Match Stats/Report - Muster vs Sampras, Essen Indoors semi-final, 1995


Hall of Fame
Thomas Muster beat Pete Sampras 7-6(6), 6-2 in the Essen Indoors semi-final, 1995 on carpet

Muster would go onto win the tournament - his only title on the surface - and briefly rise to world number 1 less than 6 months later

Muster won 77 points, Sampras 62

Sampras serve-volleyed off all but 1 first serve and about half the time off seconds

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (47/70) 67%
- 1st serve points won (33/47) 70%
- 2nd serve points won (12/23) 52%
- Aces 2
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (12/70) 17%

- 1st serve percentage (39/69) 57%
- 1st serve points won (25/39) 64%
- 2nd serve points won (12/30) 40%
- Aces 6
- Double Faults 3
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (15/69) 22%

Serve Patterns
Muster served...
- to FH 22%
- to BH 74%
- to Body 4%

Sampras served....
- to FH 29%
- to BH 71%

Return Stats
Muster made...
- 51 (15 FH, 36 BH), including 2 runaround FHs
- 2 Winners (1 FH, 1 BH)
- 9 Errors, comprising...
- 1 Unforced (1 BH)
- 8 Forced (3 FH, 5 BH)
- Return Rate (51/66) 77%

Sampras made...
- 57 (12 FH, 45 BH), including 1 return-approach
- 3 Winners (2 FH, 1 BH)
- 10 Errors, comprising...
- 4 Unforced (2 FH, 2 BH)
- 6 Forced (6 BH)
- Return Rate (57/69) 83%

Break Points
Muster 4/6 (4 games)
Sampras 2/7 (3 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Muster 24 (14 FH, 5 BH, 2 FHV, 3 BHV)
Sampras 27 (13 FH, 3 BH, 4 FHV, 2 FH1/2V, 2 BHV, 3 OH)

Muster had 12 passes (6 FH, 5 BH, 1 BHV)
- FHs - 2 cc, 3 dtl (1 return and 1 extreme shot hit from outside the court) and 1 dtl/inside-out
- BHs - 2 cc, 2 dtl and 1 inside-in return
- BHV was played from nearer the baseline than service line and not a net point

- regular FHs - 1 cc, 1 dtl and 6 inside-out

- 2 BHVs were played net-to-net and he hit Sampras with one of them

Sampras had 11 from serve-volley points
- 9 first 'volleys' (2 FHV, 2 FH1/2V, 1 BHV, 2 OH, 2 FH at net)
- 2 second volleys (1 FHV, 1 BHV)

- FHs - 2 cc (1 return), 6 dtl, 2 inside-out and 1 inside-in return
- BHs - 1 cc pass, 1 dtl and 1 inside-in return

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Muster 19
- 7 Unforced (3 FH, 4 BH)
- 12 Forced (2 FH, 9 BH, 1 BH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 41.4

Sampras 38
- 22 Unforced (5 FH, 6 BH, 3 FHV, 7 BHV, 1 OH)
- 16 Forced (5 FH, 6 BH, 2 FHV, 1 BHV, 2 BH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 50.5

(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
Muster was...
- 10/12 (83%) at net, including...
- 1/2 serve-volleying, comprising...
- 1/1 off 1st serve and...
- 0/1 off 2nd serve

Sampras was...
- 30/61 (49%) at net, including...
- 22/44 (50%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 18/32 (56%) off 1st serve and...
- 4/12 (33%) off 2nd serve
- 0/1 return-approaching
- 0/1 forced back

Match Report
A thorough showing from Thomas Muster, who plays about as well as he can on a carpet court. I recall there being some needle between Muster on one side and Sampras and Agassi on the other, so the win must have been doubly satisfying for the Austrian

How exactly did he do it?

