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Pete Sampras

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Pete Sampras
Pete Sampras (2008) 1, cropped.jpg
Country  United States
Residence Lake Sherwood, California
Born (1971-08-12) August 12, 1971
Potomac, Maryland
Height 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Weight 170 lb (77 kg)
Turned pro 1988
Retired 2002
Plays Right-handed (one-handed backhand)
Prize money


  •   4th all-time leader in earnings
Int. Tennis HOF 2007 ( member page)
Career record 762–222 (77.43%)
Career titles 64
Highest ranking No. 1 (April 12, 1993)
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian Open W ( 1994, 1997)
French Open SF ( 1996)
Wimbledon W ( 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000)
US Open W ( 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2002)
Other tournaments
Tour Finals W ( 1991, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999)
Olympic Games 3R ( 1992)
Career record 64–70 (47.76%)
Career titles 2
Highest ranking No. 27 (February 12, 1990)
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian Open 2R (1989)
French Open 2R (1989)
Wimbledon 3R (1989)
US Open 1R (1988, 1989, 1990)
Team Competitions
Davis Cup W (1992, 1995)

Last updated on: January 23, 2012.

Peter "Pete" Sampras ( / ˈ s æ m p r ə s /; born August 12, 1971) is a retired American tennis player and former world no. 1. During his 14-year tour career, he won 14 Grand Slam singles titles and became recognized as one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

Sampras debuted on the professional tour in 1988 and played his last top-level tournament in 2002 when he won the US Open, defeating rival Andre Agassi in the final. He was the year-end world no. 1 for six consecutive years (1993–1998), a record for the Open Era. His seven Wimbledon singles championships is an Open Era record shared with Roger Federer, while Sampras' five US Open singles titles is an Open Era record shared with both Federer and former world no. 1 player Jimmy Connors. Sampras is the last American male to win Wimbledon (2000) and the ATP World Tour Finals (1999).

Tennis career

Early life and career

Pete Sampras was born in Potomac, Maryland, and is the third child of Sammy and Georgia Sampras His mother immigrated from Sparta, Greece, and his father was born in the United States to a Greek father and a Jewish mother. He attended regular services of the Greek Orthodox Church on Sundays. From an early age, Sampras showed signs of outstanding athletic ability. At the age of 3, Sampras discovered a tennis racket 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. From early on, his great idol was Rod Laver, and at 11, Sampras met and played with him. The Sampras family joined the Jack Kramer Club, and it was here that Sampras's talent became apparent. He was spotted by Peter Fischer, a pediatrician and tennis enthusiast, who coached Sampras until 1989. Fischer was responsible for converting Sampras's double-handed backhand to single-handed with the goal of being better prepared to win Wimbledon.


Sampras turned professional in 1988, at the age of 16, and finished the year ranked world number 97 after starting the year at world number 893. His first professional match was a loss to Sammy Giammalva, Jr. at the February Ebel U.S. Pro Indoor in Philadelphia. However, just one week later at the Lipton International Players Championships in Miami, Sampras defeated two top-40 players before losing to world number 18 Emilio Sánchez. He did not defeat another top-40 player for almost six months, when he defeated world number 39 Michiel Schapers at a US Open warm-up tournament in Rye Brook, New York. In his first Grand Slam singles match, Sampras lost to world number 69 Jaime Yzaga of Peru in the first round of the US Open. Sampras did not advance past the quarterfinals in his next three tournaments, although he did record wins over world number 79 Jim Courier in their first career match-up, and world number 8 Tim Mayotte.

The following year, Sampras slightly improved his ranking to a year-ending world number 81. He lost in the first round of the 1989 Australian Open to Christian Saceanu and the first round of Wimbledon to Todd Woodbridge. He won a Grand Slam singles match for the first time at the French Open, before losing in the second round to eventual champion, 17-year-old Michael Chang, in their first career match-up. At the US Open, Sampras defeated defending champion and fifth-seeded Mats Wilander in the second round before losing to world number 13 Jay Berger in the fourth round. To end the year, Sampras lost in the first round of four consecutive tournaments.

