Sampras-more than just a serve

Kevin Patrick

Hall of Fame
Just read this, a nice reminder of Sampras' all court ability:

From TennisWorld:

How Soon They Forget . . .

James Martin, a senior editor at the mother ship, joins the TennisWorld Cabal with this rant. I agree with James’ assessment in many ways, and find it amusing that every generation seems to produce someone who bursts on the scene and immediately is declared “the greatest of all time!” It’s rash to say that of a player—any player—at the start of his career. Apart from everything else (like this little matter of how many titles you’ve actually won), how do you know someone isn’t going to pop out of the woodwork next week—like McEnroe did in the midst of the Borg era—to make the newest GOAT look like he may just be the second-best player of his era?

Here’s what James has to say:

I’m a big fan of Roger Federer’s—really, I am—but something’s getting lost in all this hoopla over the world No. 1: Pete Sampras. Watching ESPN’s coverage of the NASDAQ-100, and before that the Pac-Life Open and the Australian Open, I’ve listened to the commentators tell me how Federer can walk on water—and, frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he could. Patrick McEnroe and Cliff Drysdale, in particular, keep talking about how Roger gets himself out of trouble on break points with big serves the same way Pete used to. The comparison is spot on, but it’s the only one those guys draw between the two players. The impression I’m left with—and the enduring legacy I’m afraid Pete Sampras is going to be stuck with—is that he was just a serve.

Sampras has only been retired for a few years, and already people are suffering from memory loss. In the mid-1990s, Pete was the complete package, just like Federer is now. Sampras frequently beat Andre Agassi—one of the game’s all-time ground strokers—from the baseline, matching him forehand for forehand, shot for shot. Remember the incredible point that ended the first set of the 1995 U.S. Open final? Both players were at the height of their powers, and Pete got the best of Andre in a baseline slugfest for the ages.

Back in the day, when I worked at another (now-defunct) magazine called TennisMatch, we polled 40 of the Top 50 men, asking them who had the best strokes on tour. Over 80 percent said that Sampras had not only the best first and second serves (that was a given), but also the best forehand, best overhead, and best volleys. Those volleys! I can remember dozens of amazing shots he hit at Wimbledon.

Sure, Pete didn’t have the touch of John McEnroe or the textbook technique of Stefan Edberg, but his ability to stick the volley and cover the net with his athleticism was unrivaled in his day. Perhaps any day. Nothing Federer has done—yet—has proved otherwise. If there’s one area where Federer is light-years ahead of Sampras, it’s the return of serve. Sampras was average in that department, content to get his one break and then serve out the set. Federer, on the other hand, gets everything back, keeps the pressure on, and never lets up. Players like Andy Roddick serve their opponents off the court—until they face Roger, and then they’re lucky to smack half a dozen aces.

On some level, it’s easy to see why Pete’s being overlooked. Since retiring, he’s pulled a Howard Hughes on us. It’s like they say: out of sight, out of mind. And on another level, the comparisons between Pete and Roger are starting to wear thin. Roger’s done well, and he’s an incredible talent, but he has a long, long way to go before approaching Pete’s Grand Slam record.

Before Federer does that, or at least achieves the one thing Pete didn’t, the career Grand Slam, it’s hard to say that Roger Federer is the game’s greatest player. For now, though, can we at least start reminding people that Sampras was much more than just a serve?

The tennis guy

Hall of Fame
No one said Sampras has just the serve. No one is saying Federer is the greatest player all time. It is the author's own interpretation what other people mean. Both sides brag a little bit - Sampras has the best volley perhaps any day is an example.

1. It is not fair to compare Federer's achievement at this point to Sampras' 14 grand slams. Federer has just started while Sampras is already retired.
2. The question becomes who has more complete game? The author answered this question: Sampras better serve, better volley, Federer better return, I have to add better backhand. Forehand, about even because they are different types of forehand. Sampras better on faster courts, Federer better on slower courts.

There is no clear winner in their games. 7- 8 years later, we can compare their achievements.


speaking of sampras' serve people analysis it completely wrong. they think he uses no wrist snap. look his finish. there are sooooooo many pics of his elbow up high and his wrist flopped down. how do you think it got there? a huge friggin wrist snap! if you look at his serving hand in slow mo at the top he has 2 fingures on the racquet! that how loose it is so he can get that huge wrist snap

The tennis guy

Hall of Fame
gstring21 said:
speaking of sampras' serve people analysis it completely wrong. they think he uses no wrist snap. look his finish. there are sooooooo many pics of his elbow up high and his wrist flopped down. how do you think it got there? a huge friggin wrist snap! if you look at his serving hand in slow mo at the top he has 2 fingures on the racquet! that how loose it is so he can get that huge wrist snap
I don't know any knowledge tennis person said Sampras doesn't use wrist snap. Where did you hear that? I am just curious. All I hear on TV was how great Sampras' wrist snap was.
Tennis Guy, we have seen those exact same comments declared on this board repeatedly. "sampras was only serve" and "Federer is the GOAT". So, there are many on this board who say that, even if they are the bottom rung posters.

As to the wrist snap on the Sampras serve, you will find people who will say that not just Sampras, but all good servers in fact, use either no wrist snap, or a minimal wrist snap on the serve(none or a very small amount depending on the theorist). By wrist snap, they're usually describing wrist extension and flexion. Certainly, most acknowledge that the wrist tends to procede from a laid back position to a neutral position somewhere during the swing to contact, from there however, on many serves, the wrist does not seem to flex or snap at all through contact, eventually flexing forward well after contact and into the follow through. These theories tend to point to wrist/forearm pronation being more active during actual contact. So the exact amount of "wrist snap" as in flexion remains somewhat controversial.

Gstring, in pictures of Pete after contact, you're absolutely right that he finished with the elbow high, the arm broken(to use layman's terms) off at the elbow and the racquet down, if you look at pictures very shortly after contact though, you sometimes see that the wrist itself is in a neutral position, straight out from the foream, it is not "broken" at all. You can see pics later after contact when the arm is starting to come down more, where the wrist has flexed, indicating that a lot of that flexion comes well after contact and into the followthrough. Don't shoot the sender(me) here, because I have my own thoughts on the role of the wrist, but I am relating what some theorists believe and I do think there is some validity to what they are saying.


The tennis guy

Hall of Fame

I don't take most posters on this board seriously - there are some who have great knowledge on tennis. I am talking about people who are doing commentating tennis as a living.

The original poster's article by James Martin implied people who are commentating on ESPN implied Sampras only had the serve. No one said that. It is his interpretation, bias interpretation, I have to say. Saying Federer was Sampras like serving aces when down doesn't mean Sampras had only serve.