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Old 03-26-2010, 10:49 PM   #1
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Default Article - Pete Sampras – An in Depth Look at His Game: Part 1

An article I wrote on Bleacher report - read on....

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/3...is-game-part-1
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Old 03-27-2010, 05:46 AM   #2
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Default Re: Article - Pete Sampras – An in Depth Look at His Game: Part 1

thanks a lot laurie
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Old 03-27-2010, 11:51 AM   #3
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Default Re: Article - Pete Sampras – An in Depth Look at His Game: Part 1

Thanks Mimi

I'll paste the article here for ease of reference

There has been so much talk and so many articles about the Agassi-Sampras tete a tete in Indian Wells two weeks ago, I thought that it was time to get back to tennis! I would like to take a look at Sampras’ game in detail. I think I will break this article into two parts. In the first part I will discuss his game in technical detail with some of my youtube clips. And in the next part I will take a look at some of his most important rivalries throughout his career.



Pete’s serve

This has to be the most talked about and most recognised part of Pete’s game, and for good reason, it was a tremendous shot! What made it so good? I’ve read a lot of theories over the years, from his very flexible shoulder to his ability to put the ball on a dime as the Americans would say. To me all of that is true. Also, it’s often said he had the best second serve in the business, was not afraid to go for deep second serves, or even aces in tricky situations, and if his opponent got the ball back he was ready for a volley, a forehand or passing shot.

To me, it’s the thought process which made his serve stand out, along with the ability to hit slice and kick with equal ability. On the deuce court, Pete liked to go to the forehand to open up the court for the next shot. Going to the forehand is always a risky shot but you have to take risks to win. Pete discussed in his book that by going to an opponent's strength you can break it down, a tactic he often used against Jim Courier for example.

On the ad court, this is where Sampras’ serve stood out and where other players, male and female, have studied him and implemented the tactic in their games. As we know the ad court is the decision court where games are won and lost and break points saved.

Sampras stood very close to the centre line and with the same ball toss, often slightly behind him or above his head, he could hit it out wide to the backhand or go down the middle. When he went down the middle, he often came over it with topspin whilst adding slice, so the ball straightened after pitching, going away from the opponent's forehand – anywhere between 110 to 135 mph.

He was capable of hitting second serves there over 120 mph. Many players' serves angle in to the returner;s forehand because they stand further away from the cenrtre line so they have to add more sidespin than slice. The ball may be fast but it’s easier to return if they don’t place it well. With that serve to the forehand Sampras really upped the ante often, challenging the opponent to come up with something, often they couldn’t.

The other benefit of this tactic was reverse psychology, when the opponent was inching to the forehand side, Sampras would go to the backhand and the ace count would rise.

Some of the players who have used this technique and tactic of standing close to the centre line and swinging the serve to the forehand on big points? Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, and Maria Sharapova (pre shoulder problem). Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, and Juan Martin Del Potro are also attempting to use this tactic.

Here’s an example of his serve

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHLEzs3f_vE



Pete’s return of serve

Clearly this was not as good as his serve, but it was plenty good enough to win just under 1,000 matches on the tour. In his early years, Pete liked to run around the backhand to hit big forehand returns. In his later years he employed the chip and charge tactic a lot more, especially between 2000 and 2002 (a Paul Annacone influence).

One thing Sampras has always said is that it's the return of serve which wins Wimbledon. That’s something a lot of people and journalists never focus on. There have been many players who serve just as well and maybe even better, especially the first serve like Karlovic, Kevin Curren, Philippoussis, Ivanisevic, Krajicek, and Roddick. Many of these players have never won Wimbledon because they don’t return as well and are not athletic enough to get around the court.

Pete also knew when to step up return games, if he wanted to crush an opponent, he would go after them every game, if he wanted to conserve energy, he would focus on certain games to raise his returning level. He was a smart player.

