Match Stats/Report - Edberg vs Sampras, Los Angeles semi-final, 1990


Hall of Fame
Stefan Edberg beat Pete Sampras 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-1 in the Los Angeles semi-final, 1990 on hard court

It was the first meeting between the pair. Edberg would go onto win the title by beating Michael Chang in the final. Sampras would shortly win his first Slam at the US Open. Edberg was ranked 2 at the time, Sampras 15. Sampras was 19 years old

Edberg won 97 points, Sampras 81
Edberg won 101, Sampras 81 (lowest possible estimate from missing points)

Edberg serve-volleyed off all but 4 first serves and all but 2 seconds. Sampras serve-volleyed off all first serves

(Note: I'm missing 1 Edberg service game which he held, a Sampras service game cuts off at 0-30 that he went onto lose and 1 Edberg service point that he won. On a small number of points, I've guessed serve type)

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (65/93) 70%
- 1st serve points won (43/65) 66%
- 2nd serve points won (18/28) 64%
- Unknown serve point (1/1)
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (29/93) 31%

- 1st serve percentage (47/82) 57%
- 1st serve points won (30/47) 64%
- 2nd serve points won (17/35) 49%
- Aces 4, Service Winners 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (23/82) 28%

Serve Patterns
Edberg served...
- to FH 20%
- to BH 68%
- to Body 12%

Sampras served...
- to FH 39%
- to BH 52%
- to Body 9%

Return Stats
Edberg made...
- 58 (24 FH, 34 BH), including 8 return-approaches
- 1 Winner (1 BH)
- 18 Errors, comprising...
- 2 Unforced (1 FH, 1 BH)
- 16 Forced (7 FH, 9 BH)
- Return Rate (58/82) 71%

Sampras made...
- 63 (14 FH, 49 BH), including 1 return-approach
- 11 Winners (7 FH, 4 BH)
- 29 Errors, comprising...
- 1 Unforced (1 FH), a return-approach attempt
- 28 Forced (6 FH, 22 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- Return Rate (63/92) 68%

Break Points
Edberg 5/11 (6 games)... including a deduced {1/1 (1 game)... the points won and games are accurate but there may have been more break points}
Sampras 1/7 (4 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Edberg 33 (3 FH, 8 BH, 8 FHV, 10 BHV, 4 OH)
Sampras 31 (11 FH, 11 BH, 3 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 4 BHV, 1 OH)

Edberg had from 18 serve-volley points -
- 9 first volleys (6 FHV, 3 BHV)
- 8 second volleys (4 BHV, 4 OH)
- 1 third volley (1 FHV)

- 3 from return-approach points (1 FHV, 2 BHV)

- FH passes - 2 cc
- regular FH - 1 longline
- BH passes - 2 cc, 4 dtl (1 return) and 1 inside-out
- regular BH - 1 dtl

Sampras had 7 from serve-volley points -
- 4 first 'volleys' (1 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 OH, 1 BH at net)… the OH was a drop mishit
- 3 second volleys (1 FHV, 2 BHV)

- 11 returns (7 FH, 4 BH), all passes
- FHs - 2 cc, 1 dtl, 1 inside-out and 3 inside-in
- BHs - 1 cc, 1 dtl and 2 inside-in

- FH passes - 2 cc
- regular FH - 1 inside-in
- BH passes - 3 cc, 1 dtl and 1 inside-out
- regular BHs - 1 dtl and 1 inside-out

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Edberg 26
- 8 Unforced (3 FH, 1 BH, 4 BHV)
- 18 Forced (6 FH, 3 BH, 1 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 7 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 48.8

Sampras 32
- 14 Unforced (3 FH, 4 BH, 2 FHV, 5 BHV)… 1 FH was a pass attempt at net
- 18 Forced (7 FH, 7 BH, 1 FHV, 2 BHV, 1 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
Edberg was...
- 66/97 (68%) at net, including...
- 57/86 (66%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 40/61 (66%) off 1st serve and...
- 17/25 (68%) off 2nd serve
- 7/8 (88%) return-approaching
- 1/2 forced back/retreated

Sampras was...
- 33/58 (57%) at net, including...
- 28/46 (61%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 25/42 (60%) off 1st serve and...
- 3/4 (75%) off 2nd serve
- 0/1 return-approaching
- 1/2 forced back/retreated

Match Report
Excellent match - thorough from Edberg and streaky from the 19 year old Pete Sampras, but the latter shows enough to demonstrate how dangerous he could be. The scoreline is deceptive, especially the first set, and the match was actually closer than it looks

