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Federer Is Tennis’ ‘Toughest Out’

  • Posted: Jul 02, 2020

Federer Is Tennis’ ‘Toughest Out’

Opponents get few easy victories against the five-time year-end World No. 1

The ‘toughest out’ in tennis over the past 30 years is Roger Federer.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of players who win the most points in a losing effort found that Federer averaged winning almost 48 per cent of points in 260 matches where he finished second best. The data set is comprised of 491 players who have lost at least 50 matches at the ATP Tour and Grand Slam level since 1991, when official ATP Tour statistics were first recorded.

Federer has lost 25,925 points in the 260 matches where he has suffered defeats. The Swiss has consistently performed better than any player on Tour in losing by the tightest of margins. The leading 10 players in this category since 1991 are:

Highest Percentage Points Won In Matches Lost (Minimum 50 Matches Lost)

Rank Player Points Won %
1 Roger Federer 47.60%
2 Richard Krajicek 47.31%
3 Milos Raonic 47.28%
4 Todd Martin 47.19%
5 Pete Sampras 47.15%
6 Ivo Karlovic 47.09%
7 Novak Djokovic 46.96%
8 Andy Roddick 46.91%
9 Greg Rusedski 46.85%
10 Javier Frana 46.85%

Federer played his opponents even closer in a losing effort when competing indoors versus outdoors.

  • Indoors = 47.89%
  • Outdoors = 47.51%

At this time of year, Federer is usually adding to his Wimbledon legacy where he has won a record eight titles. He is 101-13 at Wimbledon throughout his career. In his 13 losses at the All England Club, he has still won a head-turning 49.6 per cent of points, which is second only to Krajicek (49.71 per cent) out of a data set of players who have lost eight or more times at The Championships.

Federer’s best results in a losing effort have come on grass, while his greatest separation from the match winner has occurred on clay.

Federer: Percentage Points Lost By Surface

Surface Points Won % Losses
Grass 48.89% 27
Hard 47.63% 150
Carpet 47.29% 17
Clay 46.89% 66

When analyzing his performance against opponents he has lost to at least five times in his career, Federer has played Dominic Thiem the closest and struggled the most against Andy Murray in a losing effort. It’s interesting to note that Federer has played Djokovic slightly closer (47.4 per cent) than Nadal (46.9 per cent) when losing to either player.

Federer: Points Won Losing The Match (Minimum 5 Losses Per Opponent)

Rank Player Points Won % Losses
1 Dominic Thiem 48.5% 5
2 Juan Martin del Potro 48.4% 7
3 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 48.3% 6
4 Tomas Berdych 48.1% 5
5 Lleyton Hewitt 47.7% 7
6 Tim Henman 47.6% 6
7 David Nalbandian 47.6% 8
8 Novak Djokovic 47.4% 27
9 Rafael Nadal 46.9% 24
10 Andy Murray 45.9% 11

As a comparison, when Federer wins his matches, his average of points won shoots up to almost 56 per cent. The player with the highest percentage of points won when winning matches is Nadal, at 56.4 per cent.

  • Federer: Average Points Won Losing The Match = 47.6%
  • Federer: Average Points Won Winning The Match = 55.9%

Part of the overall game plan when trying to defeat Federer must be the mindset that the match is most likely going to go down to the wire.

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#NextGenATP Star Ruusuvuori's Goal: 'A Grand Slam Win'

  • Posted: Jul 02, 2020

#NextGenATP Star Ruusuvuori’s Goal: ‘A Grand Slam Win’

The Finnish star won four ATP Challenger Tour titles in 2019

When Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori was five, he remembers playing badminton with his mother at a local sports hall. One day, Mika Muilu, who was watching his daughter’s gymnastics practice, walked up to them.

“He said, ‘You look like you have some hand-eye coordination, so do you want to come play some tennis?’” Ruusuvuori recalled. “That’s how it started. It was one big coincidence that I got into this sport.”

Sixteen years later, Ruusuvuori is one of the ATP Tour’s hottest prospects. The 21-year-old has no doubt about what he wants to achieve on the tennis court.

“A Grand Slam win,” Ruusuvuori said. “That’s a pretty easy question.”