Sampras finished 1990 at world number 5, having started the year ranked world number 61 just prior to the start of the Australian Open. He lost to Wilander in the quarterfinals of the tournament in Sydney. At the Australian Open, Sampras upset twelfth-ranked Mayotte in the first round before losing to thirteenth-ranked Yannick Noah in the fourth round in four sets. His first professional singles title came in February at the Ebel U.S. Pro Indoor in Philadelphia, where he defeated sixth-ranked Andre Agassi, eighth-ranked Mayotte, and eighteenth-ranked Andrés Gómez in the final. This title elevated his ranking into the top 20 for the first time. Sampras did not play the French Open and again lost in the first round of Wimbledon, this time to Christo van Rensburg. Sampras played seven consecutive weeks during the North American summer hard-court season. He defeated John McEnroe in the quarterfinals of the Canadian Open, but then lost to Chang in the semifinals. He also reached the semifinals of the tournament in Los Angeles, where he lost to world no. 2 Stefan Edberg. He did not advance past the quarterfinals in his next three tournaments, losing to Chang, Richey Reneberg, and Goran Ivanišević. In September, he captured his first Grand Slam title at the US Open. Along the way, he defeated sixth-ranked Thomas Muster in the fourth round and third-ranked Ivan Lendl in a five-set quarterfinal, breaking Lendl's streak of eight consecutive US Open finals. He then defeated 20th-ranked McEnroe in a four-set semifinal to set up a final with fourth-ranked Agassi. Sampras beat Agassi in straight sets to become the US Open's youngest-ever male singles champion at the age of 19 years and 28 days. He played five more tournaments and won the Grand Slam Cup to complete his year.


Sampras in 1992.

In 1991, Sampras captured the first of his five career titles at the year-end Tennis Masters Cup. Upon entering the US Open as the defending champion that year, he caused controversy when, after losing in the quarterfinals to Jim Courier, Sampras said that he was not 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, Sampras reached the first round of the French Open for the first of three consecutive years, made it to the Wimbledon semifinals, and was the runner-up at the US Open to Stefan Edberg. Sampras later stated that his loss in the US Open final that year was a "wake-up call" and that he needed to figure out how to become the world number 1. He also played doubles with John McEnroe on the US team that won the Davis Cup, duplicating the feat in 1995.

1992 was also the year when Sampras made his only appearance at a Summer Olympics. The tennis event was played on clay, which was considered his worst surface. Nonetheless, Sampras had a solid showing in Barcelona, advancing to the third round before giving up a two-set lead and losing to Andrei Cherkasov of Russia.


Sampras reached the semifinals of the Australian Open in early 1993 losing again to Stefan Edberg and matched the previous year's quarterfinal performance at the French Open. In April 1993, Sampras attained the world number 1 ranking for the first time. His rise to the top of the rankings spot was controversial because he had not recently won any Grand Slam titles, but he justified his ranking three months later by claiming his first Wimbledon title, beating former world number 1 Jim Courier in the final. This was followed by his second US 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.

Except for a loss in the 1996 quarterfinals to eventual winner Richard Krajicek, Sampras continued to win at Wimbledon for the rest of the decade, becoming the most successful male player in Wimbledon history.

Sampras won the first of his two Australian Open titles in 1994, defeating American Todd Martin in the final. In 1995, Sampras experienced one of the most emotional matches of his career, when he played Courier in the quarterfinals. Sampras's longtime coach and close friend, Tim Gullikson, had mysteriously collapsed during the tournament and was forced to return to the United States. Gullikson was later diagnosed with brain cancer to which he succumbed the following year. Saddened by Gullikson's illness, Sampras began visibly weeping during the match, but managed to win. He lost the final to Agassi. Paul Annacone took over as Sampras's full-time coach after Gullikson'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 US Open titles in 1995 and 1996, despite vomiting on the court at 1–1 in the tiebreak due to dehydration in the 1996 quarterfinals against Àlex Corretja. 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 a 1992 clay court tournament in Kitzbühel, defeating Alberto Mancini in the final. 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 Yevgeny Kafelnikov in Moscow. Sampras also won a 1998 clay court tournament in Atlanta, defeating Jason Stoltenberg in the final.


