Match Stats/Report - Safin vs Sampras, Canadian Open quarter-final, 2000


Hall of Fame
Marat Safin beat Pete Sampras 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(8) in the Canadian Open quarter-final, 2000 on hard court in Toronto

Safin would go onto win the title, beating Harel Levy in the final for his first Masters title. Sampras had recently won Wimbledon. The two would meet again shortly after at the US Open final, with Safin again winning

Safin won 99 points, Sampras 104

Sampras serve-volleyed off all serves but 1 second serve

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (53/94) 56%
- 1st serve points won (43/53) 81%
- 2nd serve points won (23/41) 56%
- Aces 13, Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (33/94) 35%

- 1st serve percentage (64/109) 59%
- 1st serve points won (54/64) 84%
- 2nd serve points won (22/45) 49%
- Aces 11 (1 second serve), Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 5
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (38/109) 35%

Serve Patterns
Safin served...
- to FH 24%
- to BH 67%
- to Body 10%

Sampras served...
- to FH 58%
- to BH 33%
- to Body 10%

Return Stats
Safin made...
- 66 (39 FH, 27 BH)
- 3 Winners (2 FH, 1 BH)
- 26 Errors, comprising...
- 1 Unforced (1 BH)
- 25 Forced (15 FH, 10 BH)
- Return Rate (66/104) 63%

Sampras made...
- 60 (8 FH, 52 BH), including 11 return-approaches
- 19 Errors, comprising...
- 4 Unforced (2 FH, 2 BH)
- 15 Forced (8 FH, 7 BH)
- Return Rate (60/93) 65%

Break Points
Safin 1/7 (2 games)
Sampras 1/3 (2 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Safin 22 (6 FH, 8 BH, 2 FHV, 5 BHV, 1 OH)
Sampras 32 (5 FH, 2 BH, 6 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 9 BHV, 9 OH)

Safin had 11 passes - 3 returns (2 FH, 1 BH) & 8 regular (1 FH, 7 BH)
- FH returns - 2 dtl
- BH return - 1 cc
- regular FH - 1 cc
- regular BHs - 4 cc, 2 dtl and 1 running-down-drop-shot dtl at net

- regular (non-pass) FHs - 1 dtl/inside-out and 2 inside-out

1 from a serve-volley point, a first volley BHV

Sampras had 24 from serve-volley points
- 10 first 'volleys' (2 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 3 BHV, 2 OH, 2 FH at net)
- 11 second 'volleys' (3 FHV, 4 BHV, 3 OH, 1 FH at net)
- 3 third volleys (1 BHV, 2 OH)

- 1 from a return-approach point, a FHV

- 1 other OH was on the bounce

- FHs - 1 cc and 1 inside-in
- BHs - 2 dtl

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Safin 33
- 13 Unforced (7 FH, 5 BH, 1 BHV)
- 20 Forced (5 FH, 14 BH, 1 BHV)... with 2 BH running-down-drop-shot at net
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.7

Sampras 39
- 21 Unforced (8 FH, 6 BH, 1 FHV, 6 BHV)... with 3 FH at net
- 18 Forced (1 FH, 4 BH, 1 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 6 BHV, 5 BH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.6

(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
Safin was...
- 14/20 (70%) at net, including...
- 2/2 serve-volleying, both 1st serves

Sampras was...
- 61/106 (58%) at net, including...
- 53/91 (58%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 43/53 (81%) off 1st serve and...
- 20/38 (53%) off 2nd serve
- 4/11 (36%) return-approaching
- 0/1 forced back

Match Report
Great match, server dominated but not particularly quick court that goes down to the tip of the wire. The difference in quality of returning - Safin is outstanding, Sampras struggles severely - makes Safin the more likely to come out on top as he ends up doing, but result is almost a coin flip

1 break per set sends match into decider, where match progresses towards a final set tiebreak. Holds are comfortable enough (no break points, no deuces), but not easy. 11 holds and and 1 game away from 'breaker, just one love game as Sampras steps up to serve at 5-6

That game is... is one hell of a game lasting 16 points and Safin having 3 break/match points. Just 1 UE - first point, Sampras misses a 'FH at net' that's not far off being a FH1/2V and not particularly easy. Rest of game is strong serves, strong returns, tough volleys, powerful follow up passes, with a net chord dribbler return thrown in and a double fault. Pete finally holds with a thrid volley OH winner

