Infobox last updated on: September 1, 2007.
Peter "Pete" Sampras (born 12 August 1971), is a former World No. 1 tennis player from the United States. During his 15-year career he won a record 14 Grand Slam men's singles titles in 52 appearances. Sampras finished as No. 1 on the ATP rankings for six consecutive years, a record for the open era and tied for third all-time. Sampras won the singles title at Wimbledon seven times, a record shared with William Renshaw. He also won five singles titles at the US Open, an open-era record shared with Jimmy Connors. Bud Collins has named Sampras as one of the top five men's tennis players of all-time,
Pete Sampras was born in Washington, D.C., and is the third son of Sammy and George Sampras, Greek immigrants. From an early age, Sampras showed signs of outstanding athletic ability. The young Sampras discovered a tennis racquet in the basement of his home and spent hours hitting balls against the wall. In 1978, the Sampras family moved to Palos Verdes, California, and the warmer climate there allowed seven-year-old Pete to play more tennis. The Sampras family joined the Peninsula Racquet Club. It was here that Pete's ability became apparent. By the age of 11, he had already learned the solid serve-and-volley tactic that would become the hallmark of his game. He was spotted by Peter Fisher, a pediatrician and tennis enthusiast, who became his mentor for much of his career, overseeing his training and arranging coaches. Fisher was instrumental in converting Sampras's two-handed backhand to a one-handed shot so that Sampras would have a better chance of winning Wimbledon. Sampras later gave credit to Fisher for orchestrating his early development as a player.
Sampras turned professional in 1988 at the age of 16. He reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open tournament in 1989, stunning defending champion Mats Wilander in a five-set match in the second round. His first top-level singles title came in February 1990, at Philadelphia. In August that year, he captured his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open. Along the way, he defeated Ivan Lendl in a five-set quarter final, breaking Lendl's streak of eight consecutive U.S. Open finals. He defeated John McEnroe in four sets in the semi-finals to set up a final with another up-and-coming American player, Andre Agassi. Sampras beat Agassi in straight sets to become the U.S. Open's youngest-ever male singles champion at the age of 19 years and 28 days. The rivalry between Agassi and Sampras became the dominant rivalry in tennis in the 1990s, with Sampras winning 20 of the 34 matches they played.
Early life and career
1991 saw Sampras capture the first of five career titles at the year-end Tennis Masters Cup. However, upon entering the U.S. Open as the defending champion that year, he caused controversy when, having lost in the quarterfinals to Jim Courier, Sampras said that he wasn't disappointed, and felt relieved that the pressure to defend his title was no longer on him. This led to widespread criticism, which included disparaging remarks from Courier and Jimmy Connors. In 1992, he reached the quarterfinals of the French Open for the first of three consecutive times, made it to the Wimbledon semifinals, and finished runner-up at the U.S. Open to Stefan Edberg. Sampras later stated his satisfaction at merely making the U.S. Open final that year as motivation to work harder and become an even better tennis player.  He also played on the U.S. team that won the Davis Cup, duplicating the feat in 1995.
Sampras reached the semifinals of the Australian Open in early 1993, and matched the previous year's quarterfinal performance at the French Open. In April 1993, Sampras attained the World No. 1 ranking for the first time. His rise to the No. 1 spot was controversial because he had not recently won any Grand Slam titles. But he justified the ranking three months later by claiming his first Wimbledon title, beating former World No. 1 Jim Courier in the final. This was swiftly followed by his second U.S. Open title. He finished the year as the clear No. 1 and set a new ATP Tour record that year by becoming the first player to serve more than 1,000 aces in a season.
Sampras dominated Wimbledon for the rest of the decade, and won three consecutive titles from 1993 through 1995. He lost a 1996 quarterfinal match to Richard Krajicek, who won the title that year. Sampras, however, then won four consecutive titles from 1997 through 2000 to become the most successful male player in Wimbledon history. His victory in 2000 also broke Roy Emerson's record of 12 Grand Slam men's singles titles.
