Sampras's Troubles at the French Open

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by noeledmonds, Nov 23, 2007.

  1. noeledmonds

    noeledmonds Professional

    Nov 20, 2006
    Why do you think Sampras struggled so much at the French Open?

    I know that Sampras's game style was not suited to the French Open clay but it was not as poorely suited as his results there suggest. Serve and Volley players could do well at the French Open and some (such as Panatta) even won the French Open.

    If you compare Sampras's achivements to other lesser Serve and Volley players he still performs worse at the French Open. Becker (whose game style was very similar to Sampras's) had several French Open semi-finals. Edberg reached the final of the French Open as did Stich.

    My personal opnion is that Sampras was afraid to make to many changes to his game to try and win the French Open. Sampras's early exists at the French Open undoubtably gave him more preperation time for Wimbledon. Remember the only year Sampras reached the semi-final of the French Open was the year he lost at Wimbledon in 1996. Sampras grew up witnessing what happened to Lendl where he did make sacrifices to try and win Wimledon but never quite made it. Lendl would probabely be viewed as a greater player if he had won 1 or more of the French Opens that he skipped and not made his 2 Wimbledon finals.

    Another point is that Sampras's achivements on clay outside the French Open (when Wimbledon was not around the corner) were sometimes better. Sampras won in Rome in 1994 but more significantly I feel he had a superb Davis Cup record on clay, such as in 1995 where he won all 3 of his matches in the Davis Cup final on clay against Russia without of which the USA would surely have lost the title.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2007
  2. Nickognito

    Nickognito Rookie

    Nov 17, 2007
    Florence, Italy
    I thinhk the problem was (like maybe Federer's) fis forehand.
    Sampras at the time was not a good volley player like Edberg or Becker. He became better later. His serve obviuosly on clay was less effective, but I think the problem was the forehand, that was an unbelievable shot in 1993-95 on Hardcourts, but not on clay. His body position after the forehand, like Federer, is not right dor a claycourt player. Federer is better beacause has a better backhand and better movements, but I think for both the problem is the less effectiveness of their forehand drives.

    Sampras should have done more serve and volley, but at the time he was not perfect at the net. Just some little imperfections: you don't need to be perfect at the net on grass with an extraordinary serve. But you need it on clay.

    Sampras with his 1999 technical skills and 1994 body would have won the French, maybe. In 1999 he had a very better net game, and a less important use of his forehand, and maybe a better backhand as well.

  3. Nickognito

    Nickognito Rookie

    Nov 17, 2007
    Florence, Italy
    Rome 1994 was an awful tournament, without any great clay court player beaten by Pete.

    Anyway, Rome clay is faster than Paris' one.

  4. Kevin T

    Kevin T Hall of Fame

    Feb 21, 2004
    Too far from the Blue Ridge

    I agree that Pete was stubborn and didn't want to make any changes. I remember reading that Annacone tried to get Sampras to play an attacking style with more serve and volley but Pete didn't think he could win that way. A la Becker trying to bang with baseliners to prove he could, Pete did the same. He was obviously uncomfortable with his clay footwork. I can remember Pete just completely caught in no man's land so many times. You could just the conversation bubble above his head..."I want to attack but I can't!". Maybe a 90in headsize Wilson would have helped, as well.

    Rafter had a nice tourney (forget which year) playing pure serve and volley tennis, making the semis. Sampras really should have won one.
  5. CyBorg

    CyBorg Legend

    Mar 8, 2007
    Atlanta, GA
    Another factor is that Pete liked to end points quickly and conserve energy, something that was more difficult to do on clay, especially if he had to play the likes of Muster or Kuerten or even Kafelnikov. We're talking long rallies here.

    Pete was perfectly capable of playing an excellent set of clay court tennis, but seldom two or three in a row.
  6. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

    Apr 22, 2005
    I think, good points are made, regarding the style of play and especially the footwork. Sampras never got accostumed to the sliding technique required on clay, and too often landed in no mans land. His flat hitting wasn't made for clay neither, he never could lift his forehand and backhand enough on a consistent basis. He tried to get more topspin on the backhand since 1995, but then it got short, and looked pretty arkward. Like Connors, too many groundies went into the net. And Noel is right, since 1996 and his defeat by Krajicek at Wimbledon, he was afraid to lose too much energy at RG.
  7. anointedone

    anointedone Banned

    Oct 16, 2006
    Ottawa, Ontario
    1. His serve was neutralized quite a bit by the slower clay. That already makes it very hard for him to win. Of course the serve is his biggest and best weapon and a major part of all his big wins, and with that neutralized he is still a very good player unlike Ivansievic or Roddick, but also quite beatable to a very strong opponent.