Essentially, Edberg serve-volleys all match and Sampras does so off first serves. The court is a standard hard court. The two had apparently been doubles partners earlier in the year at Queens tournament on grass. Edberg is just a bit better - on both serve games and return games - but one can gather Sampras' potential to improve (particularly on return games, though in fact, its actually his serve game that made the biggest gains in years to come)

Edberg Serve/Sampras Return Game
Edberg serves in his usual way - not too powerful, high kickers aplenty, not line licking. He's not a serve-shot dependent guy - his game is based on the volley. Not unusually for him, he finishes with higher second serve-volley points won than first (68% for second, 66% for first)

Serving at 70% and just 1 double, you'd have to say he serves well by his standard. First question then... how does Sampras return?

Well, but streakily? Not well enough because of streakiness with hits of brilliance thrown in might be a good way to put it

With the serve not being overly powerful or well placed, there's scope for doing strong damage with the return. And Sampras does. Note the 11 return winners. Remarkably, he hits 7 FH winners in making just 14 such returns (Edberg only serves there 18 times, some of Sampras' FH returns were to body serves). So Sampras is doing the damage he that Edberg serve leaves the possibility for

Serves to FH are of course the minority as Edberg serves 68% to BH... and that's where quality of Sampras' returning is strangely not on (as opposed to off). Edberg's kicker to the one-handed BH is the danger ball, as it is for any 1-hander (not exactly a gift to 2 handers either). And on this court, it often gets up shoulder high

Sampras though handles it very well on eye test. Not troubled, not unable to get over the ball, not unable to pack a punch with his return... he doesn't have the common problems 1-handers do against the danger ball. Even so fine a returner as Ivan Lendl had fits with Edberg's high balls to the BH, but Sampras doesn't seem to

Doing damage with return + not having problems with serve should = great return performance. Its a good one, but falls short of great because Sampras just misses a large number of balls for no particular reason. Note Edberg's 31% unreturned rate. That's not too high, but usually gets in that ball park when returner is struggling to deal with balls. Sampras isn't... he just misses thought seemingly untroubled and without going for too much on the shot

Occasionally, Pete steps inside court to whack second serves with fair success. And his regulation return is strong too

In later matches of Pete's you'll see him missing returns because he seemingly isn't too interested on a point-to-point level or is struggling to handle the serve. Neither applies here, but he just misses. Given how comfortably he returned, 68% return rate is not a good figure for him

What he gets back, he gets back strongly and Edberg has a job on his hands on the first volley. Sampras passes strongly in play as well. Here the credit goes entirely to Edberg's volleying, which is as ever, excellent. 4 forecourt UEs to 9 FEs speak both to Edberg's consistency on the volley as well as the quality of Sampras' passing (including returning). Sampras' 9 passing shots in play also indicate the latter

Edberg's volleying is better still. He picks off winners and volleys into corner and plays 1-2 combos (note the 9 first volleys, 8 second volleys winner distribution), and puts difficult low and/or powerfully struck passes back in play etc.... the usual great job from Stefan up front in short. Particularly commendable because he was up against powerful shots all match

In a nutshell, better than normal serving from Edberg, overall good returning from Sampras (a combination of deadly and randomly error prone - not uniform), great volleying from Edberg and good passing by Pete. Edberg's volley and Sampras' return are the keys


Hall of Fame
Sampras Serve/Edberg Return Game
Sampras has his bomb of a first serve, but the placement isn't great. Not much of the line licking stuff he came to be known for - even without it, the serve is a handful though. Second serve is strong for a second serve, but a good ways down from what it would come to be - a normal players first serve. There's compensation: Note 0 double faults

Note also just 4 aces, a product of the placement not being precise.

All that though is just relative to what Sampras' serve would come to be. By any normal standard, its already a very good serve. And Edberg returns it very well. 71% return rate is good against such a strong serve, backed up by serve-volleying and he though not whacking returns, he gets them back with sufficient momentum as to not leave Sampras with easy first volleys

There's another factor to that, though. Sampras net instincts - particularly serve-volley ones - aren't fine tuned. For one thing, his serve is so strong that it comes back before he's in position at net, and he's often caught out. Balls that land short, he finds himself too far back for and has to lunge forward to reach and can't volley decisively to. He looks good on the volley and moves forward well... but watching him, one could have surmised that serve-volleying wasn't something he hadn't been doing all his life - especially next to Edberg, who looks a fish in water doing what he does

Volleys ok and mostly to Edberg BH. Edberg is strong on the pass and Sampras manages to cope decently (just 4 FEs). Finishing touch on volley isn't great though and with Edberg firing on the pass, it gets him in trouble. 9 forecourt winners, while Edberg has 8 passing winners... that's not a good yield for man at net.

