Tuesday, November 6, 2007

2001 Wimbledon 4th rd.: Federer def. Sampras

Federer def. Sampras: 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5.
Classic: Yes
Rating: 93
Available from: Wimbledon Classic Matches (search Amazon.com).

The Plot: This is the only match that Federer and Sampras, arguably the two greatest players of the last 20 years, ever played on the ATP tour. At the time, Federer was a 19 year old player making his Centre Court debut, and Sampras, 29 years of age, was a 13-time Grand Slam champion (7 times at Wimbledon) in the twilight of his career. That day, Federer ended Sampras reign at Wimbledon and announced his arrival at the top echelon of the pro game.

The Match: There are no breaks of serve in the 1st set, and both men are playing superb tennis, serving and volleying most points. The set is decided in a tie-break. In the 2nd set, Federer has numerous chances to break Sampras serve, but can't convert. Eventually, it is Sampras who breaks to take the set 7-5.

Federer finally breaks Sampras in the 3rd set, but Sampras breaks back immediately. However, when Sampras is serving at 4-4, he misses a slam-dunk overhead at break point, and Federer serves out the set in the next game.

Sampras plays his best tennis in the 4th set tie-break, hitting at one time a 136mph 1st serve, and taking the tie-break 7-2. The 5th set is a thrilling affair, as both men face multiple break points against their serve, but save them with great play. But when Sampras serves at 5-6, Federer hits several great returns to earn two match points at 15-40. He takes the first with a return winner down the line - and sinks to his knees in triumph.

The bottom line: Federer plays an outstanding match: He is never nervous, he sticks to his game plan, he serves almost as well as Sampras, and plays all the big points well. Sampras is playing very well, too, but he seems to believe for too long that Federer will let himself down, and when he raises his level in the 4th set it seems too late. Federer winning the 1st set gets the plot going, and the crowd senses what may happen (they are very loud at the end.) My only real misgiving is that the match is a little bit short on exciting points and winners, at least from Sampras end of the court. All the same, it is a great match and no tennis enthusiast should miss it.

Bonus info: Tears of joy well up in Federer's eyes as he sits down after the match. It wouldn't be until 2003 we would see those tears of joy again, when he won his first Wimbledon Championship.

Wimbledon DVD release: I don't find the official Wimbledon release is very well produced. There is no real introduction, and throughout the match you can faintly hear the commentators communicating with the technical staff in the background. It seems that the DVD has been rushed to the market.

1 comment:

tennfan said...

Since both Federer and Sampras are two of the greatest players ever to have played the game, comparisons are bound to arise, as to who was the better of the two. while I was in awe of 'pistol Pete' of the awesome serve, I am completely blown by the sheer artistry and sublime skills of Roger Federer.I think the comparison should be made on two counts : who is the better grass court player and who is a better player overall? On the second point, Federer is obviously superior. He won the French Open, where Sampras never even made it to the Finals and Federer won 3 more US open championships than Sampras in more or less the same number of appearances. coming to the first point, the grass at Wimbledon has undergone a change. The serve, return, volley game is long dead. During the times of Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Pete Sampras, a typical game consisted of just three shots. But with the changes in the surface, and the ball gripping more in recent times, passing shots and screaming service returns have discouraged the serve and volley enthusiasts. Which explains the rise and rise of the Nadals and the Djokovics. Would Sampras have been able to play in this era? My thinking is no. Federer however, has been able to adapt. For someone who was "out-Samprasing" Sampras in that epic 2001 round of sixteen, he has done remarkably well to retain the capacity of winning the grass court Holy Grail even in 2012!!So to my mind, Federer is better than Sampras both on grass as well as overall. The greatest ever? I do not think so. The greatest ever has to be one Rod Laver. A man, who won all the slams in a single year twice over, will have to answer to this haloed description. I will take a wager here - his records will NEVER be broken. What Bradman was to cricket, Laver is to tennis.