By some luck for tennis junkies, Pete Sampras was born on August 12, 1971 and Roger Federer was born on August 8, 1981. The two men are almost exactly 10 years apart in age. Tennis fans waited from Borg’s retirement to Sampras’ ascendency to see a player win over 10 slams in his career. From 1990 to present, Sampras, Federer and Nadal have all broken the 10 major count. I’m just going to say that we are fortunate to be witnessing this level of excellence.
This site contains the best breakdown of data comparing the two players. I must emphasize again check out this site for the quantitative comparison of tennis’ two most decorated Grand Slam champions. Beyond Grand Slam excellence, each man has claims to fame in terms of the ranking system and World Tour Finals. Federer recently passed Sampras for the most total weeks ranked #1, but Sampras still holds the record for 6 calendar years finished at #1. Roger holds 6 World Tour Finals crowns, but Sampras never got to play two out of three set championship matches for the year end event so I’d say Federer’s 6 are roughly equal to Sampras and Ivan Lendl’s 5 year end titles.*
Consider the Following
1. Of the previous 20 Wimbledon Championships, only 5 did not include either Sampras or Federer as one of the finalists. Only 6 did not conclude with either Sampras or Federer as champion.
2. Pete Sampras finished #1 from 1993-1998 and Roger Federer finished #1 from 2004-2007 & 2009. 11 of the past 19 years have had one of the two finish the year ranked #1. Federer could make it a 60% mark for the tandem if he finishes 2012 at #1.
3. Pete Sampras and Roger Federer are part of a three way tie for the most Wimbledon crowns ever (Open Era and pre-Open Era) and are part of a 3 way tie for the most US Open titles of the Open Era.
4. The two combined to contest 42 Grand Slam finals from the US Open 1990 – Present. They won 31 of these 42 Grand Slam finals.
5. They shared some common opponents (i.e. Lleyton Hewitt vs Sampras at the 2000 and 2001 US Opens and Lleyton Hewitt vs. Federer at the 2004 and 2005 US Opens), but they only played one time on tour. Roger Federer d. Pete Sampras at Wimbledon 2001 in the round of 16 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5.
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Comparing Their Years
If Pete Sampras’ career in 1990 was at the same point as Roger Federer’s in 2000, then it is pretty easy to see who had the better year at the same point in his respective career.
- Sampras would have the early edge as his 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 were all better years than Federer 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003.
- Federer’s 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 would all to my mind be better than Sampras’ 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999 (in many cases by saying better I might as well be saying that winning $2 million is better than winning $1 million. Both are pretty outstanding).
- Sampras in 2000 won Wimbledon and was runner-up at the US Open. I would rank that slightly ahead of Roger’s 2010 wins in Australia and the World Tour Finals.
- Federer’s 2011 and 2012 are ahead of Pete’s 2001 and 2002. Since Pete did not play past 2002, anything Roger does beyond this point will also be ahead of what Pete did. That leaves Roger with 8 superior head-to-head years and Sampras with 5 superior head-to-head years (or you could just look at this graph to compare the quality of their years on tour).
* – In a 2 out of 3 set format Roger would have won the 2005 final he lost to Nalbandian. Roger only had to go 2 out of 3 sets to win the 2010 and 2011 World Tour Finals as well as a weather shortened final in 2004.