Sampras vs. Gilbert? Was Sampras a good doubles player?


Was B. Gilbert a good match for Sampras in 1990? In his book (WU), he wrote about his tactics to play against other players. I wonder if his strategies worked when he played against Sampras. Example. 1990 Grandslam cup final.

Also curious about Sampras/McEnroe doubles team in 1992 Davis cup match. Was he is good doubles player? We know McEnroe was. TIA!


Mahboob Khan

Hall of Fame
Re. 1992 Davis Cup: Yes, he was a great doubles player but he concentrated on singles than doubles. In that doubles match McEnroe greatly inspired Sampras. Doubles is about teamwork and court chemistry. The more you play the better you get.

joe sch

Sampras should/could have been a top double player but like most of the greats after Macs time, he chose to concentrate only on singles. To bad the great singles players do not used doubles as practice, like Mac did. The best doubles team has always been Mac and xxx :)
Brian Purdie said:
Sampras 1st pro title was on CLAY at the italian open with groundstroker Courier as his partner.
I was going to say that if Courier and Sampras had continued to play together, they probably would have had a lot of teams running scared when they reached their prime. Perhaps not realistic but it would have been neat to see #1 and #2 in the world playing doubles togther.

Mcenroe has said on a few occasions how could Sampras could be/could have been in doubles. Mentioning how when they were together in Davis Cup he saw Pete's great hands and ability to hit any shot. That match was incredibly dramatic. With the US going into the locker room break down in the match and everyone feeling low, it's said Mcenroe went ballistic, screaming like a maniac at everyone until they eventually joined in. "We're going to go out there and kick some ARSE! We're going to kick some ARSE! We're going to kick some ARSE!" was said to be the mantra. On court, Mcenroe was as pumped as he's ever been and Pete more than he ever was. The crowd was also going nuts. Of course, Mcenroe shouldn't have gotten any sportsmanship awards as he also screamed on court obscenities at dumbfounded Hlasek and Rosset. He lived up to his madman reputation and it worked for them that day. They clearly lifted their game a couple levels higher, and even thought the Swiss were playing well, they had no chance at that point.

Tenny, I do have to give Gilbert credit for this one. He did do much better against Sampras than he should have by all rights. I think Sampras leads 5-4. (although the 1st 2 matches were Gilbert wins when Sampras was still very very green). I have a couple matches with the 2 on tape. When Sampras was firing, Gilbert had nothing to combat him with, Sampras did give him some severe thrashings(the grandslam cup match you mention being one of them), where it was really not close, BUT again, Gilbert ended up with a lot better record than most players against Pete! Though had they continued to play past 1993, I'm sure the record would have gotten increasingly lopsided.


It doesn't take much thought to work out how great Sampras could have been at doubles if he wanted to. His serve would have been nigh impossible to break, oh the thought. His volley's, overheads and reactions at the net were all brilliant. The more aggressive returning of doubles would have suited him too. He could have returned from either court quite easily. Once the other team gets to net aggression and variety rule for the defenders, and Sampras had both. His powerful go for broke forehand would have fit perfectly and he would have come over his backhand most every time as opposed to singles. He could hit it rather hard when he wanted to. I could easily see him chipping or guiding a return and coming to net too. I have no doubt Sampras could have been one of the finest in history.


Okay, I'll disagree and say that Sampras would have been a successful doubles player but never one of the all-time greats, certainly never in the class of McEnroe and others of that ilk. Sampras did have one of the greatest, if not the greatest, serves in tennis history but definately not the best hands or volleys. Sure, with a serve like that you dont need to make many difficult volleys but doubles involves a different geometry to singles. One thing all great doubles players have is exceedingly quick hands at the net and a team-driven mentality which we haven't consistantly seen in a top singles player since Edberg.

Just in case anyone thinks that's a knock against Sampras the opinion of the past Aussie players was that Rod Laver, as great a player as he was (and he'd have to be in the top 5 of all time), was just too much the individual to be a great doubles player. He won a few titles here and there but certainly never dominated. More recently you could say the same thing about Becker. Great singles player but too much the individual for doubles (excepting Davis Cup and the Olympics).

