Simon Reed

Who’s the GOAT?: 15-Vilas v 2-Sampras

Simon Reed

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Last week's Greatest Of All Time match-up saw John McEnroe edge past Stefan Edberg in a surprisingly close encounter. But who will he play in the second round?

This week's match will probably prove to be a lot more one-sided with former world number one Pete Sampras taking on Argentine clay-court specialist Guillermo Vilas.

Under our GOAT rules each match is three sets, one on each surface. Here's the rundown on the two contenders.

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Guillermo Vilas

Nationality: Argentine

Seeded: 15

Grand Slam titles: 4

Australian Open: Winner (1978, 1979)

French Open: Winner (1977)

Wimbledon: Quarter-finalist (1975, 1976)

US Open: Winner (1977)

Pete Sampras

Nationality: American

Seeded: 2

Grand Slam titles: 14

Australian Open: Winner (1994, 1997)

French Open: Semi-finalist (1996)

Wimbledon: Winner (1993, 1994,1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000)

US Open: Winner (1990. 1993, 1995, 1996, 2002)

Simon Reed's Verdict:

It's very difficult because we're talking two decades apart.

But on clay Vilas was virtually unbeatable, sort of a Rafael Nadal of that age. I'm very surprised he won only one French Open.

Pete's service, even on clay, was a bit of a monster, but I can see Vilas taking that set. He was in many ways a forerunner to Nadal. He could go on for hours, didn't have quite the weapons of Nadal but defensively he was extraordinarily difficult to break down.

But I see Sampras winning the other two. His game was so huge.

It's tricky because of the different generations: this is a particularly difficult one to analyse. You have to, in your mind's eye, imagine the two playing at their peak. And all I can see is Pete having too big a game on grass and hard court.

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The way he won Wimbledon for fun, he would certainly beat Vilas easily there. He rarely crushed people 6-0 6-0, instead usually getting a break and then sitting on his serve to play out the set.

It would be the same at the US Open. He would totally dominate Vilas, rush him wide, knock off winners, serving and volleying occasionally.

He could conserve energy and ease past opponents while displaying all his power.

I don't see any of the sets being close apart from the clay court one, where Vilas would just edge it, driving Pete to distraction.

He was phenomenally fit, could just go on forever and ever. He wasn't necessarily the most attractive guy to watch, but at that time he took fitness levels to a new high.

Against any of the big players now, because of the speed of serve and speed of shot, it would be tough for players of Vilas's era.

You can see what Nadal's done with that sort of game, although Nadal's is bigger. He's coped pretty well, and even won Wimbledon - but Vilas didn't manage to do that.

Final Verdict

Sampras wins 2-1

5-7 (clay) 6-3 (grass) 6-3 (hard court)

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