Will Federer, Like Sampras, Win His Last U.S. Open at Age 31?

JA AllenSenior Writer IAugust 22, 2012

Will Federer, Like Sampras, Win His Last U.S. Open at Age 31?

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    Pete Sampras was born in August 1971. A decade later in August 1981, Roger Federer was born.

    Throughout his time on courts around the world, each player has earned copious accolades and set many records.

    The Swiss-born Federer appeared to be following in "Pistol Pete's" footsteps.

    He and U.S.-born Sampras both remain in the neverending debate concerning who is the greatest ever to play the game. Yet today, Sampras is being systematically overtaken by Federer in each and every category where the talented American held a record.

    Federer surpassed Sampras as the male player who holds the most Grand Slam singles titles. Sampras held the record of 14 titles, the last of which he earned when he overtook Roy Emerson's record with his 12th Grand Slam victory at Wimbledon in 1999. Sampras won his 14th Grand Slam in 2002 at the U.S. Open.

    A decade later, Federer advanced past Sampras in 2009 at Wimbledon when the Swiss won his 15th title. He soon added another at the 2010 Australian Open.

    His latest Wimbledon victory in 2012 gives Federer 17 total titles—three beyond Sampras.

    This year's win at the All England Club also allowed Federer to tie Sampras for total weeks at No. 1 at 286 weeks. He then passed him to hold the record alone the following week.

    Both Federer and Sampras are tied with five U.S. Open championships. Sampras won his last in 2002 at the age of 31.

    Federer has an excellent chance to once again surpass Sampras by also winning his potential "last" U.S. Open title at 31.

Sampras and Federer: Counting Down Their Respective U.S. Open Campaigns

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    Americans William Larned, Richard Sears and Bill Tilden all won the U.S. Open seven times prior to 1930.

    Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer have each claimed five U.S. Open titles since the Open Era began in 1968.

    Pete Sampras played in the U.S. Open 14 times, winning five times and reaching eight finals. His total record is 71-9 with an 88.75 winning percentage.

    Sampras lost in the opening round of the U.S. Open the first year he played at age 17. After that, he never lost before the fourth round. 

    Roger Federer has played in 12 U.S. Opens, starting in 2000. He won his first title there at age 23.

    Since then he has won the title five times, reaching six finals. His record to date stands at 61-7 with a winning percentage at 89.71.

    His wins were consecutive from 2004-2008. He lost, ending that streak in 2009. 

    Prior to winning his first title, Federer lost three times in the fourth round and once in the third. Since winning his fifth title in 2008, Federer has lost three times.

    In fact, the Swiss has not reached another final since 2009.

Sampras: The First Win

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    1990: Pete Sampras Wins His First U.S. Open, Defeating Andre Agassi

    As a wildcard in 1988, 17-year-old Sampras was defeated in the first round by Jaime Yzaga 7-6, 7-6, 4-6, 5-7, 2-6.

    In 1989, an unseeded Sampras lasted until the fourth round losing to the 11th seed, fellow American Jay Berger 7-5, 6-2, 6-1.

    But in 1990, a 12th-seeded Pete Sampras defeated No. 4  Andre Agassi 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 to win his first U.S. Open title.

    The No. 1 seed Stefan Edberg had lost in the first round in 1990, which upset set the tone for that year's tournament.

    Sampras unexpectedly defeated No. 3 Ivan Lendl in five tough sets in the quarterfinals. Then he eased past unseeded John McEnroe in the semifinals in four sets.

    Andre Agassi, however, fell in straight sets in the final.

    At age 19, Sampras won his first major in New York City. Twelve years later he would win his last Grand Slam on the same court.

Federer: The First Win

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    2004: Roger Federer Wins His First U.S. Open Over Aussie Lleyton Hewitt

    At the 2000 U.S. Open, an unseeded Roger Federer lost in the third round to the No. 12 seed Juan Carlos Ferrero 5-7, 6-7, 6-1, 6-7. The Swiss was 19 years old.

    Unlike Sampras in 1990, Federer 10 years later, was not ready for primetime tennis.

    In 2001, at age 20, Federer lost to No. 2 Andre Agassi 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in the fourth round.

    Federer, seeded No. 13, would lose again in the fourth round of the 2002 U.S. Open to No. 32 Max Mirnyi of Belarus 6-3, 7-6, 6-4.

    As the No. 2 seed in 2003, Federer once again lost in the fourth round to No. 13 David Nalbandian 6-3, 6-7, 4-6, 3-6.

    Finally, Federer won the U.S. Open for the first time in 2004.

    It took Federer five sets to put down Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals—by far Federer’s toughest win during the 2004 tournament.

    The Swiss defeated Tim Henman in the semifinals and Aussie Lleyton Hewitt in the finals 6-0, 7-6, 6-0.

    This was the first win of five consecutive at the U.S. Open.