Sampras won his second and final Australian Open title in January, defeating Carlos Moyà in the final. In July, he won Wimbledon for the fourth time, defeating Cédric Pioline in the final. Sampras also won singles titles in San Jose, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Munich, and Paris, and the ATP Tour World Championships in Hanover, Germany. He became the only player to win both the Grand Slam Cup and the ATP Tour World Championships in the same year.

He had a 10–1 win–loss record against top-10 opponents and was undefeated in eight singles finals. He held the world number 1 ranking for the entire year and joined Jimmy Connors (1974–1978) as the only male players to hold the year-end world number 1 ranking for five consecutive years. His prize money earnings of US$6,498,211 for the year was a career high.


In 1998, Sampras's no. 1 ranking was challenged by Chilean player Marcelo Ríos. (In 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997, Sampras had dominated the ATP tour.) Sampras failed to defend his Australian Open title, losing in the quarterfinals to Karol Kučera, and won Wimbledon only after a hard-fought five-set victory over Goran Ivanišević. Sampras lost a five-set US Open semifinal to the eventual winner Patrick Rafter, after leading the match two sets to one. He lost another semifinal at the Tennis Masters Cup to eventual champion Àlex Corretja. 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. His victory over Andre Agassi in the Wimbledon final is often cited as one of Sampras's greatest performances (despite this, he lost his no. 1 ranking to Agassi the following day, when ATP Tour rankings were updated). That run ended when he was forced to retire from the RCA Championships and the US Open because of a herniated disc in his back. Sampras's ranking was hurt through a combination of withdrawing from the Australian and US 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 number 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 third 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 Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida for the third time in March. He then won a record-breaking 13th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, battling through tendonitis in his right shin and a painful back injury in the process. This victory was his eighth consecutive win in a Grand Slam final (starting at 1995 Wimbledon), which remains a record in the Open Era. After this victory, Sampras did not win another title for more than two years. He lost in the finals of the 2000 and 2001 US Open to Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt, respectively, leading many to speculate that Sampras would never capture another major title. At the 2001 Wimbledon Championships, Sampras lost to Roger Federer, who was 19 at the time, 6–7(7), 7–5, 4–6, 7–6(2), 5–7, in the fourth round, ending Sampras's 31-match winning streak at Wimbledon. The match also marked the first and only time that the two men ever played each other on the ATP tour.


In 2002, Sampras suffered an early exit from Wimbledon, losing in the second round to no. 145 fast-court specialist George Bastl of Switzerland. Sampras had a relatively poor summer leading up to the US Open. Greg Rusedski, whom Sampras had defeated in a long five-set third round match at the US 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 stars, 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 US Open final, and eighth US Open final overall, tying Ivan Lendl's all-time record. This time, he faced Agassi, whom 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 then-record 14th Grand Slam singles title and matched Jimmy Connors's record of five US Open singles championships.

He played no tour events in the following 12 months, but did not officially announce his retirement until August 2003, just prior to the US Open. He chose not to defend his title there, but his retirement announcement was timed so that he could say farewell at a special ceremony organized for him at the Open. At the time of his retirement, many regarded Sampras as the greatest player of all time.

Sampras won 64 top-level singles titles (including 14 Grand Slam titles, 11 Super 9/ATP Masters Series/ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles and five Tennis Masters Cup titles) and two doubles titles. He was ranked the world number 1 for a total of 286 weeks (the second most all-time) and was year-end no. 1 for a record six consecutive years from 1993 through 1998.

Rivalry with Andre Agassi

Sampras won 20 of the 34 matches he played against Agassi.

The 1990 US Open was their first meeting in a Grand Slam tournament final. Agassi was favored because he was ranked world number 4, compared to the world number 12 ranking of Sampras and because Agassi had defeated Sampras in their only previously completed match. However, Agassi lost the final to Sampras in straight sets.

