Between 1970-1972, the United States produced four extraordinary players who would lead their country from the late 80s until the early 2000s, earning glory to already the greatest nation of our sport. Andre Agassi, Jim Courrier, Pete Sampras and Michael Chang had all become Grand Slam champions, with all except Michael conquering the ATP throne at some point.
Jim Courier was the leader of the pack in the early 90s but that would all change in 1993 when Pete Sampras grabbed the ATP throne for the first time on April 12. At that time, Pete was already a Grand Slam, Grand Slam Cup, ATP Finals and Masters 1000 champion, making another step on his journey towards one of the greatest players of all time.
Pete arrived in Tokyo Outdoor tournament ranked second behind Courier and the door was wide open when Jonathan Stark defeated Jim in the third round. On April 9, Sampras played the quarter-final encounter against David Wheaton and beat him 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 to pass Jim in the rankings regardless of his result by the end of the tournament.
To make things sure, Pete went all the way to defeat Brad Gilbert in the final and recognize his name at the top of the ATP rankings for the first time on the following day, becoming the 11th world no. 1 and the fourth from the USA after Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Jim Courier.
Sampras was 28 points clear of Courier (3591 to 3563), staying at the top for two years except for three weeks during the summer of 1993 when Courier restored the position for a short period. Overall, Pete would have taken the ATP throne on 11 occasions, spending 286 weeks as world no.
1, a record that stood until Roger Federer passed him. Twelve months before that April 12, 1993, Pete was ranked 4th and worked hard on improving his game regularly, opening his run towards the top of men's standings with an average 11-6 score.
Things were only to get better after competing the circle with an 80-16 streak that made him the best player in the world next spring, winning seven ATP titles from nine finals (Stefan Edberg toppled him in the title match at the US Open in 1992).
During his illustrious career, Sampras would win 14 Grand Slam titles and was the year-end no. 1 player between 1993-1998, dominating in the era of different styles and surfaces and always finding that extra gear that would keep him in front of arch-rivals.
His final performance on the Tour was a memorable one, just like his entire career, claiming the title at the US Open 2002 against Andre Agassi in what was to be his last performance, never playing competitive matches again.