Match Stats/Report - Sampras vs Agassi, US Open final, 2002


Hall of Fame
Pete Sampras beat Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in the US Open final, 2002 on hard court

The win gave Sampras a record extending 14th Slam title and an Open Era record tying 5th title. He hadn't won a title since 2000 Wimbledon. This would turn out to be his last match. Agassi would go onto win the next Slam at Australian Open. This is the third final at the event between the two, with Sampras having won all 3 (previously 1990 and 1995) as well as a quarter-final match the previous year

Sampras won 151 points, Agassi 126

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

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (87/152) 57%
- 1st serve points won (70/87) 80%
- 2nd serve points won (34/65) 52%
- Aces 33 (5 second serves), Service Winners 3
- Double Faults 13
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (67/152) 44%

- 1st serve percentage (82/125) 66%
- 1st serve points won (55/82) 67%
- 2nd serve points won (23/43) 53%
- Aces 7
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (38/125) 30%

Serve Patterns
Sampras served...
- to FH 52%
- to BH 45%
- to Body 4%

Agassi served...
- to FH 32%
- to BH 64%
- to Body 3%

Return Stats
Sampras made...
- 83 (24 FH, 59 BH), including 5 return-approaches
- 6 Winners (6 BH)
- 31 Errors, comprising...
- 23 Unforced (10 FH, 13 BH), including 1 runaround FH & 1 return-approach attempt
- 8 Forced (5 FH, 3 BH)
- Return Rate (83/121) 69%

Agassi made...
- 72 (38 FH, 34 BH)
- 5 Winners (3 FH, 2 BH)
- 31 Errors, comprising...
- 1 Unforced (1 BH)
- 30 Forced (16 FH, 14 BH)
- Return Rate (72/139) 52%

Break Points
Sampras 4/8 (6 games)
Agassi 2/12 (6 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Sampras 41 (5 FH, 11 BH, 14 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 8 BHV, 2 OH)
Agassi 19 (14 FH, 4 BH, 1 BHV)

Sampras had 26 from serve-volley points
- 18 first 'volleys' (9 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 3 BHV, 2 OH, 2 FH at net, 1 BH at net)... 1 BHV was a net chord dribbler, 1 OH can reasonably be called a FHV and the FH1/2V can reasonably be called a FH at net
- 6 second volleys (2 FHV, 4 BHV)
- 2 third volleys (1 FHV, 1 BHV)

- FHs - 1 cc, 1 inside-out and 1 inside-out/dtl
- regular BHs - 2 cc, 1 dtl pass and 1 running-down-drop-shot drop shot at net
- BH returns - 1 cc, 3 dtl and 2 inside-in

Agassi had 11 passes (8 FH, 3 BH)
- FHs 6 cc (2 returns), 1 dtl return and 1 longline at net
- BHs - 1 cc and 2 dtl returns

- regular FHs - 4 cc (1 at net), 1 dtl and 1 inside-in
- regular BH - 1 dtl

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Sampras 56
- 31 Unforced (9 FH, 15 BH, 5 FHV, 2 BHV)... with 1 FH at net & 1 BH at net
- 25 Forced (5 FH, 5 BH, 3 FHV, 2 FH1/2V, 2 BHV, 7 BH1/2V, 1 OH)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 50.3

Agassi 39
- 9 Unforced (5 FH, 4 BH)
- 30 Forced (16 FH, 14 BH)... with 2 FH running-down-drop-shots (1 at net) & 1 BH running-down-drop-shot at net
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.8

(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...
- 77/114 (68%) at net, including...
- 66/101 (65%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 39/56 (70%) off 1st serve and...
- 27/45 (60%) off 2nd serve
- 4/5 (80%) return-approaching
- 0/2 forced back

Agassi was 9/12 (75%) at net

Match Report
A great match and though just 4 sets, a tense one. Sampras is virtually untouchable for 2 sets but is pushed to the limits in the next 2 on a quick court. In fact, odds would favour Agassi in the second half as he's constantly threatening to break serve against the constantly serve-volleying Sampras (he stays back off 2 serves all match). A point here and there falling just so sees Sampras hold him off and finish the match in 4

Keys to match are Sampras' serve (a constant in all Sampras matches) and his return (which usually isn't). How he returns varies across match. Often, its with high aggression - stepping into court, blasting the ball, chip-charging, taking big rips, going for winners dtl over high part of net. Playing so, he misses a good number - his return rate is 69% with 23/31 return errors marked unforced - but also strikes 6 winners (1 more than Agassi manages and all of them with Agassi on the baseline, all of them BHs) and forces a good number of third ball errors. Its the kind of returning that's bound to give up a few easy holds, but when the returns land in, is very likely to break... against Agassi's average serve, its a good, match long percentage play. In fact, its like Agassi's usual strategy against Sampras(!)... only there, the serve is top drawer and the returning has to be.

