Simon Reed

Who’s the GOAT?: 7-McEnroe v 2-Sampras

Simon Reed

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In the fourth of our Greatest of All Time quarter-finals, seventh seed John McEnroe takes on second seed Pete Sampras in an intriguing clash.

Under our GOAT rules each match is three sets, one on each surface. Here's the run down on the two contenders.

John McEnroe

Nationality: American

Seeded: 7

Grand Slam titles: 7

Australian Open: Semi-final (1983)

French Open: Finalist (1984)

Wimbledon: Winner (1981, 1983, 1984)  

US Open: Winner (1979, 1980, 1981, 1984)

Pete Sampras

Nationality: American

Seeded: 2

Grand Slam titles: 14

Australian Open: Winner (1994, 1997)

French Open: Semi-finalist (1996)

Wimbledon: Winner (1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000)

US Open: Winner (1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2002)

Real life head-to-head: 0-3 Sampras

Simon Reed's verdict

What a fantastic match-up. This one is almost too close to call.

My initial thought is that on grass, you can't look past Sampras, even if it's McEnroe we're talking about.

Sampras won seven Wimbledon titles to McEnroe's three, so you'd have to expect him to win a one-off set. But it would be close and a tie-breaker would most likely be needed to settle it.

McEnroe's serve was an immensely powerful weapon and he would be incredibly tough for Pete to break so I see it going to serve before Sampras's extra winning experience on the grass proves decisive.

On clay, it's a tough one as neither player was that successful on the red stuff. Neither player managed a Roland Garros title, with a semi-final appearance the closest Sampras got.

I would give it McEnroe by a nose, if only because on the one occasion he reached the final in Paris - in 1984 - he played brilliantly against Ivan Lendl and seemed to have the title wrapped up only to let it slip in the end.

And on hard courts, like on the grass, the pair are virtually inseparable. But, again, given his stunning record - five US and two Australian - I'd have to back Sampras.

To watch them at their best against each other would be fantastic: Sampras's muscularity opposed to McEnroe's court craft and speed at the net.

McEnroe would have hustled Pete and put pressure on his backhand but, because of what he achieved, I'm sure Pete would have found a way to win the match.

Final verdict

Sampras wins: 7-6 (grass) 5-7 (clay) 7-6 (hard)

Who do you think would win?


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