Their next meeting in a Grand Slam was at the 1992 French Open, where they met in the quarterfinals. Although Sampras was higher ranked, Agassi prevailed in straight sets. Their next Grand Slam meeting was at the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 1993, where Agassi was the defending champion and Sampras was the newly minted world number 1. Sampras prevailed in five sets, and went on to win his first Wimbledon championship.

With both Sampras and Agassi participating, the U.S. won the Davis Cup in 1995. Notable Sampras-Agassi matches of 1995 included the finals of the Australian Open, the Newsweek Champions Cup, the Lipton International Players Championships, the Canadian Open, and the US Open, with Sampras winning the Newsweek Champions Cup and the US Open.

The next time Sampras and Agassi met in a Grand Slam final was at Wimbledon in 1999, where Sampras won in straight sets. 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 world number 1 ranking to Agassi when injury forced Sampras to withdraw from that year's US Open. They faced each other twice in the season-ending ATP Tour World Championships, with Sampras losing the round-robin match, but winning the final.

They played each other only once in 2000. The top-ranked Agassi defeated world number 3 Sampras in the semifinals of the Australian Open in five sets.

In arguably their most memorable match, Sampras defeated Agassi in the 2001 US Open quarterfinals 6–7, 7–6, 7–6, 7–6. There were no breaks of serve during the entire match. Reruns of the match are frequently featured on television, especially during US Open rain delays.

The final of the 2002 US Open was their first meeting in a US Open final since 1995. The match also was notable because they had defeated several up-and-coming players en route to the final. Sampras had defeated world number 3 Tommy Haas in the fourth round and future world number 1 Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals, while Agassi had defeated world number 1 and defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in the semifinals. Sampras defeated Agassi in four sets. This was the final ATP tour singles match of Sampras's career.

On August 2010 Sampras played an exhibition game with Andre Agassi at the indoor arena Coliseo Cubierto El Campin in Bogotá, Colombia.


Sampras used one racket type, the Wilson Pro Staff Original, for his entire professional career – a racket first introduced in 1983. He played with Babolat natural gut, with all his rackets re-strung before each match (used or not) at 75 lbs tension (more or less, depending on conditions). His rackets had weight added to bring them close to 400 g, but the frame proper was a production model manufactured at a Wilson factory on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. The handles were custom-built.

Post-retirement, Sampras has used a slightly modified Pro Staff Tour 90 and, from 2008, a new version of the original Pro Staff, produced with in-between head size of 88 square inches and heavier weight at 349 grams unstrung.

Since mid-2010, Sampras has been spotted at multiple exhibitions playing with a Babolat Pure Storm Tour, along with Babolat's popular RPM Blast strings.

"I need a little more pop...I need it if I'm going to play some tennis," he said after playing Gael Monfils in an exhibition at the SAP Open.

During a good part of 2011, Sampras used a racquet that was painted all black, with Tourna Grip and Tourna Damper.

Post-retirement activity

Pete Sampras at Champions Cup Boston, in 2007.

On April 6, 2006, three and a half years after his retirement, Sampras resurfaced and played his first exhibition match in River Oaks, Houston, Texas, against 23-year-old Robby Ginepri. Ginepri won the match in two sets. Sampras later announced that 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 displayed while on the ATP tour, with tennis legend John McEnroe going as far as to say that Sampras would be worthy of a top five seeding at Wimbledon were he to enter the tournament.

On November 20, 2007, Sampras lost the first of three exhibition matches in Asia against Roger Federer in Seoul, Korea. Two days later in Kuala Lumpur, Sampras again lost to Federer in two tiebreaks. However, Sampras was able to win the last match of the series, winning in two sets on fast carpet.

On February 18, 2008, in an exhibition match during the SAP Open, Sampras defeated another active player, former world No. 2 Tommy Haas. Sampras dispatched the German in 43 minutes.

On March 10, 2008, Sampras played another exhibition match against world No. 1 Roger Federer at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Sampras once again lost the match in three tight sets.