I think it goes without saying that Sampras playing his best tennis would come out ahead of Muster (and probably anyone else) on carpet, so it can be said Sampras wasn't at his best without diminishing Muster's win("Wasn't at his best" is a stupid rationalization anyway.... almost by definition, no one is "at their best" all the time and its their job to try to be as often as possible). In particular, he volleys badly and his strategy is... interesting

No question marks over Sampras' motivation over the match. He's raring to go at the start. Those familiar with Sampras will recognize the signs - the bouncing about on his heels, the zipping around the court, the look of focused intensity (often, Sampras looks lackadaisical or at least, you can't read him). Muster had won the French Open and a host of clay court titles that year and ranking wise, was pushing Sampras (and Agassi) for number 1. I remember some belittling comments from the Americans about Muster not being a worthy number one due to his clay-heavy success and Muster replying by talking about himself in the third person from round about this period

Sampras starts in dominant fashion. holds serve easily on the back of serve-volleying and unreturned serves and pushes Muster on return. He has a break point in his first return game, on which he misses a FH winner attempt (the shot choice was fine, just couldn't execute) and breaks in the next game with 3 winners. He's absolutely whizzing around the baseline, his FH is on point and explosive and the BH steady. This is Sampras at his best from the back court.

Muster breaks back emphatically though. Strong returns force half-volley third balls, and Muster is precise in making the pass. He also strikes a return passing winner.

The rest of the set goes fairly comfortably on serve. On his service games, Muster is damaging with FH inside-outs, opening the court or hitting winners with the shot

Sampras opens up a 4-1 lead in the tiebreak. He opens the door for a recovery with a poor volleying error and Muster steps in with style - coming to net on his next two service points (hits a winner and forces a passing error). The key point is 6-6. Sampras had Muster running from side to side and barely getting the ball back from the baseline, then comes in and continues running him around. But, Muster ends the point with a running FH dtl passing winner, struck from outside the court. A point of the year contender.

And Muster closes on his first set point with some subtlety. It looks like a meek return error from Sampras. It isn't. Expecting the second serve to come to his BH, Sampras advances a bit in the court, looking for a big cut return, only for the gentle serve to be directed to the body. He has to shift his weight to make the return and nets it... this was smart stuff from Muster, not a meek return.

Second set starts high quality - Muster consistent off the ground and Sampras still fleet of movement and serve-volleying up a storm. That changes in game 4 where Muster breaks. Its a poor game from Pete - 2 double faults (including on break point) and 3 UEs in the forecourt.

He breaks back immediately though with an aggressive return game, but can't consolidate. After that, he seems to lose heart - more or less throws away the next return game and gets broken again.

Muster wins the last 11 points in the match - 7 of them returning. Match point is a stunning shot from him as he takes a decent Sampras first volley so early that he actually volleys it from closer to the baseline than the service line for a winning pass. A fitting end to a consummate performance

Playing Dynamics, Strategy & Stats
The matches I've watched of Sampras on carpet and hard courts from this period all follow the same pattern; serve-volley off first serve, stay back on second and not much attempt to find the net from rallying

He doesn't do that here. He's serve-volleying quite a bit off second serves (without much success - 33% points won) and looking to come in while rallying (about 50% points won). And he's aggressive from the baseline and initially, successful.... striking FH winners dtl, forcing errors and keeping his own error count low

I got the feeling he wanted to put Muster in his place, so to speak by doubly dominating him from the net and blasting him away from the baseline. If it had come off, it would have looked glorious. But it doesn't

Sampras was capable of beating Muster on this court baseline-to-baseline and was doing so early on. But he wants to do it from the net on his service games. This doesn't work because Muster returns excellently. Look at the high 77% return rate... Sampras needs to volley well to cope with it, but -

a) he doesn't - this is one of his worst volleying performances. 11 volley/OH UEs + 1 groundstroke at net
b) Muster returns adroitly, getting a number of returns in low (not necessarily with much power). 5 FEs from Sampras in the front of the court

and the Austrian plays a great 1-2 on return. The low return draws weak-ish volleys and Muster steps in to make passes. He also utilizes the 'fall back' return.... effectively a runaround FH, that gives him more time to make the second ball. A good ploy against someone like Sampras, against whom taking the return early frequently leads to nothing positive coming out of

As the match goes on, Muster asserts himself from the baseline also. Sampras' errors go up (Muster's typically stays low). While Sampras is probably even quicker of movement than Muster, he's not in the same league as making defensive gets (an area Muster shines). Sampras' 11 groundstroke FEs are mostly the type of balls Muster was getting back, while most of Muster's 11 are passing attempts

Muster's offensive baseline game is good too. His inside-out FHs are a treat and leave Sampras a spectator. 6 winners with that shot and a few errors forced

Summing up, a well earned win for Muster, who is consistent in his high level, steady play. For Sampras, poor on the volley and maybe a bit overambitious in his strategy
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