Pete Sampras, seven titles at Wimbledon. Roger Federer, eight titles at Wimbledon. If these two are not the best players of the Open Era on grass, God come down and see it. Some privileged people even had the fortune to see them shine up close, almost always from the first final of the theater. It is the case of Paul Annacone, mythical coach of the men’s circuit who came to direct the career of both. In a report prepared by ATP, the American coach breaks down the game of his two wards, marking how they differed and in which cases they followed the same pattern.
“At Pete his service clearly stood out. For me, he is possibly the best server I have ever seen, at least the one who best defended his games with the service ”, begins by pointing out Annacone. “Roger is a bit different in this regard, although his serve is also incredible, but he would highlight the rest of his game on grass earlier, especially the ability to catch the ball early and anticipate each play. This makes him very different from the rest of the people, “said the 57-year-old.
Two profiles that obtained their maximum prestige on grass, although starting from a different style. “That is surely the big difference between the twoPaul points out. “Roger rushes from the bottom of the field to always have a good position on the track and seize the initiative to send with the first shot; Pete directly overwhelmed you with his service. ”
Fate wanted them to meet only once, yes, it had to be at Wimbledon. That victory by Federer in 2001 marked a before and after in his path, making him his heir for the future. Later this prognosis would be confirmed, coming to reign in La Catedral eight times (one more than Pete) and opening a debate without clear result: Which of the two was better on grass? Can the seasons be compared?
“Both have been the two best players on grass courts of their respective times, although they played very differently in each of them,” says Annacone. “They were both incredibly confident, mentally solid when under pressure. In tournaments that take place on grass, where you barely have time to adapt, both developed that innate fluidity to think quickly with their feet, and thus then get the most potential out of their game in the great moments, “says the New York player.
That difference Paul is talking about focuses especially on the type of grass of the 90s and the type of grass today, two surfaces that are not at all alike. Would Novak Djokovic have won five Wimbledon on the grass three decades ago? “Now it is possible to expose your own style of play on all surfaces, but years ago it was impossible to do so and have the same level of success,” says Annacone, former world No. 12 in his time as a player. “In Pete’s day, tennis was much more of a pim-pam-pum, but then everything changed, the sport evolved, although the best players always learn to adapt ”.
That’s where the key to solving this equation lies, the master letter that Paul uses to reflect the greatness of Pete and Roger. “I don’t like to compare times, but I have always believed that the best players would be able to solve any obstacle. Tennis has changed a lot, but the locker room leaders realize everything, they know what to do in every situation and I’m sure both of them would have adapted to the circumstances if they had had to play in another decade ”, he concludes.