Tennis Prose



Sampras Says Too Many Good Players Is A Detriment

Pistol Pete Sampras, winner of fourteen Grand Slam singles titles, believes the ATP World Tour does not benefit from having an abundance of super tennis players. Too much talent is actually a detriment for professional tennis.

“What has hurt the men’s game is there are too many good players,” said Sampras. “What sells sport today? I don’t think it’s personalities. It’s more matchups. It’s the consistent rivalries. In the men’s game there are so many good players that there are a lot of different winners. There’s not much of a men’s rivalry.”

The interesting aspect of Pete’s point is he actually said this quote in 2000 for an interview with Tennis Week magazine.

“(Back in 2000) there’s not much of a men’s rivalry other than Andre and myself – and we might not meet until a few months down the road.”

At the time in 2000 the ATP top ten consisted of: 1 Andre Agassi, 2 Magnus Norman, 3 Gustavo Kuerten, 4 Pete Sampras, 5 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, 6 Cedric Pioline, 7 Thomas Enqvist, 8 Marat Safin, 9 Nicolas Lapentti, 10 Alex Corretja.

In the year 2000 the general consensus was that the WTA was more popular than the ATP because of the vast array of personalities – Hingis, Kournikova, Davenport, Pierce, Seles, Serena, Venus, Mauresmo, Capriati, Dokic, Clijsters – but Sampras did not agree with that assertion.

And he had a solution to remedy the situation: “Instead of the media taking the easy way out and saying the ladies’ game is more popular, they should put their brains together and note why this is happening. It’s because the men’s game is as strong today as it has ever been. It’s gotten stronger in the past five years. When the men’s game was very popular – Borg, McEnroe, Connors, and Lendl were much better than everyone else. Tim (Gullikson) told me that when he was ranked 15 in the world, he had no chance of beating those guys. You had the rivalries then, the consistent matchups. That’s what fans and the media cling to. Now you have lots of different guys in finals. This is no disrespect to Alex Corretja or Thomas Enqvist, but when they play a final (they did at 2000 Indian Wells), they’re not going to generate the interest in this country like Andre and I would, or any top rivalry.”

The 2000 Australian Open semi of Pete vs Andre broke the all time record for TV sports ratings in Australia.

Nobody understands the value and intrigue of a good old tennis rivalry better than Pete Sampras – and his words from over two decades ago are as prescient as ever.

Today the ATP is filled with perhaps too many very capable, talented players – Thiem, Medvedev, Rublev, Sinner, Tsitsipas, Kyrgios, Novak, Rafa, Fed, Felix, Shapovalov, Fritz, Isner, Korda, deMinaur, Karatsev, Sonego, Musetti, Zverev, Raonic, Nishikori, Wawrinka, Delpo, Cilic, Tiafoe, Carreno Busta – and so the chance to build and create longstanding rivalries just is not as likely to happen.

Pistol Pete had the sense to envision the future of the ATP before it occurred.

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