.... Player X's Unreturned Serve total is always the sum of his (Aces + Service Winners) + Players Y'x Return Errors

usually in their encounters Becker out-aces Sampras by a huge margin, while Sampras is widely considered the better server and - I think - he also has the better stats regarding #aces per year etc. maybe Becker was simply a player who did not get aced so much.
Did Sampras regularly have better aces per match per year than Becker? I'd be surprised

Think Becker outacing him so often in their own matches has more to do with Sampras' returning tendencies than Becker's. How often do you see Sampras hopping, skipping, reaching, jumping to get wide serves back? He tended to just let wide serves go... could have at least got a racquet on many a ball that went by at least

My guess would be Sampras got aced a lot more than Becker - or most top players did. He got out-aced by Chang a few times.... a combination of him letting wide serves go and Chang's maniacal habit of trying his best on every single shot

Becker's serving strategy tended to vary more than Sampras' too. Becker had days when he served big but close to the body... would still get a bundle of unreturned serves via power but not aces. Haven't seen Sampras go matches doing stuff like that

You should look at @slice serve ace's old posts on this, he took stats on almost all their matches and wrote about how Becker would put much more effort into his return game in Germany than when they played anywhere else.
Where are they?

I've looked in the match stats catalogue and under all threads started by @slice serve ace … there's a handful of matches, good readings, but not too many matches covered

His contributions to these threads would be welcome, many good observations in his own and always fun to compare notes
 

BorgTheGOAT

Hall of Fame
Did Sampras regularly have better aces per match per year than Becker? I'd be surprised

Think Becker outacing him so often in their own matches has more to do with Sampras' returning tendencies than Becker's. How often do you see Sampras hopping, skipping, reaching, jumping to get wide serves back? He tended to just let wide serves go... could have at least got a racquet on many a ball that went by at least

My guess would be Sampras got aced a lot more than Becker - or most top players did. He got out-aced by Chang a few times.... a combination of him letting wide serves go and Chang's maniacal habit of trying his best on every single shot

Becker's serving strategy tended to vary more than Sampras' too. Becker had days when he served big but close to the body... would still get a bundle of unreturned serves via power but not aces. Haven't seen Sampras go matches doing stuff like that
Do not know about him being better in aces per match, but he was better in aces per year. 1011 in 1994 was a number Becker never reached. I know aces per year were not recorded for all of Becker's career, but I doubt he had a number of this in 1985-1990. I also see, that aces per year does not say much, as it depends on the number of matches per year (which was typically higher for Sampras) and also on some tendencies for play longer matches , i.e. getting more serves (Sampras' habit of rarely cruising through matches and mostly only winning one break per set might play into his cards here but i guess Becker was not so much different). However, i once saw a stat here by another poster (when i was actually arguing Becker serve > Sampras serve) that Sampras had a higher ace % per serve than Becker which would be the ultimate stat showing who was more effective with aces in the end. I need to check this maybe again. Anyways, I think it is interesting that Sampras serve is held in such high esteem, even though in direct comparison he got almost always out-aced by the big servers (Becker, Krajicek, Ivanisevic etc.) but also a fair bunch of times by absolute inferior servers (Chang is just one example here). I completely agree that this must have had to do with his returning approach and letting some serves just pass by. If Sampras had played himself, he would most likely have put up Ivanisevic-kind of ace numbers.
 
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