Sampras won two Australian Open titles. In 1994, he defeated American Todd Martin in the final, and in 1997, he defeated Carlos Moyà of Spain in the final. One of Sampras's most memorable matches there came in 1995 when he played Courier in the quarterfinals. Sampras's longtime coach and close friend, Tim Gullickson, had mysteriously collapsed during the tournament and was forced to return to the United States. Gullickson was later diagnosed with brain cancer to which he succumbed the following year. Saddened by Gullickson's illness, Sampras began visibly weeping during the match, but somehow managed to win. Sampras then lost the final to Agassi. Paul Annacone took over as Sampras's full time coach after Gullickson's illness made it impossible for him to continue coaching.
Sampras's best surface was undoubtedly the fast-playing grass courts. He was also known for his all-round game and strong competitive instinct. He won back-to-back U.S. Open titles in 1995 and 1996. Sampras's only real weakness was on clay courts, where the slow surface tempered his natural attacking serve-and-volley game. His best performance at the French Open came in 1996, when he lost a semifinal match to the eventual winner, Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Despite his limited success at Roland Garros, Sampras did win some significant matches on clay. He won the prestigious Italian Open in 1994, defeating Boris Becker in the final, and two singles matches in the 1995 Davis Cup final against Russians Andrei Chesnokov and Kafelnikov in Moscow. Sampras also won a 1998 clay court tournament in Atlanta, defeating Jason Stoltenberg in the final.
In 1998, Sampras's number-one ranking was challenged by Chilean player Marcelo Ríos. (In 1993, 1994, 1996, and 1997, Sampras had dominated the ATP tour.) Sampras failed to defend his Australian Open title, losing in the quarterfinals, and won Wimbledon only after a hard fought five-set victory over Goran Ivanišević. Sampras lost a five-set U.S. Open semifinal to the eventual winner Patrick Rafter after suffering a leg injury in the third set while leading the match. He lost another semifinal at the Tennis Masters Cup. Nevertheless, Sampras finished the year as the top ranked player for the sixth year in a row.
1999 also started out disappointingly, as Sampras withdrew from the Australian Open and failed to win a title during the early part of the season. However, he then went on a 24-match winning streak, including the Stella Artois Championships, Wimbledon (equaling Roy Emerson's record of 12 Grand Slam singles titles), Los Angeles, and Cincinnati. That run ended when he was forced to retire from the RCA Championships and the U.S. Open because of a herniated disc in his back. Sampras's ranking was hurt through a combination of withdrawing from the Australian and U.S. Opens, tournaments in which he had strong performances during the previous year, and the resurgence of longtime rival Andre Agassi, putting an end to Sampras' six consecutive years of finishing as the World No. 1. Agassi took over the top ranking and held it for the rest of the season, but Sampras recovered and managed to beat him in the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup for the fifth and final time, enabling Sampras to place 3rd in the rankings.
Sampras reached the semifinals of the Australian Open in early 2000 (falling to the eventual champion Agassi in a five-set match), and won the Miami Masters tournament for the third time in March. He then won a record-breaking 13th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, battling through a painful shin injury in the process.  After this victory, Sampras did not win another title for two years. He lost in the final of the 2000 US Open and 2001 US Open to Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt, respectively, leading many to speculate that Sampras would never capture another major title. At Wimbledon in 2001, Sampras lost to Roger Federer 7-6(7), 5-7, 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-5 in the fourth round. The upset ended Sampras's 31-match winning streak at Wimbledon. The match also marked the only time that the two men, both of whom are widely regarded as the best players of their respective generations, would ever play one another on the ATP tour. In 2002, Sampras suffered another early exit from Wimbledon, losing in the second round to 145th ranked George Bastl of Switzerland, whose best surface was red clay.