An example of his returning game.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REBLJwzdRH8



Pete’s Forehand

A shot not too dissimilar to Steffi Graf’s in the sense that Pete used that shot to do a lot of damage in the baseline rallies, although Pete was much more willing than Graf to use the topspin backhand to set up the forehand.

Pete and Jim Courier modeled their games on Ivan Lendl by often covering the backhand side to be able to hit the inside out forehand or inside in forehand (down the line in plain English!) to dictate play. Sampras’ grip was a conventional eastern/semi western depending on his choice of shot, he often changed his grip to hit his shots, unlike an Edberg who used the same grip for all shots (who does that now?). Sampras’ forehand is up there among the very best in history because he was able to generate incredible pace and get a lot of spin on the ball with reasonably high net clearance for control, unlike an Agassi who often hit it flatter on average. Sampras in my opinion has the best running forehand, crosscourt and down the line, in history, along with Ivan Lendl.

Two examples here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnUZtuOGKUA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5rxZhVjrVM



Pete’s Backhand

A shot often described as a weakness by the media, it wasn’t as good as his forehand. It was seen as more reliable than his forehand in his early years on the tour. It was a damned good shot and of course everything is relative.

On clay he didn’t like it up high, but not many players do, even players with two hands struggle up there, like Kim Clijsters. What Sampras was good at was trading topspin backhands with the likes of Agassi and Courier who tried to stay away from his forehand. Sampras hit them very high over the net with a lot of loop, quite deep, trying to get a short ball he could attack.

He would also use the slice to mix up the play trying to get his opponent off balance to take over the rally, a tactic I like and something Amelie Mauresmo did often. Sampras also was not afraid to use the backhand down the line to stretch his opponent.

Here are two exmples of his backhand:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sx5dDAILnyU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXacOtT0RBk



Pete’s Passing Shots

This is clearly one of the reasons Pete won so many Wimbledons in an era of attacking players. He was able to return serve and hit passing shots better than his attack minded rivals of that era on grass, mainly Becker, Edberg, Stich, Krajicek, Henman, Ivaneisvic, Philippoussis, and Rusesdski. Pete had the ability to hit any passing backhand and forehand down the line, cross court and lob, or go to the body, opening up the next shot.

Two examples:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFiOslvMvXY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vz8IH...eature=related



Pete’s Movement

Pete was a very smooth mover around the court. And in his book he discussed why he often felt he had the measure of Agassi, he said that he moved better than Agassi and therefore in the baseline rallies he could hold his own and often come out on top. Fred Perry’s quote sums it up best “ Sampras moves like oil, you don’t hear him, you just hear the other guy, and the other guy's losing”

An example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rF_cL1NbIKs



Sampras' Net Game

I think its fair to say that from that era, Edberg and Rafter had better volleys, but Pete is not far off their level. I think Pete had a better forehand volley because of his firm wrist, but Edberg and Rafter had better overall volleys.

Pete came into his own on half volleys and stop volleys. Due to his athleticism he came up with amazing volley winners out of nothing, often leaving his opponent dumbfounded. Amelie Mauresmo is the one player from the last few years I’ve seen do similar feats with similar effect on her opponents.

As for overheads, Pete probably has the best overhead in history. Not too many players got lobs over him, his athleticism up there was incredible and his slam dunk a signature shot. As the commentator Bill Threlfall said once, Sampras has rubber legs!

Volleys example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hvNrdXIrJE

Example of his Overhead

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXTrby91BtY



In the next part, I will look at Sampras against his rivals and his how his game changed and evolved under Tim Gullickson and then Paul Annacone.
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Old 03-27-2010, 12:08 PM   #4
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Default Re: Article - Pete Sampras – An in Depth Look at His Game: Part 1

Its worth pointing out that Pete, like Federer has different parts of his game clicking depending on which era you look at. For instance his backhand, movement and forehand was better when he was younger and his volleys were better when he was older.