Ruusuvuori is yet to crack the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings — he is currently at a career-high No. 101 — but the Finn is clearly on the rise. Last June, he was World No. 410, but four ATP Challenger Tour titles ignited his ascent. The first Finnish Challenger champion since Jarkko Nieminen in 2013, he was tied for most trophies at that level last year.

“It all went pretty fast in the end. It wasn’t the easiest year from the start,” said Ruusuvuori, who struggled with some health issues at the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. “I learned all the things you have to do at that level… I started winning some matches and then I got the first tournament win and then another one. In the end, it rolled quite well. It was a lot of work to get there, but it was a great, great year overall.”


When Ruusuvuori was young, he watched Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on television. The Finn was six when Nadal won his first Roland Garros trophy.

Ruusuvuori chose to spend time during his 2019 off-season at the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar. The #NextGenATP star says there aren’t many players to train with in Finland, so if they are not available, practice plans get complicated. It didn’t hurt that he got to train once with Nadal in Mallorca.

“It’s something really different, the way he hits the ball and how he keeps the practice so intense. It’s something I’d never experienced and it’s one of the best memories I have on the tennis court,” Ruusuvuori said. “From the first ball [it’s amazing] how hard he hits and just throughout the practice how intense he is. In every practice he’s like that, so it’s amazing how he keeps his focus so high. Every single time he gets something out of practice. There were many things you can see and learn from that, even if it was one practice.”

The four-time ATP Challenger Tour champion reached another final at that level to begin 2020, defeating reigning Next Gen ATP Finals titlist Jannik Sinner in straight sets in the Bendigo second round. He then won his first ATP Tour match in Montpellier, gathering momentum before the Tour was suspended due to COVID-19.

“It was for sure tough. There were so many big tournaments coming up I had never played, like Indian Wells. We got there, practised, and then the tournament wasn’t played. It wasn’t easy,” Ruusuvuori said. “There were a lot of good opportunities coming up, and I thought I was playing well.”

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Ruusuvuori understood the situation was out of his control. The Finn stayed as busy as possible during the pandemic, working on fitness when it wasn’t safe to play tennis. His coach, Federico Ricci — who co-founded the Jarkko Nieminen Tennis Academy — also got him studying.

“Since we had a lot of time, he gave me classic matches to watch from Agassi, Sampras, guys like that,” Ruusuvuori said. “We tried to look at things they did, what the best guys do to try to get a couple points that you could try to get into your game.”

Ruusuvuori watched the 2001 US Open quarter-final between Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, in which there were no service breaks in four tie-break sets. He also watched Marat Safin’s five-set victory against Roger Federer in the 2005 Australian Open semi-finals.

“Those were some pretty good matches to watch,” Ruusuvuori said. “I’ve also watched classic matches in the past, but seeing what they did and how things were then [helps]. Agassi still played against many of the players who are still on Tour, so there are a lot of similar things. It was nice.”

Ruusuvuori builds his game around his serve and forehand, and he believes he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. He’ll hope to show the world that when tennis returns. The Finn is most excited for the US Open, where he is scheduled to make his Grand Slam main draw debut.

“I’m just excited to get back to official matches,” Ruusuvuori said. “We’ve practised a lot now, so it’ll be nice to get back to playing.”

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'It Was Magic': The Day Stakhovsky Ended Federer's Historic Run

  • Posted: Jul 02, 2020

‘It Was Magic’: The Day Stakhovsky Ended Federer’s Historic Run

Ukrainian earned first Top 10 win against Federer

Roger Federer arrived at Wimbledon in 2013 as the defending champion, seeking his eighth crown at the All England Club. But the Swiss, who had reached the quarter-finals or better in his past 36 Grand Slam appearances, was eliminated in the second round by World No. 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky on Centre Court.

Federer entered the second-round clash in form, having lifted his sixth title at the NOVENTI OPEN in Halle with back-to-back victories against Tommy Haas and Mikhail Youzhny. In the opening match of his title defence at the All England Club, Federer dropped just five games to cruise past Victor Hanescu in 69 minutes.

But Stakhovsky played a traditional serve-and-volley style to record his first victory in 21 attempts against Top 10 opposition and only his third win at Wimbledon. The result added to a dramatic opening three days at SW19, following two-time winner Rafael Nadal’s first-round exit against Steve Darcis.