Sampras had a relatively poor summer leading up to the U.S. Open. Greg Rusedski, who Sampras had defeated in a long five-set third round match at the U.S. Open, said that Sampras was "a step and a half slower" and predicted that Sampras would lose his next match. Sampras, however, then defeated two young and upcoming stars of the game, Tommy Haas in the fourth round and Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals. He then defeated Sjeng Schalken in the semifinals to reach his third straight U.S. Open final. This time, he faced Agassi, who he had met in his very first Grand Slam final 12 years earlier. After a four-set battle between the two veterans, Sampras claimed a record 14th Grand Slam singles title and matched Jimmy Connors's record of five U.S. Open singles championships. The tournament was the last of Sampras's career.
Although he played no tour events in the following 12 months, Sampras did not officially announce his retirement until August 2003, just prior to the U.S. Open. Sampras chose not to defend his title, but his retirement announcement was timed so that he could say farewell at a special ceremony organized for him at the open. After retirement, many regarded Sampras to be the greatest player of all time.
During his career, Sampras won 64 top-level singles titles (including 14 Grand Slams, 11 ATP Masters Series events, and five Tennis Masters Cup titles) and two doubles titles. He was ranked the World No. 1 for a record 286 weeks and was year-end No. 1 for a record six consecutive years from 1993 through 1998.
Sampras played the first exhibition match since his retirement on April 6, 2006, in Houston, Texas against Robby Ginepri. Ginepri won the match 6-3, 7-6.
In 2006, Sampras announced he would be playing in World Team Tennis events. 2007 saw Sampras announcing that he would play in a few events on the Outback Champions Series, a group of tournaments for former ATP players who have met certain criteria during their careers.  Sampras won his first two events on tour, defeating Todd Martin in both finals (one of which included Sampras's first trip to his ancestral homeland, Greece).  Many observers noted that despite his lengthy layoff from competitive tournaments, Sampras still possessed many of the previous skills he had once displayed on the ATP tour, with John McEnroe going as far as to say that Sampras would be worthy of a top five seed at Wimbledon if he were to enter the tournament. 
In May 2007, it was announced that Sampras would square off against Roger Federer in three exhibition matches across Asia in November. 
Sampras was a serve and volleyer known for several facets in his game, in particular:
Sampras's classically smooth service motion gave him many easy points on aces or service winners. Overall, his serve had great disguise, very quick racquet-head speed, great back-arch, powerful leg-drive, and incredible forearm/wrist pronation. The speed of his serves was frequently 120-140 mph (193-225km/h) on 1st and 110-120 mph (177-193km/h) on second serves. Sampras is considered by many to have had the best second serve in history. He was known for producing aces on critical points, even with his second serves.
Opponents frequently played to his backhand, which was considered to be his weaker side. To counter this, Sampras often camped on the backhand side while rallying from the baseline and often baited opponents for his great running forehand. Later on in his career, as his foot speed slightly declined, Sampras was forced to play closer to the center of the court.
His style changed dramatically between the early 1990s and the time he retired. Sampras excelled on hard courts. He served and volleyed on his first serve and frequently stayed back on his second serve. Towards the latter part of his career on hard courts, Sampras played a serve and volley game on both his first and second serves. On grass courts, Sampras served and volleyed on both serves throughout his career. When not serving in the early years of his career, his strategy was to be aggressive from the baseline, put opponents in a defensive position, and finish points at the net.
In his later years, he became even more aggressive and would either employ a chip-and-charge strategy—just chip back the return and run up to the net, waiting for a volley or try to hit an offensive shot on the return and follow his return to the net. Sampras's aggressive strategies worked best on fast surfaces—like hardcourts and, in particular, grass— but were weaker on slow surfaces like clay. As a result, he dominated Wimbledon (played on grass) but never won the French Open (played on clay).
an accurate and powerful first serve, one of the best of all time;, which he could hit with topspin or slice deep;
his net game - Sampras' volleys were excellent, and he arguably possessed the best overhead smash in the history of the men's game;
his mental focus, allowing him to play his best at decisive moments, such as hitting second serve aces at break point down.
his perseverance, most notably demonstrated in his 1996 U.S. Open quarterfinal match against Alex Corretja. After vomiting on the court, Sampras came back to hit a second serve ace and eventually won the match. Playing style
Sampras's older sister Stella is head coach at UCLA, Thalassemia minor limits physical and athletic endurance and causes those who have it to feel fatigued when forced to perform athletic feats. Sampras was generally able to control this condition, although he was not known for his endurance in extremely long matches. Sampras vomited on the court during his epic 7-6, 5-7, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 win in the 1996 U.S. Open quarterfinals against Àlex Corretja - a match that lasted 4 hours and 9 minutes.
