Tennis is a sport all about great rivalries. One of the all time classic rivalries was between Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. The two battled many times throughout the 1990’s and into the 2000’s, but when it was all said and done, there’s no question that Sampras was the better player. In the current era of tennis, there are also two names that stand alone above everybody else – Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. During a recent interview, Agassi weighed in on an always hot topic in tennis – who’s the greatest of all time?
When it comes to Grand Slam singles titles (Australian, French, US, Wimbledon) , Federer is on top of the mountain with 17. Sampras is right behind him with 14 and Nadal ranks third with 13. Agassi is down the list a bit further with eight major titles, putting him in a tie for eighth all-time.
With that in mind, here’s what Agassi had to say about Federer and Sampras:
“I think Federer is a class above, quite frankly. I mean, you’re talking about a guy who dominated pretty much on every surface, minus one guy on clay. He’s won everything. Pete was obviously off the hook on faster courts but during the clay season players wanted to play against him. It was opportunity to get a win over him, it was an opportunity to beat him. You didn’t have that luxury with Fed. He was really the world class, all-around player.”
The one blemish on Sampras’ storied career resume is the fact that he never won a French Open and thus never completed the career Grand Slam. Furthermore, his career winning percentage on clay is much worse than Federer’s – .625 vs .766.
Many people will just say that Agassi is jealous of Sampras or that he doesn’t like him, but it’s pretty clear that he’s just speaking the truth. Sampras was not the same player on clay, it was his big weakness. In Federer’s prime, you couldn’t really say that about him. Sure, he’s only won once at the French Open, but he did get the job done.
But on top of those comments, Agassi thinks there’s an argument to be made for Nadal being the greatest of all time. He’s won an unprecedented number of French Open championships (eight) and he’s got the best of Federer throughout his career (21-10). Nadal is still running strong, while it’s clear that Federer’s career is almost over.
But after making all these comments, don’t think Agassi isn’t aware of his place in history. When asked if he entered into the conversation with Sampras, Federer and Nadal, he responded with this:
“It’s not even close. I’m way down the list from guys like that. I did manage to win all of them but that’s just the first criteria in my mind.”