Sampras - transition in his playing style through the years

Discussion in 'General Pro Player Discussion' started by shakes1975, Feb 19, 2007.

  1. shakes1975

    shakes1975 Semi-Pro

    Mar 7, 2006
    having seen sampras play right since the 1990 USO till his last match at the 2002 USO F, i've been really curious about how he slowly changed his playing style through the years.

    when sampras came into his own in 1993 as the new world #1, he was an attacking baseline player with good volleys. he came to the net frequently, but was definitely not a pure S & V'er. he was very good from the baseline, able to hold his own against courier, chang, agassi etc. from the baseline.
    his volleying, though solid (somewhat at the level of current fed), was not as good as it was to be yrs later.
    he played some decently long rallies, and was pretty successful in winning them. he came to the net off some of the first serves but mostly played from the baseline on his 2nd serve. in fact, if u see his 1993 wim F against courier, u'll be surprised at the number of baseline rallies.

    this trend continued through 1995-1996. i was watching the 1995 USO F the other day, and mac said "it's surprising that for a guy who has so much talent, pete has a defensive mindset".

    this version of sampras had loads of confidence in his abilities from the baseline, and therefore didn't see the need to blast down the bombs every time he had to serve. he was a bit like fed is now, with a better running FH but a weaker BH.

    starting from 1997, pete had a major change in his mindset. he was still very good from the baseline, but he chose to play S & V completely on his first serve, and more often than not on the 2nd.

    he continued with the S & V style, gradually improving, until he reached his S & V peak in 1999 ( esp. the 1999 Wim F). at this point in his career, he was still young enough to have that explosive movement to the net, and his 2nd serve was now significantly harder than it was a couple of yrs earlier. this meant that people couldn't get into his service games anymore, forget about attacking his BH.

    from mid-2000, sampras, ever so slightly, lost that speed. this meant that he was getting to the net a fraction later than before. this would have major consequences (look at edberg, for eg.) but sampras countered this by ratcheting up his serve so much that his 2nd serves were regularly clocked at 115+. Indeed, in the 2001,2002 USO matches against agassi, or even against fed in their 2001 wim match, he hit 2nd serves at 122 mph. he looked to win the point outright with his serve (1st or 2nd). due to lack of practice thru the yrs, and due to loss in footspeed, his ground game suffered. in fact, he played half-heartedly thru most rallies trying to get that one break of serve.

    he finished his career as a pure s/v'er.

    i think a lot of credit/discredit for changes to sampras' game goes to his two coaches thru most of his peak career: gullickson and annacone. while he was with gullickson, he was more of the all-court player (as he was till 1996) and under annacone, he transformed into the s & v player (mac said about annacone: he was the only player i played who used chip-charge on opponents first serves").

    though i loved the serve-volley sampras, i also wonder how sampras would've developed had gullickson lived on. the reason i wonder about this is that sampras' best results at the FO were under gullickson (QF in 1992, 1994, SF in 1996).
  2. scineram

    scineram Professional

    Aug 13, 2006
    Hellhole Hungary
    Former Pro Player Discussion

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