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In the early stages, it was Federer who played his best tennis in the big moments. The defending champion saved a break point at 5-5 in the opening set, before clinching the opener with a pinpoint serve out wide.

But despite the disappointment of dropping the first set, Stakhovsky trusted his high-risk strategy to claim the next three sets and earn a stunning victory. As Federer fired a backhand into the tramline, the Ukrainian fell to the turf of Centre Court to celebrate his 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-5, 7-6(5) victory.

“It was magic, I couldn’t play any better today,” said Stakhovsky. “Every important point I played well and I served and volleyed incredibly well.”

After exactly three hours, Stakhovsky became the lowest-ranked player to defeat Federer at a Grand Slam event since No. 154 Mario Ancic’s straight-sets win at SW19 in 2002. The 6’4” right-hander also became the first player to beat Federer in the opening two rounds of a Grand Slam since the Swiss became a major champion for the first time at 2003 Wimbledon.

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Following the loss, Federer reflected on his streak of 36 Grand Slam quarter-final appearances from 2004 Wimbledon to 2013 Roland Garros.

“It’s normal that after all of a sudden losing early, having been in Grand Slam quarter-finals 36 [straight] times, people feel it’s different,” said Federer.

Since that second-round defeat, Federer has reached the quarter-finals or better in each of his six Wimbledon appearances. The Swiss captured his eighth Wimbledon trophy in 2017 without dropping a set. Stakhovsky struggled to replicate the form he showcased against Federer in his next match. The 27-year-old dropped serve on six occasions to lose in four sets to Jurgen Melzer on No. 3 Court.

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Sampras: 'I Let My Racquet Do The Talking'

  • Posted: Jul 02, 2020

Sampras: ‘I Let My Racquet Do The Talking’

American holds record for six consecutive year-end No. 1 finishes

In the ninth profile of a series on the 26 players to rise to No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, looks back on the career of Pete Sampras. View Full List

First Week As No. 1: 12 April 1993
Total Weeks At No. 1: 286
Year-End No. 1: 1993-1998

As World No. 1
With 286 weeks at the top of the FedEx ATP Rankings, Sampras is second on the all-time list for most weeks at No. 1 (although Novak Djokovic was just four weeks from that mark when the ATP Tour and the FedEx ATP Rankings were suspended in March 2020 due to COVID-19). The American first took the No. 1 spot from Jim Courier on 12 April 1993 and held onto it for the majority of the next seven years, finally relinquishing it for good to Marat Safin on 20 November 2000.

Although seven other players would grab the No. 1 ranking during Sampras’ reign of dominance, Andre Agassi was the only player to hold onto it for more than a handful of weeks. His longest stretch at the top lasted for 102 weeks (15 April 1996 – 29 March 1998) and is the fifth-longest run at No. 1 in ATP Tour history. The American is also the only player to hold the year-end No. 1 ranking on six occasions (1993-1998).

Grand Slam Highlights
Before any of the Big Three claimed their maiden Grand Slam titles, Sampras was the most dominant singles player of all-time at major championships with 14 crowns. He earned his first major title as a relatively unknown 19-year-old at the 1990 US Open and would win at least one Grand Slam for nine of the next 12 years.

Sampras became synonymous with Wimbledon in the ‘90s, winning seven titles (1993-1995, 1997-2000) and holding a staggering 63-7 (90%) record. His final triumph at the All England Club in 2000 (d. Rafter) gave the American 13 Grand Slam titles, surpassing Roy Emerson’s record.

He was nearly as dominant at the US Open, winning five times (1990, 1993, 1995-1996, 2002) and finishing runner-up on three occasions (1992, 2000-2001). The normally subdued serve-and-volleyer was often at his most emotional in New York and produced several dramatic victories there throughout his career. His final major title at the 2002 US Open, his first in two years, was the final event of his career.

Sampras also enjoyed success at the Australian Open, winning two times (1994, 1997) and also reaching the final in 1995. However, his net-charging game historically struggled on the red clay of Roland Garros and his best result was a semi-final showing in 1996.

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Nitto ATP Finals Highlights
Sampras is a five-time champion at the Nitto ATP Finals (1991, 1994, 1996-1997, 1999), tied in second place with Novak Djokovic for most titles at this event. He was a perennial staple at the season-ending championships throughout the ‘90s and qualified for 11 straight years (1990-2000). The American always saved his best tennis for his last event of the season, clearing the round-robin stage in every appearance apart from his debut.