At the end of his career, his backhand was so bad it was kind of bizarre, and prevented him from adding to his slam count.
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Old 03-27-2010, 12:15 PM   #5
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Default Re: Article - Pete Sampras – An in Depth Look at His Game: Part 1

Pete was a good tennis player
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Old 03-27-2010, 12:59 PM   #6
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Default Re: Article - Pete Sampras – An in Depth Look at His Game: Part 1

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Originally Posted by Haelfix View Post
Its worth pointing out that Pete, like Federer has different parts of his game clicking depending on which era you look at. For instance his backhand, movement and forehand was better when he was younger and his volleys were better when he was older.

At the end of his career, his backhand was so bad it was kind of bizarre, and prevented him from adding to his slam count.
If you want to look at that, then its fascinating in his last professional match (ie 2002 US Open final) he hit over 10 backhand winners including outright return winners and baseline winners. With that being the case I start to think that ex player and Eurosport commentator Frew McMillan was right all along - during 2001 and 2002 when Sampras was struggling, Frew always said its partly in his mind, his mind was not telling him to do it. So in other words, lack of motivation was translating into lack of movement hence the decline of his groundstrokes - and then in the 2002 US Open final he plays like that, so profoundly good.

I suppose that's the big clue to his subsequent retirement.
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Old 03-27-2010, 05:19 PM   #7
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Default Re: Article - Pete Sampras – An in Depth Look at His Game: Part 1

Pete's BH didnt stop him from achieving more by the end of his career.. It was lack of drive by the end of his career. He figured his slam count wouldnt be broke for ages. It didnt however. But he ended his career with a slam win. He could still play. If anything it was wanting to start a family with his wife and the slam record and lack of desire to want to keep the grind up
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Old 03-27-2010, 06:10 PM   #8
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Default Re: Article - Pete Sampras – An in Depth Look at His Game: Part 1

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Originally Posted by laurie-1 View Post
Pete also knew when to step up return games, if he wanted to crush an opponent, he would go after them every game, if he wanted to conserve energy, he would focus on certain games to raise his returning level. He was a smart player.

An example of his returning game.
I want to add something to this. I think there are two aspects to the Sampras game that were more important to his success than anything else:

1) His amazing hold game, which means not just his serve, but his ability to hold serve. To never lose focus on his own serve, and one of the key reasons that he was able to do this is in the next point.

2) His attitude towards return games. Basically Sampras was so sure in his hold game, that he felt like he could afford to take mental breathers in the return games. I felt that his tactic was pretty much to focus his energy and take some fairly big risks on the first couple of return points. If things didn't go his way he would relax and more or less let the opponent hold. If things did go his way, he'd focus on trying to get the break. This especially happened early in sets. Later in sets he would focus more on breaking.
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Old 03-27-2010, 06:11 PM   #9
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Default Re: Article - Pete Sampras – An in Depth Look at His Game: Part 1

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Pete's BH didnt stop him from achieving more by the end of his career.. It was lack of drive by the end of his career. He figured his slam count wouldnt be broke for ages. It didnt however. But he ended his career with a slam win. He could still play. If anything it was wanting to start a family with his wife and the slam record and lack of desire to want to keep the grind up
Yes. After getting #13 his motivation definitely took a hit.
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Old 03-27-2010, 06:13 PM   #10
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Default Re: Article - Pete Sampras – An in Depth Look at His Game: Part 1

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If you want to look at that, then its fascinating in his last professional match (ie 2002 US Open final) he hit over 10 backhand winners including outright return winners and baseline winners. With that being the case I start to think that ex player and Eurosport commentator Frew McMillan was right all along - during 2001 and 2002 when Sampras was struggling, Frew always said its partly in his mind, his mind was not telling him to do it. So in other words, lack of motivation was translating into lack of movement hence the decline of his groundstrokes - and then in the 2002 US Open final he plays like that, so profoundly good.