Sampras: The Second Win

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    1993: Sampras Defeats Cedric Pioline to Win U.S. Open Number Two

    After winning his first U.S. Open title in 1990, Sampras, seeded sixth, lost to fellow American Jim Courier, seeded No. 4, in the 1991 U.S. Open quarterfinals 6-2, 7-6, 7-6.

    Coming back in 1992, No. 3 Sampras lost to the No. 2 seed Swede Stefan Edberg in the U.S. Open finals 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2.

    All four top seeds had advanced to the semifinals in 1992 with No. 1. Courier and No. 4 Chang joining Edberg and Sampras.

    Finally, working his way back into the winner’s circle, No. 2 Sampras defeated No. 15 Frenchman Cedric Pioline 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 in the 1993 U.S. Open final.

    To get there Sampras overcame  No. 7 Michael Chang in the quarterfinals in four sets, 6-7, 7-6, 6-1, 6-1.

    Then Sampras took care of No. 14 Alexander Volkov 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals. In the finals the American met and defeated No. 15 Pioline 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.

    As it turned out, Sampras did not face a seeded player until the 1993 quarterfinals.

    After winning his first Wimbledon title in 1993, Sampras had accumulated three Grand Slam singles titles, two captured at the U.S. Open.

Federer: The Second Win

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    2005: Federer Wins His Second Consecutive U.S. Open Final

    This would mark the last U.S.Open final for American great Andre Agassi. After their tough quarterfinal contest in 2004, Federer knew No. 7 Agassi would fight him down to the wire in the final.

    Federer won over Agassi 6-3, 2-6, 7-6, 6-1.

    To get to the final, Federer first had to dispatch his old nemesis David Nalbandian of Argentina, seeded No. 11 during the quarterfinals at the 2005 U.S. Open. Then Federer faced Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, seeded No. 3 in the semifinals.

    Federer shut Nalbandian down completely, winning 6-2, 6-4, 6-1. Hewitt’s resistance was stiffer with Federer finally prevailing 6-3, 7-6, 4-6, 6-3.

    The final match was always on Federer’s racket even while Agassi took the second set. Agassi’s energy dissipated when he lost the tiebreak in the third set.

    The American went quietly in the fourth set as Federer won his second U.S. Open title.

Sampras: The Third Win

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    1995:  Sampras Wins Number Three, Defeating Andre Agassi

    In 1994 No. 1 Pete Sampras lost in the fourth round to unseeded Peruvian Jaime Yzaga 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7, 5-7. It was a huge upset. Yzaga would lose in the quarterfinals to Karel Novacek.

    But in 1995, Sampras, seeded No. 2, met Andre Agassi, seeded No. 1, in the finals of the U.S.Open for the second time.

    It became a special pairing for tennis fans. They would greatly anticipate the match-up as the tournament got underway hoping Sampras and Agassi would survive to the finals of the U.S. Open.

    To reach the finals, Sampras defeated unseeded Byron Black of Zimbabwe in the quarterfinals 7-6, 6-4, 6-0. He followed that win by dispatching No. 14 Jim Courier in the semifinals 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

    At the same time Agassi was winning over Petr Korda in the quarterfinals and Boris Becker in the semifinals.

    In the finals Sampras defeated Andre Agassi 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 to win his third U.S. Open title.

Federer: The Third Win

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    2006:  Federer Turns Back Andy Roddick to Win His Third.

    Andy Roddick had won the U.S. Open in 2003, and he would make it back to the finals as the ninth seed in 2006 to face the No. 1 seed Roger Federer.

    Federer had to defeat a very tough No. 5 James Blake in the quarterfinals to advance to the next round. Until the quarterfinals, Federer had not dropped a set, but Blake would end that. Federer survived: 7-6, 6-0, 6-7, 6-4.

    In the semifinals, No. 7 Nikolay Davydenko of Russia fell 6-1, 7-5, 6-4, allowing Federer to  move into the finals where American Roddick awaited.

    The two former U.S. Open champions traded opening sets 6-2, 4-6 but Federer would win the last two 7-5, 6-1 to win the 2006 U.S. Open in four sets. 

    It would mark Federer's third consecutive title at Flushing Meadows.

Sampras: The Fourth Win

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    1996: Sampras Wins Number Four Over American Michael Chang

    Once again in 1996, the top two seeds would meet in the finals of the U.S. Open. This time, however, the man on the opposite side of the net from No. 1 Sampras was No. 2 Michael Chang, not Andre Agassi.

    To reach the finals, Sampras had to defeat unseeded Spaniard Michael Corretja in five treacherous sets 7-6, 5-7, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 during the quarterfinals.

    No. 4 Goran Ivanisevic was Sampras’ next opponent in the semifinals. Sampras overcame Ivanisevic 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3. The win sent the No. 1 seed on to the final.

