Seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras has turned 50 years old. When ‘Pistol Pete’ retired at the age of 32 in 2003 he was regarded as the best tennis player of all-time and had amassed a staggering 14 Grand Slam titles. In honour of one of the sport’s most successful ever players we take a brief look at his extraordinary career….
The Pete Sampras tennis story sparked into life in 1990 when, at the age of 19, he became the youngest ever winner of a men’s singles title at the US Open, defeating rival Andre Agassi. His battles with Agassi would help shape his incredible career and ironically Sampras’ final victory came against his fellow American in 2002 to secure his fifth US Open crown.
For much of the 1990s Sampras was considered as the best player in the world and developed into an imposing big server who delivered in big matches. He was often criticised by some sections of the media and fans alike for not having the flamboyancy or flashiness on court that nemesis Agassi demonstrated. However, Sampras would insist that he was ‘all-business’ when he was on court and it was probably only in retirement that the American was fully appreciated by the sport.
In July 2000 Sampras won his seventh Wimbledon title in a classic serve-and-volley match beating 12th seed Patrick Rafter. This victory on the grass courts of SW19 saw him surpass Roy Emerson as the greatest tennis player of all time as he claimed his 13th Grand Slam title – a record Emerson had held since 1967!
Until the emergence of the ‘Big Three’ in the current era Sampras’ record was regarded as untouchable by many tennis enthusiasts. With Federer, Nadal & Djokovic all currently holding a staggering 20 Grand Slams each it is easy to forget how significant Sampras’ achievements were at the time.
In retirement Sampras has maintained a relatively private life and has always preferred to stay out of the limelight. As he enters his 50th year his legacy in the sport of tennis is very much cemented and he will be recognised for many years to come as one of the greatest of all-time.