Andre Agassi will admit that the competition for greatest tennis player of all-time is still going on — but that’s just because Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are still active, and the competition is merely between them.
While Agassi will give a racket tap to the player he calls the greatest of his generation, Pete Sampras, he says Federer and Nadal are far beyond Sampras and himself — and Sampras isn’t even close to the man who has surpassed his grand slam total.
“I think Federer is a class above, quite frankly,” Agassi said, according to the Huffington Post. “I mean, you’re talking about a guy who dominated pretty much on every surface, minus one guy on clay. He’s won everything. Pete was obviously off the hook on faster courts, but during the clay season, players wanted to play against him. It was [an] opportunity to get a win over him. You didn’t have that luxury with Fed. He was really the world class, all-around player.”
Federer has 17 major titles to Sampras’ 14, with both players winning Wimbledon seven times and the U.S. Open five times. Federer has a better overall career record, including his unmatched time at No. 1, and, as Agassi noted, he is well beyond what Sampras ever was on clay. Not only does he have a better overall record on the surface than Sampras, but he has also won the French Open to complete the career grand slam. The farthest Sampras got in that tournament was the semifinals.
While Agassi found the Federer-Sampras argument easy to close, though, he wouldn’t give Federer the mantle of greatest ever hands down.
“I personally think that Nadal has an argument to be made for the best of all time,” Agassi said. “If Nadal is sitting at a table with Federer, and Federer says, ‘I’m the best ever,’ my first question would be, ‘Well, then, how come you didn’t beat me, because I beat you twice as many times? And hey, by the way, you know I won everything including [a] gold medal and Davis Cup.”
Nadal is 21-10 against Federer all-time, and he’s obliterated all comers on clay, with eight of his 13 grand slams at the French Open.
That may seem to give the edge to Nadal, but Agassi wasn’t ready to concede it just yet, pointing to Federer’s string of dominance against the rest of the field when he was at his best.
“Federer has separated himself during a few years, like nobody else, and he’s done it more consistently,” Agassi said. “To be able to make the argument for both guys playing in the same generation is pretty remarkable.”
One player Agassi wouldn’t admit was as remarkable, though, was himself, calling himself “way down the list” from those three.
Sampras photo via Twitter/@MustSeeDocument