Roger Federer is unanimously considered the king of the grass, at least as far as the modern era is concerned. The Swiss champion has the highest number of successes on this surface, with a record of eight titles in Wimbledon, ten successes in Halle and a victory also in Stuttgart in 2018.
The dominance of the Swiss Maestro can be compared to that of Pete Sampras, capable in the 90s to conquer seven Championships titles, two at Queen's and one in Manchester. Paul Annacone, who during his career has had the privilege of coaching both, has expressed his opinion by identifying the differences between these two legends on their favorite surface.
Sampras won nine majors under the leadership of the American, while Federer returned to the victory at Wimbledon in 2012.
Annacone on Federer and Sampras
“Pete Sampras is obviously his serve," Paul Annacone said.
"To me, he’s probably the best clutch server or serve-game holder that I’ve ever seen. I think that Roger Federer is a little bit different because his serve is unbelievable, but the rest of his grass-court game in terms of his ability to take the ball early and just rush you so well, that is very different from most people.
I think that’s probably the difference. Roger rushes you from the back of the court by good court position and first-strike tennis. Pete overwhelms you with his serve. They were the two best grass-court players of their own eras and the grass courts played very differently in those times,” Annacone added.
“Ultimately, they were incredibly confident and clear in big moments under pressure. In grasscourt tennis, when you have such little time to adjust, both players were really good at thinking on their feet, and they ultimately trusted their games in the big moments" - he concluded.
Their fourth-round clash at 2001 Wimbledon is now viewed as a passing of the torch. The 19-year-old Federer played the best match of his career to stun the seven-time Wimbledon champion 7-6(7), 5-7, 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-5, marking his first victory on Centre Court.
Federer took the boys’ singles title at Wimbledon three years earlier, but hadn’t won a professional singles match at the tournament prior to the start of the fortnight. Meanwhile, Sampras’ most shocking Wimbledon loss came the following year as he exited in the second round to Swiss lucky loser George Bastl. The American regrouped to win the US Open three months later in the final event of his career.