Sampras rallied from a set down to defeat Jim Courier in the 1991 final and repeated that effort in defending his title against Boris Becker. He avenged a loss to Becker during the round-robin stage of the 1996 event by defeating him in an epic five-set final in front of his home crowd in Hanover, then once again defending his title the following year by blitzing Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the championship match.

Sampras’ last Nitto ATP Finals crown in 1999 saw him twice defeat Agassi, dropping just four games in their round-robin clash before scoring a straight-sets win in the final. He finished with a career 35-14 record at this event as he competed across Frankfurt, Hanover and Lisbon.

ATP Masters 1000 Highlights
The California native picked up 11 ATP Masters 1000 titles throughout his career, eight of which came on home soil. He won twice at the BNP Paribas Open (1994-1995) and three times at the Miami Open presented by Itau (1993-1994, 2000), becoming only the second player to complete the ‘Sunshine Double’ in 1994. His triumph in Miami was due in part to a generous display of sportsmanship from Agassi, who agreed to push the final back an hour so Sampras could have more time to recover from a stomach illness.

Sampras’ most dominant Masters 1000 runs came in two of his three championship efforts at the Western & Southern Open (1992, 1997, 1999) as he stormed through the draws in 1997 and 1999 without dropping a set. He also excelled at the Rolex Paris Masters, battling to the winners’ circle in 1995 (d. Becker) and 1997 (d. Korda). And for all of his well-documented troubles on clay, Sampras claimed a Masters 1000 title on the surface with his convincing win over Becker in the 1994 Internazionali BNL d’Italia final.

Biggest Rivalries
The rivalry between Sampras and Agassi during the ’90s transcended tennis and is considered one of the greatest rivalries in sports. Both men were polar opposites: Agassi’s baseline power against Sampras’ penchant for net-rushing, the flamboyant Las Vegas native and the conservative Californian. But like most great rivalries, their differences made for compelling viewing on and off the court.

Sampras leads their ATP Head2Head rivalry 20-14 and holds a flawless record on grass (2-0), while Agassi dominated their clay-court battles (3-1). Sampras also excelled in their major championship battles (6-3), including a 4-1 record in Grand Slam finals. He fittingly won his first Grand Slam title over Agassi in the 1990 US Open final and his last in the 2002 US Open final.

After Agassi went on a four-match winning streak from 1999-2001, Sampras’ coach, Paul Annacone, had him change tactics by going for bigger second serves and more backhand drive returns off Agassi’s second serve. The strategy worked and Sampras reversed the tide by taking the last three matches of their rivalry.

Sampras also had numerous high-profile matches throughout the ’90s against Boris Becker. But while their ATP Head2Head series was relatively even with Sampras leading 12-7, the American stepped up when it mattered most. He won six of their seven finals, including the 1994 and 1996 title matches at the Nitto ATP Finals, 1995 Wimbledon and 1994 Rome. Sampras held a flawless 3-0 record against the German in Grand Slam matches, all of which took place at Wimbledon. 

Memorable Moment
Although Agassi and Sampras’ 2001 US Open quarter-final, which saw Sampras prevail in four tie-breaks, is widely considered to be their most famous match, Sampras’ repeat victory in the 2002 US Open final provided a fairytale ending to his career. Having not won a tour-level title since 2000 Wimbledon, he endured retirement questions in most of his press conferences. The American entered New York that year as the No. 17 seed and was considered a long shot to take the title.

But with the crowds fervently behind him, Sampras ousted Tommy Haas and Andy Roddick en route to the championship match. He saved his best tennis for last by defeating Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 for his fifth US Open crown, matching Jimmy Connors’ Open Era record of five championships at this event, a feat which Roger Federer would also later accomplish. At age 31, Sampras became the oldest champion in New York since Ken Rosewall (35) in 1970.

But it was what Sampras didn’t do afterwards that defined the moment in tennis history. Although he didn’t retire on the spot, Sampras couldn’t muster the drive to enter any events over the next 12 months and retired the following year in a special ceremony in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Agassi On Sampras
“I’ve played some of the most memorable matches of my career against Pete – come out on both sides of that. We’re just opposite. We’re opposite in everything we do. Out there on the court, we’re two styles that are going against each other. It allows for many aspects of the game to kind of reveal themselves. And it’s exciting to play against it, because every point, something special seems like it can happen.”

