SW19 has seen a number of all-time greats achieve legendary status due to their performances on Wimbledon turf and Pete Sampras definitely falls into this category.
Names synonymous with Centre Court include Roger Federer, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.
But for many years the name that stood out above the rest was Sampras.
The seven-time champion has undoubtedly etched his name into Wimbledon folklore, and with it being 26 years since his first triumph, it’s only fitting we revisit that landmark occasion.
Heading into the tournament there was some controversy around the rankings. Sampras was ranked world number one, despite the fact he had only reached one major final in the previous two years.
Jim Courier, meanwhile, had been in six Grand Slam finals in the same time period, winning four of them. He instead had to settle for being the number three seed, also behind Stefan Edberg.
Even with his favourable seeding, Sampras made hard work of his first round match, losing the first set of the tournament in a tie-break against Australian Neil Borwick.
The match was eventually wrapped up in four sets, including another tie-break, before successive straight sets victories over Jamie Morgan, Byron Black and British wildcard entry Andrew Foster.
A mouth-watering quarter-final clash was set up with Andre Agassi, a rematch of the 1990 US Open final – Sampras’ only Grand Slam final victory to date.
It didn’t disappoint.
Sampras raced into a two-set lead before letting his advantage slip away just as quickly, leading to a decider.
A single break of serve handed the victory, and a semi-final berth, to Sampras, as another chapter in what would become one of tennis’ greatest rivalries was written.
Standing between the American and his first Wimbledon final was another of the greats – Boris Becker.
While Agassi had taken his rival all the way, Sampras was able to overcome his German counterpart with relative ease. A professional 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory would set up a showdown on Centre Court with Courier. It had to be Courier.
For all the pre-tournament talk about who the true number one was, now there was the chance to find out definitively.
An Independence Day showdown between the top two American men in the world.
As we all now know, it was Sampras who secured his spot at the top of the rankings and on the honours board at SW19.
“There’s been a lot of controversy over the computer, how come I’m number one when Jim was in the finals of the French Open and won the Australian,” said Sampras afterwards.
“He can’t take this title away from me. I don’t think there will be any more controversy.”
Going forward, he would hold the world number one spot for a total of 286 weeks and win a further six Wimbledon trophies in the next seven years.
It’s an eight-year spell of dominance that not even Federer was able to replicate in his prime.
So on this day, it’s only right to give kudos to Pete Sampras – a truly legendary Wimbledon icon.
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