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Last Updated: Friday, 22 August, 2003, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Sampras reigns supreme
By Caroline Cheese
BBC Sport

After Pete Sampras' retirement, BBC Sport Interactive considers his place among the top five greatest players ever.

1. Pete Sampras
Pete Sampras has no equal in terms of sustained dominance.

He finished the year as world number one for six years between 1993 and 1998 and collected a record 14 Grand Slam titles in his career, an average of one a year.

There is one omission from his otherwise impeccable CV and that is a French Open title.

Once a semi-finalist and three-times a quarter-finalist, Sampras always looked vulnerable on the slow red clay.

But his win at the US Open in 2002, 12 years after his first Grand Slam win, convinced many that Sampras deserved the "greatest ever" title.


2. Rod Laver
It is a tribute to 'Rocket' Rod Laver that he is still remembered as one of the world's best, 23 years after he retired.

Rod Laver holds up the Wimbledon trophy in 1970
Laver triumphed at Wimbledon four times
Few people under the age of 40 remember seeing the Australian play, but his awesome reputation has survived the years, in part due to the respect he commands among today's players.

Laver twice won all four Grand Slams in a season, in 1962 and 1969, and surely would have added to his tally of majors had he not missed the intervening years after turning professional.

A canny left-hander, Laver combined aggressive groundstrokes with lightning quick movement around the court.


3. Bjorn Borg
Borg's record of five consecutive Wimbledon titles is all the more impressive when you consider that on three occasions, he preceded it by winning the French Open.

His ability to master the heavy clay of Roland Garros before regularly sweeping all before him on the grass of Wimbledon remains unmatched.

Critics point to his lack of titles at both the US Open and the Australian Open, but Borg played the latter only once and reached the last eight or better three times in New York.

His early retirement at the age of just 26 should also count in his favour - in a career that lasted just eight years, he racked up 39 titles.


4. John McEnroe
In terms of natural talent, McEnroe is seen by many as the best ever.

Renowned for his hatred of training, McEnroe relied on instinct and flair more than any other player.

John McEnroe
McEnroe was a tortured genius

And while his fiery temperament often overshadowed his achievements, he retired with a respectable seven Grand Slams and a record 79 singles titles.

Not only that but McEnroe, unlike so many of his fellow players, combined fierce single-mindedness in singles with equal devotion to the team ethic.

The American captured 40 doubles titles, including 10 Grand Slams, and was dedicated to the Davis Cup, winning 41 out of 49 singles rubbers and 18 of 20 in the two-man event.


5. Andre Agassi
Agassi may have been beaten by Sampras in terms of titles won, but the Las Vegan can claim to have achieved something beyond even his great rival.

In 1999, he became the first man since Laver to collect all four Grand Slam titles when he won the French Open.

The feat should not be underestimated - particularly as Agassi's game is not best suited to grass.

In the early days, Agassi's commitment to the sport was questioned as he became more famous for his outlandish dress sense than his tennis achievements.

But Agassi silenced the doubters with a momentous win over Goran Ivanisevic at Wimbledon in 1992 and could yet add to his tally of eight Grand Slams.




VOTE RESULTS
Is Pete Sampras the greatest tennis player of all time?
Yes
 59.64% 
No
 40.36% 
25617 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

SAMPRAS BOWS OUT


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