I suppose that's the big clue to his subsequent retirement.
I agree, but Haelfix IS right about his game changing, not just in the last couple of years of his career but also while he was still racking up titles. Early on in his years of dominance he relied much more on his ground game than later on where he became more of a net rusher.
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Old 03-27-2010, 06:47 PM   #11
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Default Re: Article - Pete Sampras – An in Depth Look at His Game: Part 1

I rather think his backhand was desastrous in his early days (against Schaller, e.g.) and got better with time.


I still remember his match against Krajicek in the quarter of Cincinnati 1999. I've never seen him hitting so great backhand return and I was really upset that day. It had been almost 5 years since he last beat Krajicek.
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Old 03-27-2010, 07:26 PM   #12
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Default Re: Article - Pete Sampras – An in Depth Look at His Game: Part 1

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I rather think his backhand was desastrous in his early days (against Schaller, e.g.) and got better with time.


I still remember his match against Krajicek in the quarter of Cincinnati 1999. I've never seen him hitting so great backhand return and I was really upset that day. It had been almost 5 years since he last beat Krajicek.
I have this match and its one of the many matches I would like to put clips of on youtube. But I have the Eurosport International version and its practically impossible to upload any Eurosport stuff to youtube, so I'm not even going to try which is a pity.

The 1999 Cincinnati semifinal is even more incredible. Anyone who has seen that match either live at the stadium or on Television like I did in 1999 will tell you Sampras played Tennis for about 20 minutes in the 2nd set which was utterly unbelievable.

Unfortunately, alas its Eurosport so no one will get to see it .
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Old 03-27-2010, 07:42 PM   #13
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Default Re: Article - Pete Sampras – An in Depth Look at His Game: Part 1

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An article I wrote on Bleacher report - read on....

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/3...is-game-part-1

Weird to see Pete in (a) a Rafa type sleeveless shirt and (b) if that wasn't enough, it's orange.

I thought Pete only did his tighty whities
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Old 03-27-2010, 10:49 PM   #14
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Default Re: Article - Pete Sampras – An in Depth Look at His Game: Part 1

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I have this match and its one of the many matches I would like to put clips of on youtube. But I have the Eurosport International version and its practically impossible to upload any Eurosport stuff to youtube, so I'm not even going to try which is a pity.
wow ! What a fanatic.

Being a Krajicek fan, I wouldn't really like to see it again. Could you confirm me that the very last point of the match was a bh return winner by Pete? If not, I should fear Atzheimer.


There's one match I would love to see on Youtube. It's the 1998 Stuttgart semi between these two. Some say it was the best match of the year. I missed it at the time and could just see the highlight a week later. If you have it, in good quality for Youtube, I would be delighted. Anyway thanks for all those vids.
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Old 03-28-2010, 01:58 AM   #15
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Default Re: Article - Pete Sampras – An in Depth Look at His Game: Part 1

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wow ! What a fanatic.

Being a Krajicek fan, I wouldn't really like to see it again. Could you confirm me that the very last point of the match was a bh return winner by Pete? If not, I should fear Atzheimer.


There's one match I would love to see on Youtube. It's the 1998 Stuttgart semi between these two. Some say it was the best match of the year. I missed it at the time and could just see the highlight a week later. If you have it, in good quality for Youtube, I would be delighted. Anyway thanks for all those vids.
I can confirrm that Pete actually hit a forehand winner on matchpoint in Cincinnati

I'm a great fan of Krajicek as well - I've always liked his stroppy attitude, its so Dutch, he would have made a great Dutch footballer!

I've never seen the Stuttgart match but I would like to get it. One of my favourite matches is the 1998 Cincinnati final and Pete lost to Rafter, I don't mind seeing players I like lose as long as it was a great match. I would also like to get the 1999 Miami match between the two.

Now Echoes, I'm about to make you feel even more sick....you have to promise to watch the whole 8 minutes of this clip, ok?

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