Those who say that Pete's era had more great players, so Sampras' competition is greater are very mistaken. Just because Sampras has all those older hall of fame players do not suggest that his competition is greater.
Compare Players Older By 8 years & above
Sampras, born in 1971, while all the older hall of famer players:
Connors, born in 1952, 19 years older, played until 1995 at age 43;
McEnroe, born in 1959, 12 years older, played until 1992 at age 33;
Lendl, born in 1960, 11 years older, played until 1994 at age 34;
Wilander, born in 1963, 8 years older, played until 1996 at age 33;
All these players were past their primes, all slumping in their rankings when Sampras started playing in 1998 and when he was in his prime in 1993 to 1996 when the last of these older hall of famer players retired. Although these players have several grandslams experience, they are like the present Agassi to Federer, just waiting to be slaughtered by a peak Sampras. I don't see anything mighty of gloating of beating all these old off-peak great players. In comparision, the new players that Federer is facing are younger, healthier, but with less grandslam experiences. To be fair, youth and experience should be equal if a young inexperience 19 year old with a ranking of 30 should post the same threat as a 30 year old great player ranked 30 in the world. Rankings don't lie. Remember how Sampras himself could not win a tournament for 2 years before he won his last US Open in 2002? Sampras was trashed by Safin and Hewitt in consecutive years when he was 29 to 30 years old. So a 30 year old great player posts just the same threat as an up & coming young inexperience player like Murray, Bagdhatis, Berydch, Gasquet.
To be fair to Federer, where are the players 8 years & above older than Federer?
Where is Sampras, Courier, Chang, Ivanisevic, Rafter gone to? They all retired except Agassi. So before people comment that Sampras had all these great players, then they better ask all those great players in Sampras era to come out of retirement and let Federer beat up on them. Great players like Connors, McEnroe, Lendl, Wilander all retired later than Sampras did at age 31. So Sampras and his fellow age group should stay on playing until at least until age 33 to 34 when Federer was dominating to get beaten up, but instead they all chose to retire before age 30 or less. So it is groundless to compare great soon to retired players who are 8 years older because they pose the same threat as an up & coming young player with the same ranking and most importantly all those players older than Federer by 8 years & above chose to retire, and they can still say Federer does not compete with any hall of fame players? That's absurd. Another reason besides retirement that cause no hall of fame players is because both Sampras & Agassi swept 22 Grandslams between them, while Connors, Lendl, McEnroe, Wilander shared their Grandslams over a longer playing career with average of 7 to 8 Grandslams.
So there were more hall of fame players in Sampras time due to the fact that these players have a longer career and accumulated less Grandslams amongst themselves. Sampras & Agassi won so many Grandslams between themselves, there aren't many multiple Grandslams winners in their peer group, hence Federer does not have the same number of great players to compete against. The same reason can be said of Federer's successor because if a junior no. 1 ten years younger than Federer comes onto the scene and by then Federer retires winning GS in double digits, there won't be any great players with multiple GS except for an aging Nadal left to compete against the new no. 1 born in 1991.
Compare players older by 4 to 6 years
Edberg, born in 1966, 5 years older than Pete, played until 1996 at age 30;
Becker, born in 1967, 4 years older than Pete, played until 1999 at age 32;
Korda, born in 1968, 3 years older than Pete, played until 1999 at age 31
Basically, Sampras had difficulties playing with Edberg and Becker when Sampras was still young and Edberg & Becker were still in their primes between 1988 to 1992. The Head to Head for this period was pretty even. After 1993, Sampras started dominating both of them.
Federer on the other hand has an even match up with Kuerten, never lost to Moya, never lost to Rios, who were older by 4 to 6 years, few GS holders or no. 1 before. Again the players 4 to 6 years older than Federer do not have many GS titles because the cohort of Sampras, Agassi, Courier, Rafter took away most of the GS, leaving behind those born in 1976, Moya & Kuerten to have only 2 or 3 GS and they are either injured, retired, poor form. Edberg & Becker were able to compete with the likes of McEnroe, Lendl, Connors when they were in their late teens to win their 2 GS titles (before 1987) and accumulated the other 4 GS (1998 to 1992) before Sampras peaked in 1993. Skill Level, Kuerten & Moya are similar to Edberg & Becker, just that Kuerten & Moya excelled more on clay, Edberg & Becker excelled more on grass, and on hards courts, they are pretty even these players. Except Kuerten & Moya stood less chance of GS glory because of those born in 1971 to 1972, snatching away all the GS trophies.
