Roger Federer and Pete Sampras are legends who have made massive contributions to the game of tennis. It is because of players of their stature, that watching tennis has been worthwhile and invaluable. They played just once against each other in 2001 Wimbledon, wherein Federer squeezed past Sampras in a gripping 5 set match.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the baton was passed on from an ebbing legend to the future maestro of tennis. They dominated in different eras altogether, so it would be unfair to compare both of them. It is essentially because the approach of the game has entirely changed over the years; right from the technology used in the racquets to the physical and mental training and even the grass at Wimbledon which now provides bounce to the ball.
But for tennis aficionados, it would be a delight to pit them against each other and find out who has better results.
Pete Sampras turned pro in 1988 and retired around the time when Federer’s career had just about started to flourish. Federer had an initial vantage of two years until Nadal came into picture in 2005. Whereas, Sampras faced heavy competition from players like Boris Becker and Andre Agassi, who were at the pinnacle during early 1990s. In between 2003 and 2005, Federer had already won five grand slam titles, a major reason why he had an edge over other players.
But, in order to come close to comparing them, let us have a look at some numbers that might help draw a comparison between them.
1) Career Titles
Federer has a total of 88 singles titles and his win-loss ratio is 1054-236 (81.7%) in a span of 17 years.
On the other hand Sampras has won 64 singles titles with a win-loss ratio of 762-222 (77.4%) in a span of 15 years.
Both have played long enough in their career, though Federer has been more consistent, chiefly because they are not injury prone.
2) World no.1 ranking
Sampras holds the record for the most year-end number 1 consecutive ranking, which is six times and has spent a total of 286 weeks at the top. Whereas, Federer has spent a total of 302 weeks and 237 consecutive weeks at the top of the rankings, the most by any player.
3) Grand Slams
Sampras has made a total of 18 final appearances, winning 14 of them. He also has a total of 23 semi-final and 29 Quarter Final appearances, making the win-loss stat to be 203-38 (84.23%)
Federer has an unparalleled feat of making it to the semi-finals of all Grand Slams in a span of 5 years (2005-2009). He has made it to the finals 27 times (winning 17), semi-finals 38 times and quarter finals 46 times. The win-loss percentage for Fed is 85.54 (297-49). These figures are considerably better than Sampras’.
Pete Sampras has 3 straight GS victories once in 1993-94, barring the French Open that year. Federer has achieved this feat twice in 2005-06 and 2006-07, barring the French Open as well.
Federer has made it to 10 finals and won 7, five of them have being consecutive. Sampras could have had a perfect 8/8 consecutive win from 1993-2000, but lost to Richard Krajicek, the eventual champion, in the QF of 1996. This loss is reminiscent to the epic battle in 2008 where Nadal dethroned Federer in 5 sets.
Federer is widely credited as the most complete player in the open era. His all-court prowess is the biggest impetus against Sampras. Federer won the 2009 Rolland Garros in five appearances, and has often made it to the semi-finals at the event. Sampras had a poor track, with a solo semi-final appearance in 1996.
Roger has the second highest number of Masters 1000 series, tied with Novak Djokovic at 24. Sampras has won 11 of these. The stats for the Year-End Championships is comparable, Federer with 6 and Sampras behind with 5.
Sampras always missed the mark in clay courts, but his run at hard and grass courts is remarkable. With 423-101(80.7%) in hard and 101-20(83.5%) in grass court, he is only a tad bit behind Federer.
“In an era of specialists, you’re either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist, or a hard court specialist… or you’re Roger Federer” as described by Jimmy Connors.
What differentiates a great player from a good player? It’s the shot selection and more importantly, it’s execution. The serve has been a powerful weapon for both of them. Federer has hit a total of 9,439 aces till date, Sampras trailing behind at 8,713.
Federer’s first serve percentage is 62 and first serve points won is a respectable 77%.
Sampras had arguably the most consistent and strong serve in the 90s. It is evident from the stats that shows first serve at 59% and first serve points won at 81%.
Apart from the Wilson racquet and the single handed backhand, interestingly, Federer and Sampras both have the same percentage of break points converted at 41.