    2. His footwork and overall movement was not as good on clay as other surfaces. He was not as comfortable with the footing.

    3. He did not have the fear factor with his opponents on clay he did on other surfaces, and he doubted his own abilities on the surface as time went on due to some of the bad losses and trouble ever getting past the quarterfinal stage (and the one time he did he was spent physically and was destroyed by a very good but not great player or clay court player in the semis).

    4. He did not hit with enough topspin on his shots, too flat.

    5. While he was very good from the baseline there were still plenty of guys who could beat him from the baseline without much help from his serve anymore, and the slow surface also made it harder to attack the net effectively, so not only robbed off his huge service weapon, but also of his advantage of being an all court player.

    I am not surprised. To me it is easy to see why he didnt do better there. Federer who has a much better baseline game then Sampras, was much more comfortable moving on the clay then Sampras, and had a much better attitude about playing on clay then Sampras, still has failed to win the French Open, so why would one expect Sampras would have.
  8. Nickognito

    Nickognito Rookie

    Nov 17, 2007
    Florence, Italy
    Maybe. But It has been calculated that Sampras used more topspin than Agassi, for example.

  9. Tshooter

    Tshooter Hall of Fame

    Sep 12, 2007
    "Serve and Volley players could do well at the French Open and some (such as Panatta) even won the French Open."

    I'll admit I only saw Panatta play live around 15 or so times so maybe I missed it but I would never have characterized him as a serve and volley player. He could serve and volley but so could most players in the late 70s. But he wasn't a serve and volley player by any stretch.

    A joy to watch though. Very graceful. The match against Connors in '78 at the USO was a classic.
  10. TheNatural

    TheNatural Legend

    Jan 27, 2005
    poor choice of equipment according to him

    Wednesday, 1 December, 2004

    Federer can emulate me - Sampras

    Former world number one Pete Sampras has backed Roger Federer to match his long period of domination in tennis.

    Before retiring last year, Sampras won 14 Grand Slams and was world number one for a record six straight years.

    "I think he can dominate tennis for as long as I did," Sampras told French newspaper L'Equipe.

    "He can have an off day in a big tournament and be surprised but over the whole season, he is head and shoulders above the others."

    Federer's momentous year

    Federer compiled a stunning record in 2004, winning three of four Grand Slams, collecting 11 titles and losing only six matches.

    The 23-year-old's style of play has drawn comparisons with Sampras, and the American agreed there are similarities between the duo.

    "We have the same temperament and like me, he makes playing look easy," he said.

    "He can do just about anything he wants with a racquet and he dominates everybody as I did several years before."

    Federer is yet to win the French Open, and Sampras admitted that failing to triumph at Roland Garros was the only regret of his career.

    "I regret that I never tried out a racquet with a bigger head at Roland Garros," he added.

    "My racquet was almost like one of the old wooden ones - it was heavy and stiff. It took a lot of effort to make the ball move on clay.

    "But I was really used to it and I never dared (change). I was too stubborn. I was scared of losing control, that it would take me too long to master it."
  11. ashitaka2010

    ashitaka2010 Semi-Pro

    Aug 15, 2010
    An interesting topic.

    "Sampras admitted that failing to triumph at Roland Garros was the only regret of his career"

    I admit my knowledge are blurry and insufficient (teenager memories). Wasn't it mostly psychological, with Wimbledon always the target?
  12. World Beater

    World Beater Hall of Fame

    Sep 22, 2007
    many sampras defenders will come and say that pete never cared about RG. But this was not true AT ALL.

    he tried hard for a few years, then gave up. But he always wanted to win that one, as he knew it was the one missing crown jewel.
  13. statto

    statto Professional

    Sep 12, 2009
    1. His biggest weapon was his serve, and this was almost totally neutralised at RG.

    2. He always wanted to end points quickly, but clay does not lend itself to short points.

    3. There are several clay specialists at any given time, so in addition to other top players, Sampras could also go out to any of these.
  14. roundiesee

    roundiesee Hall of Fame

    Feb 20, 2004
    I agree with this. To me, more than anything else, watching Pete play at RG, he never appeared to be totally convinced that he could win, even in the early rounds against lesser opponents. And we are talking about one of the most determined and dogged competitors in the game of tennis! Why he could not translate that same determination he had on grass or hardcourt to clay is quite puzzling.

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