Korda & Haas 3 years older respectively to Sampras & Federer also posed challenges when Sampras & Federer were starting out, but when Sampras & Federer peaked, these players are having bad losing streaks. Korda managed a 5-12 Head to Head with Sampras; Haas now has a 2-7 Head to Head with Federer. I would say Federer does a better job at defending himself from a loss when he was still young & inexperience as compared to Sampras, but both Sampras & Federer hardly relent to this group of players when they are in their peaks.
Compare players of the same age (+/- 1 year difference)
Sampras has Agassi, Courier, Chang, Rafter, Ivanisevic, Krajicek, Bruguera
Federer has Hewitt, Safin, Roddick, Nalbandian, Ferrero, Robredo, Blake (2 yrs), Ljubicic (2 yrs)
Because of Federer's dominance, he is killing his peers into marriagehood, into delusion, bagelling them, beating them all the time, unless his ankle is half broken. That's why Federer's peers only have 2 GS at most so far and most likely will stay at 2 GS because of the stiff competition Federer is posing and also all the new, hungry and talented new players are coming up. The players in this group is comparable. Hewitt vs Agassi; Nalbandian vs Chang / Courier; Roddick vs Krajicek; Ljubicic vs Ivanisevic; Power game of Safin vs Net rushing athletic Rafter; Roberto/Nalbandian/Ferrero vs Bruguera: All match-up relatively equal. But, Federer dominates his same age group more than Sampras did to his own peers, until they become discourage, trying new ways to beat Federer, celebrating when they get small wins when he is out of the tournament or beat him when he is injured and become so happy. Federer's skill level surpassing his same age group that they are losing heart.
Sampras had a pretty tough match up with all his peers, even losing to Krajicek in head to head. Federer managed to turn the series with Nalbandian from 0-5 to now 6-6, so why can't Sampras do the same with Krajicek before both of them retired, their head to head is 6-4 in favour of Krajicek. Federer hardly loses to his age group since he peaked in 2003, but Sampras still lost to his peer group quite often. Sampras had a hard time with Bruguera on clay but Federer can beat Nalbandian and Robredo on a more regular basis on clay. As I compared the 2 groups, they are pretty much even in skill level.
Compare players 3 to 6 years younger
Sampras has Kuerten, Moya, Rios, Kafelnikov (3 yrs)
Federer has Baghdatis, Nadal, Murray, Gasquet, Berdych, Ancic (3 yrs)
Kafelnikov is the only player 3 years younger than Sampras that made a difference because I could not find any better players than Ancic who is also 3 years younger than Federer. Skill wise, Ancic can match up with Kafelnikov on grass, fast hard courts, slightly weaker on Rebound Ace and will lose to Kafelnikov on clay. Kafelnikov managed to win 1 French Open & 1 Australian Open because these are his stronger surfaces and Sampras weaker surfaces, whereas Ancic's best surfaces are faster surfaces but too bad that Federer's best surfaces are grass and hard courts too. As for the rest of the players aged 5 to 6 years younger, Federer's young apprentices seemed more potent and more dangerous than Sampras' young apprentices. So in no way is competition less competitive for these younger group of players. Federer has a tougher 3 to 6 years younger players than Sampras did.
In conclusion, I simply don't agree Sampras' competition was stronger. It only appeared stronger because all those GS winners were decorated with GS trophies, but were past their primes, easy pickings for Sampras. His group of younger players were only a few good players who excelled mainly on the surface he hated most - clay. But Federer is able to beat all the younger players on a consistent basis except Nadal on clay and slow hard courts. All Federer's younger players can play on all surfaces well, whereas Sampras' younger players fared badly on grass. Sampras had no chance against all of his young apprentices on clay but Federer can beat all his young apprentices on clay and still give Nadal, one of the greatest claycourters, if not the greatest claycourter some problems with 2 matchpoints on clay.
P.S.THIS IS NOT MY POST...but i found it to be an interesting analysis.