Tiebreak. Pete stays back for only time in match - but draws return error. Pete misses regulation, under-net first volley to go down a mini-break. Pete bangs down second serve ace - his only one for the match. Pete, who'd had very little fall his way chip-charging, pulls of his best such play of the night, finishing with a beautiful, low, drop FHV winner - and 'breaker is back on serve 4-4

First set point is Pete's - he can't make a makeably tough return. Safin follows that up with a horror FH miss from just behind service line - and its match point again for Pete, but now on his serve

Double fault

But he wins the next point and has his third match point. He chip-charges to net but Safin - predictably by this point - whacks a BH cc passing winner, and draws return error to bring up his 1st match point of the game (and 4th in all)

Double fault

Disappointing way to end, but hell of a ride there. And Pete's done well to double fault so little to begin with - he only has 2 other than the the 'breaker and tail end of the game preceding it, despite serving big and despite powerful returning from Safin all match. Pete wins 53% second serve-volleying points - against what he's up against, that's very good

Razor thin margins in the outcome, but Safin is (by razor thin margin) the more likely to do damage in return games

Points won - Saf 99, Pete 104
Points served - Saf 94, Pete 109

... or Saf winning 48.8% of points, while serving 46.3% of them. Its not much. Pete serves the 2 longest games of the match - the one described above and a 12 pointer where he's broken in the first set. Saf's taken to deuce twice - including his first service game

Break Points - Saf 1/7, Pete 1/3... with both of them having them in 2 games. That's just another way of looking at lenght of the deuce games described above
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Hall of Fame
Sampras' Serve Game
Pete serve-volleys all the time and Safin makes his own chances. He hammers the ball and his stock return is firm, close to powerful around net high, usually slightly under it. I've found this to be the best starting point to commandingly deal with serve-volleyers. Volleys aren't too tough to put in play but are difficult to putaway. Returning like this generally -

- will draw a few volleying UEs (the misses being relatively hard for being so marked). That happens here - Pete has 7, including 3 tricky FHs at net
- the volleys made wont' be decisive and leave reasonable passing chances. That happens here too - decent looks at the follow-up pass for Saf and Pete's as alert for the 2nd volley as can be. Pete's largely upto handling it

So Pete largely getting better of Saf's stock returning, but that's just the stock stuff. There's a healthy lot of power returns right to Pete's feet too. He doesn't do as well here - and has 13 'volleying' FEs - 5 of them 1/2volleys

So Pete's service games consist of -
- unreutrned serves - he's got healthy 35% of them, which for him, isn't high
- mostly 'not-easy' first volleys, difficult to volley with authority
- good lot of very difficult first volleys, bullets to his feet

35% unreturned rate isn't high enough to be confident of holding indefinately against the latter 2 points. Pete needs to volley well - particularly, in making difficult ones. And he does, despite the large error yield. He's got 24 'volley' winners serve-volleying and almost all of of Saf's 19 groundstroke FEs are passes and hard forced. Pete volleys into corners, though not punching through fully - for decisiveness on, about his best

In short - great contest between the Pete volley and the Safin return and follow up pass

Saf appears to be able to read Pete's serve. He's not caught out by direction, he's moving in right direction virtually every time - and there's plenty of challenging wide serves. Pete serves for him high 10% to body and otherwise body-ishly and Saf's invariably moved aside to take the return with space.

This is even more in evidence at the US Open final they'd play shortly after

Here, Saf usually returns firmly, slightly under net with good lot of even more powerful ones to Pete's feet. At US Open, there'd be a much larger lot to the feet. The volley-pass battle was better at US Open too - there, Pete made a remarkable number of 1/2volleys but Saf was impeccable on the follow-up, lined up pass time and again

Lot of work for Pete on his service games. After missing a first serve in the second set, he lets out a very audible groan to laughter from the crowd. Despite holding serve fairly comfortably as far as scores go, he's under pressure on the volley to do it against some very heavy return fire from Safin

Safin's Serve Game
At forefront here is Safin's first serve being just too big for Pete to handle. He serves huge - noticable, if not by large extent, bigger than Pete

