For those who doesn’t know Roger is currently standing on thirteen grand slam titles, one grand slam title short of Pete Sampras all time record of fourteen titles. For a long time people have been debating whether Roger is better then Pete. And while it’s a relevant debate i don’t think it’s a very difficult one to settle.
Having said that Roger hasn’t equaled or passed Pete’s record yet, so this is probably a good time for me to write about the ‘rivalry’. The first thing to consider is the one career meeting that the two had at Wimbledon early in Roger’s career, probably the most important match in his career up until that point.
Federer stated after the match that it was important for him to beat Sampras in his own back yard, and he wasn’t going to falter. He won the epic encounter 7-5 in the fifth set. A truly significant victory given that Sampras had been sitting on the Wimbledon throne for the better part of a decade. And when the moment of truth came Roger was as solid as a rock, calmly steering a forehand return down the line to complete a historic win.
This loss marked the beginning of the end for Sampras and he would retire from tennis not long after. In my mind that was a very significant match in terms of the Sampras-Federer rivalry. It’s obvious that they are both geniuses in their own right, but it has always occurred to me that Roger has an edge over Pete. Hence the 7-5 in the fifth score. Had the score been 7-6 in the fifth set it would have been too close to make a call.
But the fact that Roger broke Sampras to win the match was significant to me, and probably overlooked by the untrained eye. This was just the start however, and ever since Roger has proven over and over to me that he is the better tennis player. As gifted as Sampras was Roger is even more gifted. Roger is more complete. Where Sampras hardly had a weakness in his game Roger has no weakness.
There simply isn’t any cracks in Roger’s game. Technically he has a more sound backhand then Sampras, and his returns is certainly better. There is also less margin for error in his game and when it comes to fitness I’d have to say Roger has the edge. Also Roger has better hands; when the two met in 2007 for three exhibition matches Pete remarked that Roger had a back-hand flick that he never possessed.
All of these factors makes Roger a much better player on clay then Pete ever was. If the best clay courter of all time in Rafael Nadal wasn’t around Roger would without a doubt won a at least one French Open title so far, if not the grand slam itself. Roger may never win a title in Paris but that takes nothing away from the fact that he is in another class then Pete on the clay surface.
Moreover Pete’s strengths was his serve, his forehand, his volleys and his mental abilities. In all these areas he was probably better then Roger, although it’s debatable whether he had a better forehand or mental abilities. Pete certainly had a lot of firepower. And he had a certain killer instinct that Roger does not possess. But then again Federer has a certain calm as he showed against Pete when he beat him in their only career meeting.
Personally i take a lot of satisfaction in the fact that Roger seems to be better then Pete. I used to be a big Agassi fan and it was frustrating and even boring how at times Pete could dominate the best returner of all time with his serve. Federer is of course in another class then Agassi, he has a certain quality as a player and a man that is almost unheard of. I’d have to say that not only does Roger have the edge over Pete as a player but also as a human being.
As a tennis personality he is more popular the Pete ever was, Pete was often labeled as boring and emotionless. Roger on the other hand does show a certain humanity out on court, whereas Pete was kind of stale and emotionless. Even Roger’s game is much more exciting for me to watch, you never quite know what to expect from Roger, whereas with Pete it was pretty much the serve and the forehand that was going to dominate.
Sampras even recently admitted that Roger will break his record and i don’t think there is any doubt that he will. The question is rather how many grand slams Roger will end up winning. I’d say he will at least equal Pete’s record next year, and after that he will only be 28, and who knows for how many years he can still win grand slams after that! It’s really hard to make a prediction here but Roger will almost certainly win at least two more slams then Pete, making sure that it can’t be viewed as luck.
Hopefully this post will put all doubts about who is better to rest and make people appreciate how good this man really is. And not only is he the greatest tennis player that ever lived, he is also a very special human being. I am really surprised when i hear people say Roger is boring or that he’s arrogant. Nothing could be further from the truth. People who say this either know nothing about tennis at all or they are jealous. And that is all there is to it.