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Nitto ATP Finals 50 Years: Sampras crushes Boris’ party | ATP circuit

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ATPTour.com continues its series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Nitto ATP Finals, watching the biggest stars and greatest moments in tournament history.

In the 90s, Nirvana shifted, the Soviet Union disappeared, Netflix, Google, and online dating were launched on the new World Wide Web, and Pete sampras dominated the ATP World Championships in Germany. The always cool and collected Californian has won a remarkable 12 majors over the decade.

He led the United States team to a Davis Cup title in 1995, beating the Russian team in Moscow. And Sampras won five Masters titles and two Grand Slam Cups. Other than curing lepers, turning loaves of bread into fish and winning Roland Garros and Olympic gold, Sampras did it all.

Petros “Pete” Sampras has largely retired from the public eye since retiring from the sport in 2002 after beating André Agassi in the final of the US Open. And with Big Three tennis surpassing its record of 14 majors, young tennis fans who have never had the pleasure of watching Pete’s emphatic overhead may not know much about his remarkable history, though. ‘he detailed sparingly during his career but with much more detail. in his memoir, A Champion’s Mind: Lessons from a Life in Tennis.

As a child, Sampras often practiced 12 hours a day. His trainer insisted he play with a wooden racquet until he was 13 because he believed it would help him perfect his shots. “For some reason, I didn’t have best friends – or friends, for that matter – but I believed in God because he gave me the Gift,” he writes in his book. Sampras suffers from thalassemia minor, a condition that can inhibit the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, but that hasn’t stopped him from making his way into the Top 10 at 19 and staying there for most of his career. .

From his own perspective, Pistol Pete’s most difficult feat may have been his open-era record of six consecutive FedEx ATP rankings late in the year from 1993 to 1998. His five Masters titles helped. to lock in those honors, but don’t get as much attention as they deserve. In a recent conversation with a great British tennis player Tim henman, and Novak Djokovic for ATPTour.com, Sampras reflected on the event and how it helped make him the dominant player in the sport of the decade.

“It was stressful, I wasn’t sleeping well, I wasn’t eating well, I just put all this pressure on myself to break this record which was important to me,” said Sampras. “It was great, but it definitely took a lot of emotion from me. Just even the next few years, those years at No. 1 and stay on top year after year after year. … It’s very difficult to stay n ° 1. And doing it six years in a row has been for me in my career… I look back at it, and I’ve won a lot of majors, I’ve done great things – but staying # 1 for all these years, I think. that it was my greatest achievement.

Djokovic, who now has six year-end No.1 finishes on his CV and topped Sampras’ mark by 286 weeks overall as world No.1 in September, has agreed. “Staying at No.1, finishing seasons as No.1 … court, is huge. So, six years in a row? I really don’t know how… Pete did it, but immense respect for it.

Sampras reflected that chasing the year-end No.1 was a consuming 24-hour job. “Just to be dominant, and not just to stay No.1 for six months or a year, but to really cement that and own it, it’s not easy, as Novak knows,” said Sampras, who now has 49 years.

His journey to cement his preeminence in the sport ended each year in the 90s at the ATP Tour World Championships in Germany. Sampras played in the event a remarkable 11 consecutive times, compiling a 35-14 record from 1990-2000. In comparison, Djokovic, who also won the title five times, went 36-14 and played in the tournament 10 times in a row from 2007 to 2016. For his part, Federer made the season finale 14 years in a row for a long time, from 2002 to 2015. He has won the title six times and has 59 wins in the tournament. ‘event, against 17 losses.

Each of Pete’s five titles in Germany – he won the tournament twice in Frankfurt and three times after moving to Hanover – has been filled with victories against legends in the sport. The list of his victims of his five titles reads like a who’s who in sports: Michel stich, André Agassi, Ivan Lendl, Jim Courier, Stefan Edberg, Goran Ivanisevic, Patrick chevron, and of course, its great rival Boris Becker, which he played seven times, all in Germany, where Becker was a national hero.

Sampras won four of those seven encounters, including the two times they met in the finals, in 1994 and 1996. “(Boris) was really like the king coming home,” Sampras told Henman and Djokovic. . “It was difficult to play… It was a beast. Boris played well inside. He was a very imposing figure on the pitch. Boris is a great guy. And having his German fans behind him was difficult, no doubt about it – you don’t just play a great player, you deal with the fans.

Sampras’ victory in four hours and five sets over Becker in the final of 96 at the intimate Festhalle in Hanover remains one of the most exciting in the history of the tournament. Becker won the fourth set in a gripping tie-break, 13-11, but the resilient Sampras won the game 6-4 in the fifth, winning the game on a 24-stroke rally.

Hanover 1999

“We were both exhausted,” Sampras recalls. “It was a nice hug at the end; we hugged each other. It was one of the best games of all time that I have played. The atmosphere was fantastic. We were both playing really well at the same time.

Everything was meant to be. I think it was one of the best ATP Finals games in history.

Sampras is not prone to self-promotion or hyperbole. He once told Sports Illustrated, “I could be a jerk and get more publicity, but that’s not who I am.” And so, his pride to think about his five Nitto ATP Finals titles and his incredible victories over Becker in Germany deserve to be highlighted.

“We were both playing very well at the same time on a fast court,” he said. “It was two heavyweights. And this crowd was loud, but fair. It was a great rivalry.

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