Pete Sampras: Tennis Players Have Become Too One Dimensional
by Tom Gainey | December 9th, 2014, 12:37 pm

Speaking to the Times of India during his trip to Indian for the inaugural IPTL exo, Pete Sampras gave a harsh critique on the current state of the men’s game.

“The players have become too much one dimensional,” Sampras said. “They stay at the back of the court and wait for the opponent to commit the mistake. It is harder to return to the net and easier to stay at the back.”

The former No. 1 who was known for serve and volley, says the net rushing era has past, for now.

“That seems difficult because young players learn from the top players and most of the top players play from the baseline,” Sampras said. “Even in Wimbledon players are staying back. Maybe, not really knowing how to come forward. During our playing days, we’d play Boris (Becker) one day and then Stefan (Edberg) the next day. It was a different game altogether. Obviously, a lot of things have changed. All youngsters are now looking at Rafael and Roger. Even Roger is playing from the baseline.

“To be a top player, one needs to have a good and penetrating forehand. All good players have it, he said. “Look at Rafa (Nadal). He has a very good forehand. Well, to be a tennis player, you need to be in good shape and have some other strengths also. Still, I fell, the most important weapon should be the forehand.”

Sampras also ruled out joining the new trend of celebrity coaching and he also doesn’t hold out much hope for a future rebirth in American tennis for the men. “I don’t even see them among the Top 10 in near future,” he said of the current young American men.

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27 Comments for Pete Sampras: Tennis Players Have Become Too One Dimensional

the_mind_reels Says:

I was always a big fan of Sampras growing up, but it seems like since his retirement most of what I hear out of his mouth is pessimism and criticism. Perhaps I’m just looking in the wrong place.

As an American, I also don’t necessarily see a ton of promise in the current stock of up-and-coming American players, but he could also consider offering some constructive advice on that topic rather than just crapping on young American tennis players.

The game has become much, much less about playing the net — that much is obvious. Whether that makes tennis today more one dimensional than Sampras’ own style of play — always rush the net — is debatable. As an example, Federer has changed his tactics in a pretty meaningful way of late by incorporating a lot more serve and volley into his game, so it seems generalizing to say he plays from the baseline.

Hippy Chick Says:

IMO Petes been quite disrespectful here….

Pete Says:

Sampras was also one-dimensional. There were matches where he he rushed the net every single point on serve (or at least over 90% of the time). I’m not a fan of a grindfest, but I also wasn’t particularly interested in watching 90s era tennis either. I think there is a happy medium that current tennis, most of the time, is loosely played around, unless you are a Nadal or a Djokovic, because they make zero errors from the back of the court, so why would they come up?

jane Says:

pete, i largely agree with your post that tennis now is at least pointing towards a happy medium as we see players starting to move forward more often. moreover, given that i am nole’s fan and follow his game, i’d point out how much more he’s been coming forward in the past couple of years, but especially 2014. his net statistics at wimbledon were excellent, or in the us open match versus murray- a player we expect to come forward because of his natural touch – nole came forward way more. both becker and vajda have said he is looking to come forward when he can to end points more quickly and extend his career.

i wonder if we won’t see more of the same from both andy and rafa?

we’ve already seen it with fed, and to a lesser degree but still noticeable with nole too.

i think the game with transition a bit again, as these titans look to extend their stays at the top.

jane Says:

*will transition

lyle nubbins Says:

Grigor has the right idea to add more net play – -scamper to the net when opponent is pulled off the court with the big groundies. That’s how you get to the net in the modern game. Old school chip and charge doesn’t work.

roy Says:

yeah, they all just wait for mistakes because they’re not charging the net. what a tennis expert sampras is. gotta respect his analytical mind.

skeezer Says:

So funny reading so called wannabe valid opinions of fans who think the know anything about tennis and Sampras. To say Sampras was “one dimensional”, and the satirical attitude that someone knows better by making fun of Sampras’s mindset.
Sampras won 14 Slams, thebest in his era. Agaasi had a better baseline game, but Sampras owned him for the most part, and was no slouch from the baseline either in his day, despite his no show on Clay. In fact, his running FH from back court was the very best in the game at the time. Who are these neophites who try and fail to be critical of something they no nothing about?
Ben where are You?
Bring back the game from “wait until you make an error” to “make it happen”, Tennis will be better for it.

sienna Says:

agassi is a level below sampras. Sampras was a top elite player from start to finish.
Agassi found that mojo later on in his career. he was a bum misfit for the first part of his career. he probably would have gladly do it over with better attitude when given the chance.

and u know agassi won slams in that part of his life. still he gets my respect from his later showings at AUOPEN.

Pete Says:

Sampras won 14 slams. That made him a successful player, not a multifaceted one. Sampras’ criticism was that players don’t rush the net enough; I pointed out he rushed the net, on serve, almost always. The contrast is ironic considering his complaint. As usual, you’ve missed the point entirely.

SG1 Says:

I think Sampras’ point is that there isn’t much in terms of a contrast in styles anymore. A contrast in styles can make for some really compelling matches e.g. Mac-Borg, Mac-Connors, Edberg-Lendl and Sampras-Agassi. I don’t think a contrast in styles is a bad thing.