As match wears on, Edberg takes to return-approaching. And does so superbly, winning 7/8 such points. Generally, Edberg's chip-charge returns can be quite ordinary - as with his serve-volleying, he more relies on net coverage and volleying than the approach shot - but here, the returns themselves are great, particularly in their depth. And backed up with first rate volleying of course

Unlike Edberg, Sampras isn't all about net play. There's plenty of baseline play and he doesn't necessarily look to come in on them. Nor does there seem any reason for him to have done so. He moves well and hits strong groundstrokes... looking if anything, more like a competent attacking baseliner than a serve-volleyer. Despite his obvious power advantage - off both wings, though more the FH - he's also more error prone

Competent a baseliner as Edberg is, it would be surprising to see a top baseliner not get the better of him across a match. Sampras' inability to do so speaks to his not being all there as a baseliner, either - though like his net play and returning... everything looks good and raw material for development seems to be there

Note just the 1 BH UE from Edberg (both players have 3 off FH). His FH looks soft, particularly compared to Sampras fluent one, but is steady too. Coming in off rallies, Sampras is just 5/11. Again, his instincts are a bit off

In a nutshell, strong serving from Sampras met with solid returning from Edberg. Decent volleying from Sampras, good passing from Edberg. From the baseline, Sampras the stronger, more powerful player but also more inconsistent and doesn't seem to know how or when to come in to his advantage

One further point. Sampras is relaxed of play. No droopy shoulders or hang-dog look when he's losing, no sense of uber seriousness... he plays easily without being casual. Its a nice attitude he conveys here - not too serious, but not careless
First set is much tougher than a 6-2 scoreline suggests. Edberg survives 12 and 16 point service games - surviving 4 break points between them - to not be broken. The latter game features a furious returning and passing assault from Sampras, who hits 5 such winners, including 3 in a row. Pete also dashes to net off return when he sees Edberg has stayed back on a first serve, but Edberg's up to making the FH cc pass

Chip-charging gets Edberg his first break - he ends both points he makes the return play on with winners. Sampras also hits a first volley OH drop shot winner (it was a mishit). Edberg played a similar shot against Jimmy Connors in US Open '89. Edberg's other break game starts with 2 UEs from Pete and the rest of the game is missing.

Sampras is broken playing a terrible game to start the second, and Edberg cruises through his service game. A routine straight setter looks inevitable, til Sampras breaks back in game 8 with strong passing. 3 volleying FEs for Edberg in the - all makeable, none flagrant - and 1 UE from in front of his body. In other words, very good volleying could still have seen him win the game... but this was the kind of pressure Sampras was regularly putting him under

Edberg is again under the gun as he serves to send set into tiebreak. Again Sampras reels off 3 successive winners - this time all returns. But Edberg makes it, having saved 2 more break points. Tiebreak is full of strong Sampras returns and he takes it comfortably 7-2, Edberg ending with a FH error

Third set is exceptional from Edberg. He loses just 1 point in 3 service games (1 game is missing) and gains first break with strong passing and a return-approach. Second break follows in an exciting game with good play from both players. Lovely FH1/2V winner from Sampras and a tremendous BH dtl. Edberg wins possibly the best point of the match when he creeps forward shot by shot off a Sampras serve-volley point until Sampras abandons net, and Edberg finishes with FHV winner.

Sampras is actually in danger of being bagelled. He falls to 15-40 serving to stay in match, but saves both break points with unreturned serves. And holds by winning his only point against the return-approaching Edberg... a BH dtl pass retreating from net. Edberg holds to love to finish the match

Summing up, very good match. Excellent volleying from Edberg against the stiff challenge of Sampras' returning and passing, and strong returning from the winner too. Sampras demonstrates a bit of proficiency at everything - serve, return, volley and baseline play - but not too much in any one

Stats for their '93 Australian Open semi -


I've seen this match. What struck me was that the low camera angle gave the viewer a very good look at exactly how spinny Edberg's serve was. A better view than any other broadcast I can remember. It's not strange that Edberg's serve was so tough, even though it wasn't the fastest. Timing the return when the ball behaves like that is very tough indeed.

There's also a good analysis at some point of Edberg's serve by Vitas Gerulaitis.