Sampras's businesslike attitude to tennis and cautious handling of the press led critics to bemoan his lack of charisma, but his natural talent and work ethic, combined with his introverted nature, led him to let his accomplishments speak for themselves.
Personal and family life
Christo Van Rensburg (1-2), Andy Roddick (1-2), Max Mirnyi (1-2), Marat Safin (3-4), Lleyton Hewitt (4-5), Paul Haarhuis (1-3), Richard Krajicek (4-6), Sergi Bruguera (2-3), Michael Stich (4-5), and Derrick Rostagno (1-2) were the only players who finished with a winning record against Sampras (minimum three matches). He was 20-14 against Andre Agassi, 12-7 against Boris Becker, 12-8 against Michael Chang, 2-0 against Jimmy Connors, 16-4 against Jim Courier, 8-6 against Stefan Edberg, 5-3 against Ivan Lendl, 3-0 against John McEnroe, 2-1 against Mats Wilander, and 12-4 against Patrick Rafter.
Grand Slam finals
Masters Series finals
Note: Tournaments were designated as the 'Masters Series' only after the ATP took over the running of the men's tour in 1990.
A = did not participate in the tournament
SR = the ratio of the number of singles tournaments won to the number of those tournaments played
Career finals (92)
- Forest Hills
- Orlando Runner-ups (2)
ATP Tour career earnings
Sampras won a record 14 Grand Slam singles titles during his career.
Sampras finished the year as No. 1 on the ATP rankings for a record six years. He is the only player to have finished as ATP No. 1 for six consecutive years (1993-98).
Sampras was the ATP No. 1 ranked player in the world for a record 286 weeks.
Sampras and Jimmy Connors share the record for most U.S. Open men's singles titles won during the open era, with five titles each.
William Renshaw and Sampras share the record for most Wimbledon men's singles titles won, with seven titles each.
Sampras was included in the year-end ATP top ten rankings for 12 years. Only Connors, Ivan Lendl, and Andre Agassi have stayed in the ATP top ten longer.
Sampras finished his career with a record U.S. $43 million in career prize money.
Sampras captured 64 ATP titles during his career, which makes him fourth on the all time list.
Sampras won 11 ATP Masters Series titles and stands third on the list for most Master Series titles won, behind Andre Agassi (17) and Roger Federer (14).
Sampras appeared in at least one Grand Slam final for 11 consecutive years (1992-2002), winning at least one of those finals in eight straight years (1993-2000).
Ken Rosewall and Sampras are the only men to have won Grand Slam singles titles as a teenager, in their 20s, and in their 30s.
Sampras won at least one title for 11 straight years (1990-2000) and 12 of 13 (except 2001). In addition, he won at least four titles per year from 1990-1999, and captured at least two per year from 1990-2000.
Sampras captured the ATP World Championship (now renamed the Tennis Masters Cup) a record five times in Germany (1991, 1994, 1996-97, and 1999). He shares this open era record with Lendl.
Sampras compiled a 19-9 career Davis Cup record (15-8 in singles) and was a member of winning teams in 1992 and 1995.
Sampras served a career-high 1,011 aces in 1993 and 974 aces in 1995 to lead the ATP circuit.
Sampras won a career-high 10 titles and compiled a personal-best 29-match winning streak in 1994.
Sampras won a career-best 85 matches in 1993 and on April 12 of that year became the 11th player in the history of ATP rankings to reach the No. 1 spot.
