HISTORY MAKER - PETE SAMPRAS. - MensTennisForums.com
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post #1 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-20-2005, 10:47 PM Thread Starter
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Slam Dunk

The following article was reprinted from the ATP's Official Magazine, DEUCE.

Pete Sampras began his path to all-time greatness as a raw 19-year-old kid in 1990 when he became the youngest US Open champion in history. Thirteen more Grand Slam singles titles have followed, making Sampras the most successful player in history. STEVE FLINK traces the amazing journey from rookie to Grand Slam master by analyzing each of his 14 triumphs.

US Open 1990: A quarterfinal against Ivan Lendl had inescapable changing-of-the-guard implications. Two years earlier, Sampras had visited Lendl's Connecticut home for a week of practice, and Lendl had been skeptical about Sampras' intestinal fortitude. So when the 19-year-old Sampras severely bruised his toe during their match, Lendl believed he would win. But as he would do throughout his career, Sampras played through his pain. The No. 12 seed attacked skillfully all through the final set, bringing his total aces in the match to 24. He then struck down John McEnroe and Andre Agassi with the loss of only one set to become the youngest man ever to win the Open.

Wimbledon 1993: Confronting Jim Courier in his first Centre Court final was no simple matter. Courier, breathing down Sampras' neck at No. 2 in the world, had secured four Grand Slam titles while Sampras was still searching for his second. Furthermore, Sampras had lost the US Open final to Stefan Edberg 10 months earlier, and was absolutely determined not to suffer another setback in a major final. With a sense of urgency, Sampras- hunched over apprehensively and fatigued as he served for the match at 5-3 in the fourth set - gamely won 7-6 (3) 7-6, (6) 3-6, 6-3, sealing his first major in nearly three years. He explained later, "I was more nervous for that match with Courier than for any that I had ever played."

US Open 1993: In essence, Sampras won the tournament in the quarterfinals. He took on his old nemesis Michael Chang in a sparkling battle under lights. At this point Chang was ahead 6-2 in the rivalry, and early in the encounter, Sampras was precariously perched at 6-7, 6-6. But he made his move to level the match in the tie-break, then soared to another level, comprehensively dismissing Chang 6-7 (0), 7-6 (2), 6-1, 6-1 - winning 20 of 25 points in the first five games of the fourth and final set. The 1972 Open champion Ilie Nastase said, "The last two sets were the best I have ever seen anyone play on hard courts." Sampras glided to the title without losing another set.

Australian Open 1994: Sampras drifted precariously close to defeat in the second round against an unknown adversary named Yevgeny Kafelnikov. The 19-year-old Russian tested the American to the hilt in some compelling baseline exchanges. Sampras was two points away from a bruising departure at 4-5, 30-30 in the final set, but he won on willpower, pulling through 9-7 in the fifth set. From that juncture, there was no stopping him. He became the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to take three Grand Slam titles in a row.

Wimbledon 1994: In the final, Sampras faced a man, who two years earlier had handed him his last loss at the All England Club - Goran Ivanisevic. All through the tournament, Sampras, who had already captured seven titles that year, seemed almost invincible. But the towering, left-hander was a tough man to bring down in the final. Goran served 16 aces in the first set, but a resolute Sampras came through 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5), 6-0 with masterful poise under pressure. It was the first time he had successfully defended a Grand Slam crown.

Wimbledon 1995: After Sampras subdued Ivanisevic in a tension-packed, five set semifinal, Chris Evert said, "Pete has not played that one great match we all know he can. He will in the final." He met Boris Becker, who had defeated Agassi for the first time in six years to move into his seventh Wimbledon final. With a cheering crowd, Becker won the first set. Early in the second, Sampras produced a perfect passing shot, but the audience barely responded. He turned to the courtside observers and raised his palms encouraging them to raise the volume of their appreciation. Thereafter, the fans applauded vigorously for Sampras, as he gave an immaculate display of grass court tennis, bouncing back to win 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. Becker conceded sportingly, "The Centre Court used to belong to me. But now it belongs to Pete Sampras."

US Open 1995: The Sampras-Agassi final was monumental. They were the two best players in the world, only by now it was defending champion Agassi at the top of the rankings. In many ways, the match was settled on the final point of the opening set. With Agassi serving at 4-5, they had a dazzling rally of 22 strokes that Sampras won with a crosscourt backhand winner. Sampras had shown that he could hold his own with Agassi from the backcourt, showing that his greatness wasn't derived solely from his serve. Sampras earned a 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 victory and took the top spot. Agassi would not win another Grand Slam event until 1999.

US Open 1996: This was the last chance for Sampras to take a major after an emotional season. He faced the cagey Alex Corretja in the quarterfinals, and during this 4 hour, 9 minute battle, Pete was badly dehydrated. Drinking Pepsi at the changeovers exacerbated his plight. He threw up on the court during the fifth set tie-break and was slumped over on his racquet between points, fighting courageously, playing solely on adrenaline. At 6-7 in the tie-break, Sampras saved a match point with a superb lunging forehand volley winner. At 7-7, Sampras released a spectacular second serve wide to the forehand with heavy slice for an ace. A stunned Corretja double faulted. Sampras somehow triumphed 7-6 (5), 5-7, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7). He returned over the weekend to commandingly take the title over Goran Ivanisevic and Michael Chang. Never before had he won a major after facing a match point.

