Pete Sampras: An American Champion

The United States has produced a slew of great male tennis players, particularly in the Open Era, including John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, and Pete Sampras, leading to significant debate about who is “the greatest.”

Of all American men, Sampras has won the most major singles titles at 14. The next contenders, Jimmy Connors and Andre Agassi, are tied with 8 major singles titles each.

Photo courtesy of AP Photo / Amy Sancetta

Photos courtesy of ITHF/Carol Newsom

Just two years after he turned pro in 1988, Pete Sampras won his first major title at the 1990 US Open, at 19 years and 28 days old. With this title, he became the youngest man to win the US Open, an Open Era record that he holds to this day. Despite this early success, Sampras did not win another major championship until his victories at Wimbledon and the US Open in 1993, which sparked nearly a decade of dominance on the tour.

Many of Sampras’s major success come on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows, however he did win two major titles at the Australian Open. He won his first title there in 1994, defeating countryman Todd Martin in the final in straight sets. His second and final title at the Australian Open came a few years later in 1997, defeating Spain’s Carlos Moya, again in straight sets.



1997 Australian Open Men’s Singles Championship Trophy presented to Pete Sampras

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Sampras’s remaining titles came at the US Open and Wimbledon. However, the grass at Wimbledon was where Sampras excelled, where he won a remarkable seven singles titles in an eight-year span. From 1993 to 2000, Sampras only lost one match at Wimbledon, a quarterfinal matchup in 1996 with eventual champion Richard Krajicek. Although all his Wimbledon victories were significant accomplishments, his final title at Wimbledon in 2000, was somehow more extraordinary than the rest.

Photos courtesy of ITHF/Carol Newsom

Photo courtesy of AP Photo / Dave Caulkin

Early in the tournament, Sampras experienced a shin injury, leaving him in constant pain, and barely able to walk. To be able to compete, he received treatment before and during the matches. When he was not on the court, he was resting, with very minimal training before the final. Despite the injury, Sampras would successfully defeat Australian Pat Rafter in four sets, to win his eighth and final Wimbledon title. This iconic victory not only showcased his skill, but also his tenacity and greatness as a legend of the game.

2000 Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Singles Championship Trophy presented to Pete Sampras

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Photo courtesy of AP Photo / Ron Frehm

His success at the US Open is also quite noteworthy, as he won five titles there, including his first and last major to bookend his career. In both 1990 and 2002, Sampras fittingly faced his fellow American rival, Andre Agassi, in the finals. In a hard-fought, back-and-forth match, Sampras emerged on top in four sets, lifting the trophy for the fifth time in New York. Although this storybook victory would ultimately be his last match, he did not announce his official retirement until the US Open the following year. With all his success across the world, Sampras cemented his place in the annals of tennis history as one of the greats.

2002 US Open Men’s Singles Championship Trophy presented to Pete Sampras

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