Saf sends down 13 aces, 1 service winner or 26% of his first serves. Pete's at 17% by comparison. His first 3 first serves are all aces and Pete can't get a ball back in play 'til the 7th

2nd serves are a hefty handful too. Enough to discourage any runaround FH'ng (Pete doesn't try even once). Pete's only attacking option left is chip-charging - and Saf wins 7/11 of those points (though they lead to Pete's only break too)

From baseline, things are close, with Saf having considerable hitting advantage, even on FH. On BH, the advantage is bigger. After an initial wobble - he's got 3 UEs after first 9 service points of match, Saf's BH is unfallible and beats Pete's down

baseline-baseline UEs read
- Saf BH and Pete FH 5
- Pete FH 5
- Saf FH 7

And the winners read Saf 3, Pete 2. Very small number of FEs coming out such rallies

That doesn't look too bad from Sampras' point of view. But he's giving up 35% unreturneds, getting passed when he chip-charges and Saf's hitting is so much stronger that he can take net easily

Saf's 12/18 rallying to net. Most of points he loses are forced approaches - there's 2 running-down-drop-shot errors and others where Pete volleys winner after dragging Saf forward. When he comes in on his own terms, Saf virtually wins all his net points. In fact, he's conservative about coming in, foregoing clear and obvious chances to do so in favour of carrying on with the beat down hitting. Once at net, he's not tested - routine above net volLeys to dispatch and he does so very well, like a net natural

Biggest indicator of Saf's hitting being so much stronger is in Pete only rallying to net 4 times. He doesn't have any chance to as he's pushed back all the time in the rallies

Lot of work for Pete on return - on top of being overwhelmed by the big serve, he's constantly pounded down in baseline rallies, but hangs tough and doesn't give things up without a tussle. His prospects for breaking would be Saf missing first serves, maybe blinking a couple times in rallies. In fact, he gains his only break mainly with a couple successful return approaches (and a Saf double helping)

Match Progression
Appropriate start to the match with Saf biffing a BH cc pass winner, before Pete goes on to hold

Pete with a perfect BH dtl winner and Saf missing BHs (while missing his first 4 first serves) brings up 2 break points in second game. Saf deals in aces rest of game, bar a hammered thrid ball that chip-charging Pete can't control

Break comes in game 5 in 12 point game. Early in the game, power passes from Saf does trick to get him to 30-40. Thereafter, Pete misses those not-easy, above average powered, slightly under net volleys that he's faced with all night to give up break. Just 1 genuinely easy miss by Pete - on break point, he misses a FH at net

Both players serve and win 31 points in the set

Comfortable scoreline holds in second set, but lot of work to do for Pete on the volley on his service games and Saf looks more likely to gain break. Turns out not to be as Pete wins 2 chip-charge points (he's 2/9 on the play outside this game) and a clever longling BH slice draws a Saf FH UE to put Pete up 5-3. He serves out to 15

Comfortable holds in the decider. Saf's returning quality drops off and he misses more and leaves high returns to greater extent than any other point of the match. He also serves his best in-count of 68% for the set (other sets 42% and 57%) and holds just as comforably as his opponet does all the way to 6-5 with Pete to serve

And the drama and tension of the finale to wrap it up - flip of a coin stuff. Match point stats read Safin 1/4, Sampras 0/3 with Sampras having had the only one on his own serve

Summing up, great match. Biggest take-away because of its rarity is Safin apparently being able to read Sampras' serve. Reading it and doing something against it aren't necessarily connected though, but he ends up pounding it too and Sampras has a lot of work to do in dealing with power returns slightly under net regularly or worse, bullet returns to his feet. Its a terrific contest and high marks for both players in it

On the other side, Safin's serve is overwhelmingly big and he hammer Sampras down in baseline rallies. Sampras hangs in - tough from him and giving Safin scope to mess up, but Safin holds steady hammering groundstrokes

Nothing in the result, honours slightly more to Safin, who gives Sampras a lot more work to do on the volley than the latter is used to. He'd give him still more at the US Open final

Stats for pair's US Open final - Match Stats/Report - Safin vs Sampras, Final US Open 2000 | Talk Tennis (