Australian Open 1997: An oppressive afternoon in Melbourne, in the round of 16, Sampras encountered the free-swinging 19-year-old Domink Hrbaty. The Slovak, No. 76 in the world, was blasting away off his forehand, going for audacious returns and playing with unswerving conviction. Sampras was down 2-4,15-40 in the fifth set. But clutch serving and tenacity helped Sampras sweep four games in a row for the triumph. He would crush Thomas Muster in the semifinals and Carlos Moya in the final. But this would be his last Slam other than Wimbledon for five and a half years.

Wimbledon 1997: The previous year, eventual champion Richard Krajicek defeated three-time reigning champion Sampras in the quarterfinals. Despite a five set, two-day skirmish with Petr Korda in the round of 16, Sampras never looked like he could lose. In seven matches, he held his delivery 116 of 118 times, broken only by Mikael Tillstrom in the first round and Todd Woodbridge in the semifinals. He swept past Cedric Pioline in a straight set final. "That was the best I've ever served," he said after reclaiming his crown. Sampras' triumph began a streak of four consecutive titles. Between 1993-2000 he won seven of eight Wimbledons and returned a staggering 53-1 match record.

Wimbledon 1998: With the sun shining into his eyes during this Centre Court final against Ivanisevic, Sampras lost the first set in a tie-break and serving at 5-6 and then 7-8 in the second set tie-break, was twice one point away from trailing two sets to love. But the Croatian missed a pair of backhand returns off second serves, and eventually Sampras moved in front two sets to one. But in the fourth, Ivanisevic erupted with four passing shots to break the American at 3-4. They were locked at 2-2 in that set, but Sampras took 16 of the last 19 points, finishing on the ascendancy. Sampras won only three other titles during the year, but the Wimbledon triumph helped him claim the year-end No.1 ranking for the sixth consecutive season. He is the only player in the history of the ATP rankings to achieve the feat.

Wimbledon 1999: A resurgent Andre Agassi was overflowing with confidence after capturing Roland Garros. In the semifinals at the All England Club, he dissected U.S. Open champion Patrick Rafter in straight sets, making many knowledgeable critics believe he would topple Sampras in their fourth Grand Slam final. Serving at 3-3, 0-40 in the opening set, Sampras connected with four stifling first serves and a crackling second delivery in an astonishing display of grace under pressure. Sampras then broke the match wide open, collecting five games in a row, raising his game to unimaginable heights, winning 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, producing a match he would call "probably the best I have ever played." Sampras joined Australian Roy Emerson as the only male player to win 12 Grand Slam singles titles.

Wimbledon 2000: In his grittiest effort ever at a Grand Slam event, Sampras won the tournament on one leg. Suffering from tendinitis in his left shin and foot from the second round on, he had to take injections before his last five matches, which wore off after 75 minutes. Unable to practice on his off days, Sampras was fortunate not to meet a single seed until Rafter in the final. Two rain delays ate up so much time that by 6:30 p.m., the score was only 4-4. Despite having set points, Sampras lost the first set. Rafter then served at 4-1 in the second set tie-break, but Sampras boldly took five of the next six points and leveled the match. Sampras took the third set on one break, then charged to 5-2 in the fourth. Light was fading rapidly above the fabled Centre Court. Sampras calmly served out the match at love, coming through 6-7 (10), 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-2. At 8:57 pm, Sampras claimed his record 13th major, covering his head in his hands, breaking into joyful tears, smiling towards his fiancée, climbing into the stands to hug his parents, Sam and Georgia, who had never seen him win a major before.

US Open 2002: Sampras, who had not won a tournament since the 2000 Wimbledon, was suffering through the longest losing streak of his career - 33 consecutive events - and came into this event seeded only 17. Rain then forced him to play five matches across the last seven days. Across the net in the final stood none other than Agassi. After taking the first two sets, Sampras served into a strong wind at 5-6 in the third, and lost his delivery. In the fourth, Sampras served into that troublesome wind again at 1-2, making an almost miraculous backhand half-volley at break point down. At 3-4, from that same side, he fought off another break point. With Agassi serving at 4-4, Sampras sealed the break that he needed to serve for the championship. At 5-4, 30-0, he cracked a blockbuster 119 mph second serve ace, his 33rd of the match - a personal record for a major final. Sampras triumphed 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 reaffirming his immense stature, redefining the meaning of being a champion for the ages.

An incurable tennis addict, Steve Flink has been known to call pressrooms on every continent for point-by-point updates. Flink worked at World Tennis Magazine for 17 years and since 1992 has been a senior correspondent at Tennis Week. He has also worked as a broadcaster for ESPN and MSG Sports, a researcher for CBS and NBC and a consultant for the International Tennis Hall of Fame. As author of The Greatest Tennis Matches of the 20th Century, Flink's unrivaled recall of match history is displayed here in his account of Pete Sampras' 14 Grand Slam titles.