Its a 2 part match. For 2 sets, Sampras is untouchable and his serve is at its very best. After that, he seems to be tires progressively and unable to serve quite as powerfully (his serve is still very powerful though) and Agassi returns and passes exceptionally well to create chances. In last 2 sets, Sampras serves 96 points to Agassi's 75. Struggling to hold and tiring, Agassi looks the more likely to break and Sampras not far off from being wiped out

It's not unusual for Sampras to tire in long matches. High aggression is a good ploy in such situations. That's his natural game on serve. Its turning it on with his returns that elevates this showing to something special

Part 1 - Sets 1 & 2
Even by his standards, Pete serves ferociously well in first half (particularly in first set). He's got 12 aces in first set alone and after 2 sets, unreturned rate off 54%. He's in all out, 2 'first' serves mode (he has 5 second serve aces for the match) and there's not much Agassi can do about it. Despite that, just 2 double faults and serving at 63%. About as unplayable as can be

In first set, Pete returns orthodoxly. He gains the one break in a game when his big FHs land in (including the return) and a couple of approaches (including a return)

In second set, the serving ferocity drops a touch (it'd be hard for it not to) but he starts returning with high aggression also. He gains the break at start and goes up 2, with a rattled Agassi missing a pair of attacking third ball shots from deuce to lead 5-2

Good game by Agassi to snatch a break back, despite Pete making 7/8 first serves. Pete serves it out second time of asking to love, including 2 aces (1 a second serve)

So far, Agassi hasn't been in the match

Part 2 - Sets 3 & 4
Gradually and more or less uniformly, power of Pete's serving wanes (as in, one could could confidently guess that 1/6 second serves was a second serve... its still very powerful stuff), there are a lot more double faults, fewer aces, Agassi's able to make returns (typically, whatever he can make is made powerfully). His movements slow a bit too

He mostly continues being very aggressive with the return, missing as often as not. With his serve games not obviously secure now, aggressive returning has a potential down side. Baseline rallies in Agassi's service games are dominated by Agassi off both wings. Pete's BH is outmatched and Agassi has the stronger, wide hit FHs too

In third set, Sampras survives 14 and 8 point holds, saving 3 break points along the way. 1 Agassi game goes to deuce (no break points). The sole break is last game of set - a 16 point game. Plenty of strong returns and passes by Agassi but he needs 3 double faults and Pete missing an easy FHV on break point to actually win the game

Fourth set goes the same way, with Pete returning if anything, even more aggressively while relying heavily on the big serve to get him through. He survives 20 and 12 point holds (3 break points), including saving one by making a rare BH1/2V he had no control over. Its thrilling stuff. Agassi missing makeable returns, Pete rarely able to handle tough volleys and half-volleys, double faults, net chord dribblers, drop volleys (deliberate and otherwise)... lots going on.

Pete does an Agassi by smacking every return with point ending intent for a game. It works. At 15-30, he hits a return winner that's called out, and wins the next point with the return shot too. Agassi goes on to hold. All 3 points Pete wins were FEs drawn by returns to the baseline.

After surviving a 12 point game where Agassi misses one of the easier returns he faces on break point, Pete gains the break in a game where he returns similarly (less extreme). The key point is his striking a BH dtl pass winner - his only pass for the match, before another return to the baseline on break point leaves him serving for the match. Which he does to 15, including his 5th second serve ace and finishing with a BHV winner
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Hall of Fame
Sampras' serve game
Sampras serves as hard as he can - firsts and seconds - all match, with force of serve declining as match goes on. Even 'declined', its very strong. At his freshest at start, its untouchable. Virtually even the second serves, which are a lot stronger than Agassi's first serves

Agassi as ever, takes returns from the baseline. Its his way - he gives up a lot of unreturned serves and aces, but whatever he can hit he hits well. Early on, it isn't worth it. Generally, Agassi seems to be waiting around for Pete to miss first serve to have a shot. Here, for 2 sets, he's basically waiting around for Pete to double fault (which he rarely does). All of Sampras' serves are too much for Agassi