Sampras On Sampras
“I let my racquet do the talking. That’s what I’m all about really. I just go out and win tennis matches.”

“People know me. I’m not going to produce any cartwheels out there. I’m not going to belong on Comedy Central. I’ll always be a tennis player, not a celebrity.”

“After I went through two years of not winning an event, what kept me going was winning one more major. Once I won that last US Open, I spent the next six months trying to figure out what was next. Slowly my passion for the sport just vanished. I had nothing left to prove.”

Broadcaster/Journalist Graeme Agars
Regarded as one of the great fast-court players of all time, Sampras was all business on court as his big serve and tight volley powered him to his 64 career tour-level trophies, rarely showing much emotion on the way.

But there was one memorable exception and that came in a late night Australian Open quarter-final clash with fellow American Jim Courier. Courier had won the first two sets in tie-breaks and established an early third-set break of serve. But then the momentum of the now famous match turned as Sampras fought back to force a fifth set.

As he prepared to serve to begin the final set, Sampras began sobbing with tears clearly streaming down his face. It was so obvious Sampras was emotionally struggling that Courier asked, from across the net, if he was OK and even offered to finish the match the next day.

Sampras covered his tears in a towel during change of ends, but somehow managed to continue and eventually win the epic match 6-3 in the fifth set. It was only after the match that people learned that Pete’s coach Tim Gullikson had been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour before the championship began.

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Flashback: Bastl Stuns Sampras On 'Graveyard Of Champions'

  • Posted: Jul 02, 2020

Flashback: Bastl Stuns Sampras On ‘Graveyard Of Champions’

‘Lucky loser’ takes out seven-time champion in 2002 Wimbledon

Editor’s Note: But for the COVID-19 pandemic, Wimbledon would now be underway. During the next two weeks, will look back on memorable matches and happenings at the grass-court Grand Slam.

Before it was demolished in 2009, the original No. 2 court at Wimbledon was known as the “Graveyard of Champions” due to several top stars falling to unheralded players on the court throughout tournament history. But out of all the headline-grabbing stunners in that stadium, George Bastl’s second-round defeat of Pete Sampras in 2002 arguably tops the list.

The 27-year-old Swiss, then No. 145 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, lost in the final round of qualifying against Alexander Waske. He only snuck into the main draw after Felix Mantilla pulled out due to injury. Bastl made the most of his second chance by shocking Sampras, the seven-time Wimbledon champion and No. 13 seed, 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4 for the biggest win of his career. The loss marked Sampras’ earliest exit from the All England Club in 11 years.

“It’s a nice story, isn’t it?” Bastl said afterwards. “I gave myself chances because I was practising on grass for the past three weeks. I had won my past three matches and I knew my game was improving match by match. I felt I would have some sort of a chance.’’

Sampras hadn’t won a tour-level title since defeating Patrick Rafter in the 2000 Wimbledon final and critics began to raise retirement questions after a performance that was well below his standards. The American struggled to find the timing on his serve, missed several routine forehands and appeared slower than in previous years.

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Bastl remained calm when Sampras managed to level the match from two sets down and didn’t show nerves when victory was once again within reach. He shouted in delight after Sampras hit a forehand well long on match point and tossed his wristbands into the crowd. Meanwhile, Sampras sat stunned for several minutes before slowly walking off court to a standing ovation.

“I wasn’t at my best,’’ Sampras said. “But I felt like I was going to win the match, even though I was down two sets to love. It’s disappointing. I fought hard to get back into the match. It will be a tough flight home, knowing this is going on and I’m not here.

“I’m not going to end my time here with that loss. I want to end it on a high note and so I plan on being back. As long as I feel like I can continue to win majors and contend, I’ll continue to play.’’

Bastl quickly fell in the next round to eventual runner-up David Nalbandian and primarily played on the ATP Challenger Tour for the rest of his career. Although Sampras never returned to Wimbledon as a competitor, he fulfilled his goal of ending on a high note. He won the US Open three months later in what would be his final professional event.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to correct the score. Sampras won the fourth set.

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