As for Sampras’ game being one dimensional, this is nothing more than an ignorant statement. This man could stay back and/or net rush with the best of his era. I watched Sampras grind out more than his share of points from the baseline.

I’ve made the case in the past that Sampras’ game, while not better than Federer’s, was in some ways, more complete as he was a better volleyer. I also don’t think there’s any doubt he was a better server. And that incredibly explosive running forehand would have been great in any era.

Pete definitely played a more aggressive game than today’s players. This is largely due to the fact that he came from the McEnroe, Connors, Edberg, Becker generation. The surfaces were faster and balls quicker. If a player had the type of athletic skills Sampras had, it would practically have been a crime to make him a baseliner. 14 slams tells you all there is know about the game he played. He did everything the right way….except for his record at RG.

SG1 Says:

Clay was for Sampras what grass was for Lendl. I think that if Pete didn’t have issues with Thalassemia minor, he may have found a way to eke out an FO somewhere. The FO was a tremendous physical grind for him as the surfaces dulled some of his power. It was generally quite hot and the matches could go on for 3,4 or more hours. And assuming he did win a clay court match, the reward involved playing an even tougher clay courter the next match. The faster the surface became the more Sampras liked it. Makes sense if you have an attacking style. Red dirt went against the grain for Pete.

skeezer Says:

Well said.

andrea Says:

hmmm…interesting comments from Pete. but he also played in a different era, and as others have mentioned, the racquet and string technology has changed since he retired, just as it had changed from when borg etc were at their peak and when pete came along.

pete also had one of the best serves in the men’s game, so combined with what the prevailing style of play, and racquet technology was at the time of his dominance, he could pull off the serve and volley with relative ease.

roger has been the only top player in the past year to really charge the net on a regular basis, thanks to edberg i imagine. when you’re watching on TV, net charging/play does make it more interesting, imo.

is the baseline game one dimensional? it’s what the game has evolved to, like it or not. do i want to watch another 6 hour AO Final? not really, but at this stage, i have no choice.

elina Says:

People too easily forget with time just how good Sampras was. A true great who dominated his competition. Only Federer and Nadal are on his level.

The French Open is faster today than in Pete’s era due to a lighter ball. He probably would have 1-2 French Opens had he played in this era (or at least in the mid-2000’s).

Fantastic OTR passing shots showing that he was more than just S&V. A reminder that it takes more than one dimension to win 14 slams…

elina Says:

Ooops! SLOWER today lol!

elina Says:

No I was right the first time!!!

You guys, I haven’t had my third coffee yet today and I have jetlag so please forgive me for all of my posts!!!

Jo Says:

It is just that we have seen the best of tennis in todays generation and we miss sometimes the old one dimensional instead serve, serve & volley style. I remember long ago that whenever there is a 10 to 20 count rally points the crowd already are in full excitement as they have seen an incredible tennis. Is not Pete humbled by tiny baseliner Hewitt, Safin, Federer’s better returns and Agassi’s in London 2014. Bring in today the top volleyers and lets see how Djokovic and Nadal bagel them.

pirate1821 Says:

“During our playing days, we’d play Boris (Becker) one day and then Stefan (Edberg) the next day. It was a different game altogether. Obviously, a lot of things have changed.”

Not that much has changed. I agree the two guys Sampras mentioned were notable net-rushers. However, Sampras has also conveniently forgotten that his era (and the one before that) also had strong baseliners. Agassi, Chang, and Courier immediately come to mind. Before them it was Lendl and before him was Connors.

Steve Harris Says:

Pete likes to think he’s the best ever, but his skill set has been surpassed by many players as the game has gotten more serious with players training way harder. All the top players today have leg muscles that prove this point.

As for his criticism, well, he’s never been the most well spoken guy.

Bob Lewis Says:

Defences and returns have improved. It is more difficult for a net rusher to be in position where he can volley a high ball.

Roger is the class Says:

Sampras is right.

So Roger is the 1st place of favorite player a tennis fan chooses continuously for 10 years. in ATP official

Roger is also good at net play. He also has a gold medal of a doubles.

Sampras should do bashing about Nadal.

Nadal insult Sampras era before.

Matador Says:

Sampras is the number 3 in Open Era. And top 10 for sure in the Histrory. Unfortunately, his shortcomings on clay is a big hole in his great career.

He, for sure, will be one day captain of the USA team. Is imposible with all the money the USTA has, to not found a champion for the next decade.
Someone in the league of Sampras, Agassi, Connors and MC Enroe and some very good players like Courier, Chang, Gerulaitis and Roddick.

Tennis Island Says:

We all know it. Coaches have to step forward and start implementing more skills than just FH and BH

brando GOAT poster Says:

Pete’s spot on. The difference between the top dogs gamewise today is little: it’s almost like they are the same in many respects. Variety is did. Still: props to Pete for giving the rafa shout out.

brando GOAT poster Says:

Variety is dead not did lol.

rajjon Says:

I used to be able to glance a match from all the way across the room just walking by and tell who was playing by their style. Pete’s right. With few exceptions today’s guys on the tour are nothing more the baseline slugging juniors with muscles.

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