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"My career would have been better off without Pete" – When Andre Agassi discussed arch-rival Pete Sampras' domination

Andre Agassi discussed his rivalry with Pete Sampras
Andre Agassi discussed his rivalry with Pete Sampras

American tennis players Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras together formed the greatest rivalry of their era. The duo clashed on 34 occasions, with nine of them being in Grand Slams and five in Slam finals. Sampras scored 20 wins while Agassi managed 14.

In an old interview, Agassi spoke about his rivalry with his compatriot, who won four Grand Slam finals against Agassi. The eight-time Major winner jokingly confessed that his career would have panned out much better in Sampras’ absence. He also admitted, however, that having an intense rivalry with the 14-time Slam champion made him want to do better.

“Well, my career would have been way better off without (Pete Sampras) for sure (laughs). But I think I would've been, I would’ve been less. You know, Pete was a mirror for me – to look at myself and ask myself what can I do to be better or how I need to do something because he obviously dominated so much during his career and getting over the finish line against him were some of my greatest accomplishments," Andre Agassi said.
"But Pete and I were that for each other in a lot of respects. If we were playing our best tennis, we still felt like we could lose and that feeling puts butterflies in your stomach,” he added.

Agassi also shed light on why their contrasting playing styles and temperaments had an impact on the fans and grabbed a lot of attention.

“I think from the fans’ perspective I would believe that to be the case because you got to see all parts of the sport and how differently the game can be played and executed,” he said.

"One of the things that Pete was greatest at was - making you less" - Andre Agassi on Pete Sampras

Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras won a combined 22 Grand Slam titles.
Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras won a combined 22 Grand Slam titles.

Andre Agassi went on to assert that his perspective was different from that of the fans. He remarked that the difference in playing style did not concern him as much as Pete Sampras’ ability to diminish the opponent’s confidence by pulling out some incredible tennis during the decisive moments.

“But from my perspective, you know, one of the things that Pete was greatest at was - making you less. You know, he really had a way of – he had an unbelievable serve, incredible athlete, great hands at net, moved outstanding, but I think his greatest ability was to kind of (lower) you into the sense that you know, you don’t have to do something special today - he would hold serve, he would hold serve, he would play very ordinary for 35 minutes – 40 minutes and then for 30 seconds he would do something spectacular and the set was over with,” he noted.

The four-time Australian Open winner revealed that he never felt comfortable playing against Pete Sampras and thus did not have the luxury of enjoying their rivalry.

“So, when I played against him, I was always on edge and you never felt comfortable. So, I never had the luxury of being on the sidelines and appreciating that feeling or appreciating that match-up because I was so sort of wrapped up in ‘and any moment this set could be over with’ and that makes you your best sometimes but you less than best,” Andre Agassi said.
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Edited by Anirudh
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