The golden age

During the build-up to Wimbledon in 1993, Pete Sampras, the man who many consider to be the greatest grass court player of all time, was under a barrage of criticism from those who saw him as a rogue world number one.

He went on to win Wimbledon that year – wrestling past a spirited Jim Courier – and also won the next two Grand Slam events, becoming the first man to win three slams in a row since Rod Laver in 1969.

That Sampras stands above the likes of Laver in Grand Slam victories is a phenomenal feat to cement his legacy forever, but his aura of invincibility in the record books has since been smashed to pieces by Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

Since 2005, Sampras’s winning of three consecutive majors has been repeated no less than four times.

It goes without saying that Sampras’s place in the annals has always been under stern attack from Federer. The Swiss won his first slam at Wimbledon in 2003, just as Sampras was about to hang up the racket – and Federer progressed to accumulate a staggering eleven slams from then until 2007.

Tennis had been crying out for another player to capture the public imagination like Sampras, and Federer answered the call.

That, of course, was only until Nadal came along. The bullish Spaniard exploded into the mainstream, muscles bulging, with his staggering French Open victory in 2005. His clay court game, based around a framework of heavy spin and precise groundstrokes, was too much for the field to handle and Nadal has since shown he is not a mere one trick pony, picking up eleven slams including his own treble in 2010.

The third player to challenge Sampras’s lofty standing is Djokovic. Just like Sampras, the Serb endured a long wait – more than two years – for his second Grand Slam, with his Wimbledon-US Open-Australian Open hat-trick from 2011 to 2012 rightly elevating him to a place in the record books.