Generally, very rarely did Agassi step back to get more returns in play at cost of the damage his returns do. Here, its clearly not worth it. 33 aces and 3 service winners from Sampras comes to an unreturnable serve 24% of the time and 36% off first serves. That's just the unreturnables, not the unreturned... and there's a good lot more that's not far short of unreturnable and virtually everything is difficult to return. Sampras isn't overly secure on the volley. He has 9 UEs - including couple of groundstrokes at net) and they are easy balls - given how few easy volleys he has to make, that's not too good. He also has 18 first 'volley' winners from these types of easy balls... given all the unreturned serves, that's more than good enough though. Agassi's prospects of breaking rest along 'hope Pete double faults' lines against that backdrop

In second half, Agassi's way bears some fruit. Still a boatload of unreturned serves but lots of powerful low returns. Pete has 15 forecourt FEs and 9 of them are half-volleys, every single 1 a bullet to the feet around the service line. These come between unreturned serves and double faults.

Not too much volley vs pass going on. Everything is serve vs return based. Pete doesn't face many regulation volleys and does the needful by placing them away. Almost everything he faces is powerfully hit. He does well controlling the net high power hits, but can't do anything against the low ones.

Despite keeping action almost completely on his racquet, there's little in it in final break point numbers -
- Sampras 4/8, Agassi 2/12... with both having them in 6 games

On the other hand, Sampras holds to love 10/21 times, Agassi just 4/20 (including his first 2 holds)

Note Sampras serving 152 points to Agassi's 126 or 55% of all points. Agassi might be helpless most of the time, but when he's not, he's able to give Pete all he can handle

That's the match. Pete 'Botting through and Agassi left to create his own chances by returning damagingly against very powerful serves. On flip side, Pete can get into return games regularly...

Agassi's serve game
Distinctly average serving from Agassi. Average paced, only occasionally placed wide. Sampras looks to return attackingly, including against first serve

He's got 6 return winners and a good lot of Agassi's 30 FEs are drawn by the return - hard and deep to baseline or well wide and at least deep-ish. Whenever Pete makes the big return, it seems to end the point

To be clear, Sampras doesn't uniformly attack on return. There's a good lot of orthodox returning and occasional blocked/chipped BH ones. After first set though, a full cut return is never too far away

Play is baseline stuff and Agassi commands it.

Generally, Agassi-Sampras baseline duels tend to feature Agassi hitting heavy BH cc's that Pete holds off with weaker, safe shots and Pete giving up BH errors. And Agassi looking for BH dtl point finisher from there and Pete taking his chances with running FH winner attempt

Not too much of that here. Agassi implements a dual-winged dynamic, with FH play the majority. He moves Sampras wide with well angled FH cc's and regularly switches to hitting FH inside-out to Pete's BH rather than BH cc's. Its dynamics are fluid and hard hitting, not patience or consistency battles

Heavy shots from Agassi that would be hard to attack. Pete doesn't particularly try. He gets his attacks in with big returns, not groundstrokes in play or coming to net. Some of Pete's groundgame is wildly low percentage attacking shots that virtually always miss. His BH in particular is loose. He tries hitting hard with it, but doesn't have enough on the ball to trouble Agassi

- UEs - Agassi 9, Sampras 22
- Winners - Agassi 6, Sampras 5

Agassi well ahead in all types of UEs
- neutral - Agassi 4, Pete 11
- attacking - Agassi 2, Pete 9
- winner attempts - Agassi 2, Pete 12

That's a very clean showing from Agassi. Pete's attacking and winner attempt errors are bolstered by his 9 net UEs (Agassi has none)

Good lot of FEs for both baseline-to-baseline too (most of Agassi's are of course, passing attempts), Pete drawing the bulk of his with returns. Neither player is particularly quick. At his freshest, Sampras has movement advantage. As match wears on, he eases back some on select return games and isn't quick when he doesn't either. Agassi's troubled by balls slightly wide and deep - somewhat due to Sampras' power. Its not particularly difficult to force an error out of either player, particularly Agassi

In a compound nutshell -
- average serving from Agassi, Sampras returning with point ending aggression large part of the time
- baseline rallies favouring Agassi by long way... the stronger and more consistent hitter. Sampras moves better for most part
Summing up, a great match and a tremendous showing from Pete Sampras. When fresh, his serve is irresistible even by his standards - leaving Agassi next to no chance. When less than fresh, its still a mighty weapon and Agassi returns very well to make inroads with bullet returns to the service line

Standout feature is Sampras' returning, which is on par with Agassi's own for aggression (against an average serve) and its enough to get him the breaks he needs

