Interesting to read this thread three years later. A lot of the comparisons made about Sampras vs Federer level of competition can now be seen in a different light. Federer really stepped it up in the past couple of years and a lot of his peers really fell off. Nadal is the lone exception, and of course Djokovic has come on strong by winning a slam and performing solidly in several others. Murray has just started to make his breakthrough, the next year could be really good for him if he continues to progress, but he's clearly already taken that step from promising talent to legitimate top player.
A lot of the younger competition Federer was supposed to have in Ancic, Gasquet, Berdych etc. really fell through. Baghdatis has been sidelined with injuries. Nalbandian showed glimpses of genius as Fit Dave but has disappointed at the slams by and large. Safin never pulled it together. And Hewitt, great as he used to be, is clearly on the downslope of his career.
In comparison, Sampras' competition seems a definite step better to me. Agassi, Becker, Courier, Chang, Rafter etc. are all multiple-slam finalists who seem to have the mentality that a lot of today's top talent lack. Ferrero, Roddick, Safin, and Hewitt are all multiple slam finalists as well, but aside from Roddick and Hewitt, none of them have really been able to consistently back it up.
It should be interesting to see how things pan out in the next couple of years. I feel there was a dearth of talent late in Pete's era (though there was a lot early in his career) and I feel the opposite for Federer. Roger didn't have much competition early on, but there are a lot of young guys who are looking very strong and the next couple of years could be really interesting if they have what it takes mentally to fight for slams.
I completely disagree with this statement. He had a lot of competition. Around 2003 I think, Nalby owned him, Hewitt owned him, Agassi owned him in the h2h. I think Nalby was 5-0, Hewitt was 7-2 and Agassi was 5-0. In fact, he was not even supposed to win Wimbly 2003. Ironically, Wimbly 2003 was supposed to be the place to crown Roddick as the next superstar.
He simply raised the bar and overcame all those negative h2h to become the player he is now. People take a look at his h2h with the current crop of players and think that he had no competition when he started winning GSs but don't realize that it is really hard to do that against the next breed of players because it is not that fair physically or mentally.
People on MTF snicker about Fed respecting Roddick even after the skewed h2h between them but Fed put a lot of hard work to deal with Roddick's serve, his flat and powerful forehand and confidence back then. To a certain extent, Fed actually softened Roddick up for players like Nadal and Murray who seem to have had no problems dispatching Roddick.
Fed put in a lot of work on the mental and physical side and it finally paid off in 2003 and started his era of dominance. It was not because competition suddenly got weak, he simply got way ahead of the competition.