Kevin Patrick

Hall of Fame
That's a very interesting statement. I looked up Laver's record & was surprised how few doubles slams he won (especially compared to some of the other Aussies)
Sure, Sampras wouldn't dominate like McEnroe in doubles, but I'm sure he was capable of snagging a few doubles slams(I've seen him play with Todd Martin a few times, they were a formidable team)
After watching the Bryans lose to Croatia in Davis Cup, it's hard not to think the best doubles teams right now are only that good because not many singles players play.
All great singles players are capable of doing well in doubles. Heck, even Agassi won a masters series in doubles in '92!

Tenny, you have to see that '92 Davis Cup match, atmosphere was electric(probably the best American Davis Cup crowd I've ever seen) & Sampras went into the zone the last 2 sets. It's one of the best doubles matches I've ever seen.

Data, which 2 Sampras-Gilbert matches do you have? I actually got to see Sampras/Courier play doubles together at the '90 US Open. It was the end of a long day session. They were playing on a court with no bleachers(the Open grounds were not as polished as they are now), fans were crowding around a fence to watch, I was lucky enough to get a good spot, I was close enough to spit on the players. Most of the fans (including myself) were more familiar with Courier. But we soon were dazzled by the smoothness of Sampras, there were a lot of gasps from the crowd at his shotmaking. I knew I was seeing something special, but was still shocked when Sampras won it all 2 weeks later!


Respect your opinion for sure Andrew, you could well be spot on. I myself still think Samp would have been dynamic tho. I have a very strong feeling he would have certainly showed the "exceedingly quick hands" you think he may have lacked. We didn't see the best of these talents simply because he didn't play enough doubles to give us exposure in my opinion. As i say this is only my opinion tho :)
Kevin, I'd have too look through some old tapes to be sure...I believe I have the match at the Grand slam cup....and the other I think was an exhibition match from the very early 90's again....used to be called AT&T exhibition at Horseshoe Bend country club.....on Har tru.

In all honesty, I haven't watched those matches much if at all....I don't remember them as being too memorable.....


Oh, Ive got no doubt he would have been an excellent doubles player, just the same as other top singles players like Becker, Cash, Rafter etc. If they'd committed to doubles Im certain they would have won quite a few tournaments and made life particularly hard for guys like 'The Woodies'.

I think Kevin's got the reason why they'd be good and its not because they are natural serve/volley players or at their best up at the net. Its because when those guys are in the 'zone' they can just knock off winner after winner after winner. I read that back in 73 when Australia played the US in the Davis Cup final, Laver decided it was time to go into the zone and his first 8-10 returns of serve for cold winners, even though that was hardly the style of the day. Totally unnerved Smith and Van Dillen because they knew if Laver was 'on' there was nothing they could do to stop him. Same deal with a Sampras. Mightn't be the best at net but if he's in the 'zone', you might as well call it a day.

Also, when I say that Sampras didn't have the best hands Im talking in terms of the top eschelon of tennis and the guys who were wholly natural volleyers. I was lucky enough to call service line in quite a number of his matches during various Aus Opens and its just an observation. Being that close you could see, in a way, just which guys had 'soft' hands and which had 'hard' ones. Not surprisingly, most of the guys with 'hard' hands also had very big backswings on their groundstrokes.

The ones with the fastest and 'softest' hands had more compact swings - in relation to other pros. The player with the fastest and best hands I ever umpired was Anders Jarryd (once again, compact swings). Just unbelievably quick and Id love to see the stat on how many volleying errors he made in a year. I think it'd be so low it'd look like a misprint. Few others who were lovely to watch volley: Navratilova, John Fitzgerald and Rennae Stubbs. She's still playing and if you want a lesson in how to volley you wont see better technique than Stubbs'.
Bhagi Katbamna said:
I doubt McEnroe said "Let's kick some Arse", He might have said "Let's kick some ass
Nope. He said "Arse". The exact quote was "C'mon ye wee 'oul slappy wankers! Get yer tennis jacket, let's kick some feckin arse and slam them bollocks on em boy-o!"



That's just awesome Andrew!!!! I bet you would have some great stories to tell. I'd love to see you start a thread and give a lil summary of some of the players you watched and matches possibly as well. I'm sure there would be no shortage of interest!