Sampras was the youngest U.S. Open men's singles champion at 19 years, 28 days in 1990.
Sampras compiled a 40-2 match record on Centre Court at Wimbledon and 63-7 overall at the All England Club.
Sampras compiled a 762-222 record during his years on the circuit, winning more than 77% of all the matches he played in 15 years.
Sampras won singles titles in 11 different countries: Austria, Australia, Belgium, People's Republic of China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States. Records and achievements
Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Player of the Year for six consecutive years from 1993 through 1998.
International Tennis Federation World Champion for six consecutive years from 1993 through 1998.
U.S. Olympic Committee "Sportsman of the Year" in 1997. He was the first tennis player to receive this award.
GQ Magazine's Individual Athlete Award for Man of the Year in 2000.
Selected the No. 1 player (of 25 players) in the past 25 years by a panel of 100 current and past players, journalists, and tournament directors to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the ATP in 1997.
Voted 48th athlete of Top 50 Greatest North American Athletes of ESPN's SportsCentury (also youngest on list).
In 2005, TENNIS Magazine named Sampras the greatest tennis player for the period 1965 through 2005, from its list, TENNIS Magazine's 40 Greatest Players of the TENNIS Era.  Awards
Andre Agassi was perhaps Sampras's greatest rival, and the rivalry often brought out the best in both players' games.
The 1990 U.S. Open was their first meeting in a Grand Slam final. Agassi was favored, having achieved a top-three season ending ranking and had last beaten Sampras 6-1 6-1. Sampras had dispatched veterans Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe to reach the final, two opponents that Agassi was glad not to face. However, Agassi lost to Sampras in straight sets.
The Sampras-Agassi rivalry reached its height in 1995. The two players traded the number one ranking several times that year, and each player only agreed to participate in the Davis Cup only if the other also played. They were concerned that if one played while the other rested during the weeks leading up to the French Open, the one who rested would have a competitive advantage heading into the year's second Grand Slam event. Both ended up playing, and the U.S. won the Davis Cup that year. Notable Sampras-Agassi matches of 1995 included the finals of the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Canadian Open, and U.S. Open, with Sampras winning at Indian Wells and the U.S. Open. The 1995 U.S. Open men's singles final between Sampras and Agassi was the highest-rated match among U.S. television audiences, as Agassi declared that it would decide the number one ranking (Agassi also had a much publicized relationship with actress Brooke Shields). Agassi's loss likely hurt him mentally and led to a career slump that lasted a couple years.
The next time Sampras and Agassi met in a Grand Slam final was at the 1999 Wimbledon. For both, it was considered a career rejuvenation, as Sampras had suffered a string of disappointments in the last year, while Agassi was regaining his status as a top-ranked player after winning the French Open. Sampras forfeited the number one ranking to Agassi, after pulling out of that year's U.S. Open with injury. They faced each other twice in the season-ending ATP World Championships, with Sampras losing the round robin match but winning the final to capture the title. They then faced off in the semi-finals of the 2000 Australian Open, with Agassi prevailing in a five-set match.
The second highest-rated match of their rivalry was the final of the 2002 U.S. Open. It was the first Sampras-Agassi meeting in a U.S. Open final since 1995. It was also notable because both had defeated several up-and-coming players enroute to the final. Several commentators described the 2002 meeting as a symbolic way to close out their rivalry which had been ignited in the 1990 U.S. Open final over a decade earlier. Sampras did not play any further competitive matches after his 2002 triumph.
However maybe the most memorable Sampras-Agassi match came in a 2001 U.S. Open quarterfinal. Sampras battled to a 6-7(7), 7-6(2), 7-6(2), 7-6(5) victory. There were no breaks of serve during the entire match. Reruns of the match are frequently featured on television, especially during U.S. Open rain delays.
The Sampras versus Agassi rivalry goes all the way back to their childhoods when they played against each other in a 1979 junior tournament in Northridge, California at ages eight and nine respectively.
- Orlando Runner-ups (2)