    In the 1996 final Sampras defeated Chang 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 to win his fourth U.S. Open title. It also marked his first consecutive U.S. Open championship.

    Tennis life for Sampras, however, would become difficult after this win.

Federer: The Fourth Win

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    2007: Federer Wins His Fourth Title Defeating Novak Djokovic

    The No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic was the new rising star on the men’s tour. In 2007 he advanced to the finals of the U.S. Open to do battle with Federer. 

    Prior to the final, Federer again faced No. 5 Andy Roddick at the U.S. Open. This time, however, it was the quarterfinals where the two waged a war on Arthur Ashe 7-6, 7-6, 6-2.

    Federer advanced to meet No. 4 Nicolas Davydenko in the semifinals, winning that match 7-5, 6-1, 7-5.

    In the finals Djokovic did his best but came away short, losing 7-6, 7-6, 6-4.

    Many times during the match the Serb held a winning hand but never cashed in, letting Federer off the hook to rise back up and take the match.

    The victory marked Federer’s fourth consecutive U.S. Open title.

Sampras: The Fifth and Final Win

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    2002: Sampras Defeats Old Foe Agassi for U.S. Open Title No. 5

    From 1996 until 2002, Sampras had a long dry spell.

    In 1997 Sampras, the top seed, lost in the fourth round to the No. 15 Czech Petr Korda 7-6, 5-7, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7. It was a huge upset.

    Then in 1998, Sampras, again the No. 1 seed, lost in the semifinals to eventual champion No. 3 Patrick Rafter 7-6, 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6.

    Sampras had to withdraw in 1999 because of a back injury.

    During the 2000 U.S. Open, Sampras, seeded No. 4, was the runner-up to No. 6 Marat Safin, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

    No. 10 Sampras ended as the runner up to No. 4 Lleyton Hewitt in 2001. The Aussie won 7-6, 6-1, 6-1. Most Sampras fans were beginning to think that Sampras would never again win at Flushing Meadows.

    In 2002, No. 17 Sampras defeated No. 11 Andy Roddick 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals. Then he dispatched No. 24 Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands 7-6, 7-6, 6-2 in the semifinals.

    Meanwhile, the No. 1 seed Hewitt went out in the semifinals to No. 6 Andre Agassi.

    In 2002, Pete Sampras defeated Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 to win his fifth and final U.S. Open title—his fourteenth grand slam win.

    Shortly thereafter, Sampras would leave the game for good, hanging up his tennis racket to allow his records to speak for him.

Federer: The Fifth and Final Win?

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    2008: Federer Wins His Fifth U.S. Open Championship Over Murray.

    In 2008 Roger Federer was not the No. 1 seed for the first time since the 2003 U.S. Open. He was the No. 2 seed with Rafael Nadal as the new No. 1.

    The Swiss had not won a major all year. The 2008 U.S. Open was his last hope. 

    After a tough fourth round encounter against Russian Igor Andreev which Federer escaped winning 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, the Swiss advanced to the quarterfinals.

    In the quarters, Federer met and defeated Gilles Muller 7-6, 6-4, 7-6.

    In the semifinals, Federer found himself opposite Novak Djokovic, the player he had faced in the 2007 U.S. Open final.  The Serb won a set but ultimately failed to stop Federer. Federer won 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 to advance to the finals.

    The Scot Andy Murray had advanced through the draw to contest his first major final in 2008. Federer, however, dispatched him in straight sets 6-2, 7-5, 6-2.

    In doing so Federer won his fifth and final U.S. Open to date. The win revitalized Federer and allowed him to regain his confidence. But he has not managed another U.S. Open victory—to date.

2012: Will Federer Win His Sixth U.S. Open?

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    2009-2011 Federer Loses Three in a Row

    At the 2009 U.S. Open Federer advanced to the finals where he lost to No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.

    The No. 1 seed, Federer seemed to have the match in hand when the 20-year-old Argentine stormed back to win in five sets 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2. It was a huge upset for Federer and a brilliant win for del Potro.

    In 2010, Federer lost in the semifinals to Novak Djokovic with the apparent victory on his racket. Yet, the Swiss could not capitalize. Djokovic won 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5, advancing to the finals where the Serb lost to Rafael Nadal.

    In 2011 Federer and Djokovic again fought it out for five sets in the semifinals. Once again with match points on his racket Federer lost 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 5-7.  Djokovic again advanced to the finals, this time defeating Rafael Nadal to claim his first U.S. Open crown.

    Pete Sampras was 31 years of age when he won his last U.S. Open title. Roger Federer is now 31 years of age. Sampras went five years, from 1996-2002 between his fourth and his final win at the U.S. Open. Federer has not appeared in a final since 2009—three years ago.

    He is the favorite entering the U.S. Open in 2012. At age 31, Federer seems primed to win another trophy on Arthur Ashe—just as Pete Sampras did a decade ago.