Not much volley vs pass in rallies going on... Sampras' serve or Agassi's return are far more prominent in being decisive. Sampras is good at covering net for second or third volleys when needed, but rallies rarely go that long

From Agassi's point of view, a strong showing from the baseline. He'd have done better to fall back to return against the fresh Sampras... he can barely get racquet on a ball, and the potential damaging returns he might make (in fact, he makes virtually none) aren't worth all the serves he can't get in play. When the serving drops just a touch, he does very well to hammer returns

Stats for pair's '90 final - Match Stats/Report - Sampras vs Agassi, US Open final, 1990 | Talk Tennis (
Stats for pair's '95 Australian Open and US Open finals - Duel Match Stats/Reports - Agassi vs Sampras, Australian Open & US Open finals, 1995 | Talk Tennis (
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Hall of Fame
Sampras's clear lead in backhand winners from the baseline that day really stood out. Agassi didn't hit a backhand winner until the latter half of the 3rd set.

Their rivalry came full circle. The first 'big match' they played was in the 1990 US Open final (after previously meeting in the early rounds in Rome and Philadelphia) when Agassi was clear favourite going in but Sampras came out on top. Their final match was the 2002 US Open final when Agassi was again the clear favourite going in (Sampras hadn't won any of the last 33 tournaments that he had entered while Agassi had impressively beaten the world no. 1 Hewitt in the semis) but Sampras again came out on top.
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Sampras's clear lead in backhand winners from the baseline that day really stood out. Agassi didn't hit a backhand winner until the latter half of the 3rd set.

Their rivalry came full circle. The first 'big match' they played was in the 1990 US Open final (after previously meeting in the early rounds in Rome and Philadelphia) when Agassi was clear favourite going in but Sampras came out on top. Their final match was the 2002 US Open final when Agassi was again the clear favourite going in (Sampras hadn't won any of the last 33 tournaments that he had entered while Agassi had impressively beaten the world no. 1 Hewitt in the semis) but Sampras again came out on top.
I remember in the fourth Agassi kept hitting screaming backhands up the line giving Pete a chance to hit that running forehand. Not sure why he would do that time and time again instead of just looping the ball and forcing Pete to up with his own pace. Or just not go down the line.


Hall of Fame
I was at the match and none of what you wrote rings a bell. :giggle:
With the amount of noise you made, I'm sure a lot of people who were at that match have never heard a bell ring afterwards:)

Sampras's clear lead in backhand winners from the baseline that day really stood out. Agassi didn't hit a backhand winner until the latter half of the 3rd set.
I'd slot that down under "aggressive returning"

6/11 of Sampras' BH winners are returns. Against kind of serves that Agassi doesn't face

Bona fida, baseline-to-baseline winners read Sampras 2, Agassi 1

Sampras is playing to hit winners because he can't hold up rallying. Agassi, the opposite - happy to keep rallying, knowing Sampras can't keep up. That's normal Agassi BH play for the period... cc, cc, cc 'til he gets the error. He rarely goes dtl trying to force the issue and very few players can keep up with him in the cc rallies (and Sampras isn't one of them)

BH UEs read Agassi 4, Sampras 15

Agassi's dearth of BH winners is about inability to hit return-pass and passes in play winners.... I'd say he did well if he was able, rather than hold it against him for not being able to. On return, he's up against a complete firestorm. And Sampras serves minority 45% to his BH

Great returning from Sampras, to complement the serve. He seems to have hit this balance perfectly late in his career against Agassi. '99 Cincinnati and Year End Championship final are other examples where he overwhelms Agassi with early, big cut returning. Gives up a good number of errors trying, but its worth it (particularly if he's holding serve comfortably, which he usually is)

He tends to need a lead to feel good about going for it. Typically, he returns orthodoxly for a set and if he wins it, goes all-out after that. If he loses first set like in '01 Indian Wells, he sticks to orthodox returning or even poking/pushing returns back in play

I think he could have done it years ago. To see this guy, who hits such spectacular returns over high part of net at Wimbledon, poking and slicing Agassi's average serve back in play... one feels he always had the potential to do more, to crush it. He rarely tried

Small mercy from Agassi's point of view

Despite all the recent records - Sampras not having won an event in over 2 years, Agassi being the favourite and so on - Agassi seems to have known what to expect

Commentators quote Agassi as having said before the match, "If he serves lights out, he wins"


Well it would be the last time that I'd see Pete playing a competitive match, and I didn't know it at the time.

Great review as always.