In 2009 Sampras won two Outback Champions Series titles. He defeated McEnroe in the final of the Champions Cup Boston in February and Patrick Rafter in the final of The Del Mar Development Champions Cup in March.

Sampras was present at the 2009 Wimbledon final between Andy Roddick and Roger Federer to witness Federer eclipse his mark of 14 major titles and become the most successful man in Grand Slam history. Sampras's record of 14 majors had lasted for seven years.

The following year along with Federer, Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal, he played an exhibition doubles match at Indian Wells to raise money for the people of Haiti who had been affected by the earthquake.

In November 2010 Sampras reported that many of his trophies and other memorabilia had been stolen from a West Los Angeles public storage facility. The loss included only one of his 14 Grand Slam title trophies, from his first Australian Open victory, but also included two Davis Cups, an Olympic ring and six trophies for finishing top in the year-end rankings. Most of the stolen items have since been recovered and returned.

On November 17, 2011, Sampras played and lost an exhibition match against Milos Raonic. Sampras’s serve approached 200 km/h throughout the night, whereas Raonic regularly topped that mark and reached speeds up to 222 km/h.

Records and achievements


  • These records were attained in Open Era of tennis.
  • Records in bold indicate peer-less achievements.
  • ^ Denotes consecutive streak.
Championship Years Record accomplished Player tied
Grand Slam 1995–2000 8 Grand Slam finals won in succession Stands alone
Grand Slam 1993–2000 8 consecutive years winning 1+ title Björn Borg
Roger Federer
Rafael Nadal
Grand Slam 1992–2002 11 consecutive years reaching 1+ final Ivan Lendl
Grand Slam 1990–2002 5+ titles at 2 different Majors Björn Borg
Roger Federer
Wimbledon 1993–2000 7 titles overall Roger Federer
US Open 1990–2002 5 titles overall Jimmy Connors
Roger Federer^
US Open 1990–2002 8 finals overall Ivan Lendl^
US Open 1990 Youngest US Open champion Stands alone
Year–End No. 1 1993–1998 6 years^ Stands alone

Professional Awards

  • ATP Player of the Year: 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998.
  • ITF World Champion: 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998.

Other achievements

  • Sampras is one of only two male players to win the same Grand Slam tournament (Wimbledon) 7 times in the span of 8 years.
  • Sampras (1997–2000) won four consecutive Wimbledon singles titles, second only to Borg and Federer (who have five consecutive titles each).
  • During the Open Era, only Borg (1978–81 French Open and 1976–80 Wimbledon), Sampras (1997–2000 Wimbledon), Federer (2003–07 Wimbledon and 2004–08 US Open), and Rafael Nadal (2005–08 French Open) have won at least one Grand Slam tournament four consecutive times.
  • 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 40 of the 42 singles matches he played on Wimbledon's Centre Court and 63 of the 70 singles matches he played at the All England Club.
  • Sampras is the only male player during the Open Era who played in at least seven singles finals at two different Grand Slam tournaments (8 US Open and 7 Wimbledon).

Other awards

Summary of professional awards.

  • 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, "The 40 Greatest Players of the TENNIS Era".
  • India's largest Sports Website, "" has ranked Pete Sampras at No.5 in their list of Top 20 Greatest tennis players of all time, male or female. Only Martina Navrotilova, Rod Laver, Roger Federer and Steffi Graf have been ranked higher than him.


  • Wimbledon Classic Match: Federer vs Sampras (2001) Standing Room Only, DVD Release Date: October 31, 2006, Run Time: 233 minutes, ASIN: B000ICLR98.
  • Legends of Wimbledon – Pete Sampras (2006) Standing Room Only, DVD Release Date: October 31, 2006, Run Time: 60 minutes, ASIN: B000ICLR84.
  • The Netjets Showdown: Pete Sampras vs. Roger Federer (2008) Arts Alliance Amer, DVD Release Date: April 22, 2008, Run Time: 180 minutes, ASIN: B0013PVGN6.
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