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post #2 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-20-2005, 11:22 PM Thread Starter
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Sampras reaches immortality in historic 1998
By Thomas Cheng

Nineteen ninety-eight was a historic year for professional tennis. It witnessed the rise of future stars, the resurgence of old champions, and a level of competitiveness unprecedented in the history of the sport. At the same time, it may have foreshadowed things to come in the next decade: the reign of Lindsay Davenport, the domination of the Williams sisters, and a rivalry between Marcelo Rios and Patrick Rafter. It also left us with one very important question that has fascinated many for the past few years: is Pete Sampras the best player ever?

Sampras' competitors have long ceased to be his contemporaries. As he has repeatedly said, he plays for his place in history. We have become so used to Sampras making history that we often overlook the significance of his accomplishments. When Marcelo Rios withdrew from the ATP Championships in Hannover, Germany a week ago, Sampras surpassed Jimmy Connors' previous record and became the only player to have finished six consecutive seasons with the No. 1 ranking. He has held the top ranking for more than 260 weeks and has remained in the top two since 1993. He has won more Grand Slam titles than Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, and Patrick Rafter combined. With 11 Slam titles--including five at Wimbledon and four at the U.S. Open--under his belt, he is only one short of Australian Roy Emerson's all-time record of 12 Grand Slam singles titles. At the age of 27, Sampras has at least three or four more years left in his tennis career. It is only a matter of time before he will break the Slam record.

We have to look back three decades to find a player who can contend with Sampras for the title of the best player ever. Rod Laver, the legendary Australian player who dominated men's tennis during the '60s, was often mentioned as the best player in history before Sampras came along. "The Rocket," as he was affectionately called by his fellow players for his powerful serve and forehand, also has 11 Grand Slam titles to his credit. While Sampras has never won the French Open, Laver triumphed on the red clay of Roland Garros twice. In addition, he is the only player to have accomplished the Grand Slam--winning all four major championships in the same calendar year--twice in his career. Based on this feat, many argue that Laver has a more legitimate claim than Sampras to be the best player in history.

Although Sampras has never won the French Open, we have to remember that professional tennis is much more competitive in the '90s than it was in the '60s. In Laver's time, the early rounds of Grand Slam tournaments were nothing more than practice matches for the top players since only a handful of players were good enough to be a consistent threat to this elite group. Professional tennis has become so competitive in the last 30 years that a top player can now lose to the 100th-ranked player on any given day. Even Sampras has suffered seven early-round losses in Grand Slam tournaments in the last six years.

When Laver won his two Grand Slams in the '60s, the four Grand Slam tournaments were played on only two surfaces: clay at Roland Garros and grass at the other three. A player today, however, would have to master four different surfaces: the rubberized hardcourt at the Australian Open, clay at the French Open, grass at Wimbledon, and the cement hardcourt at the U.S. Open to win the Grand Slam. To make the task even more difficult, some players concentrate on mastering a particular surface such as clay-court specialists Alex Corretja and Felix Mantilla and fast-court players like Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman. Given the degree of competitiveness and diversification of modern professional tennis, Sampras' accomplishments are no less remarkable than Laver's.

The debate about Sampras' place in history will continue until he finally holds aloft the trophy at Roland Garros. But even if Sampras never wins a French Open title, this failure would only be a small blemish on an illustrious career. He has carried professional tennis to an unprecedented level and has been the yardstick against which every player in the '90s has been measured. In the increased competitiveness of today's tennis world, that may be as close as a player can come to being the best ever.

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post #3 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-25-2005, 10:11 PM Thread Starter
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Tennis world immortality is the
prize for Pistol Pete

by Frank Malley

ASK Pete Sampras what he has been doing since he won his fifth Wimbledon title last year and his most common reply is: getting a life.
Which is why for the first time in six years he will go into his most-prized event by no means a cast-iron favourite.
And why for the first time his preparation over the past few months has consisted of almost as many rounds of golf as tennis matches, as he has slackened his commitment to a sport which he admits has consumed his every waking thought since he was a young boy.
There is no question Sampras has lost his once-permanent air of invincibility.
At the French Open last month, when he was beaten in the second round by Ukrainian Andrei Medvedev, he looked mentally tired and vulnerable and lacked the sharpness which has always characterised his powerful all-court game.
The annual grind of the tennis tour, it appeared, had caught up with the sport's superstar of the Nineties.
But, while that may sound like good news for Britons Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, no one this next fortnight should be fooled by Sampras's less obsessive demeanour.
Tennis immortality is at stake this year on the luscious lawns of SW19 a sixth victory in the men's final on American Independence Day would eclipse Bjorn Borg's five-times feat and equal Roy Emerson's all-time record of 12 Grand Slam titles.
And that is an achievement to stir the blood in the veins of someone even as laid-back as Sampras.
OK, many tennis experts still maintain the legendary Rod Laver is the best of all time.
Others support Borg whose five successive Wimbledon Championships came in an era in which he had to contend with rivals such as John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl.
But when it comes to sheer consistent, relentless serve and volley tennis, Sampras in the Nineties surely has no peer.
The Wimbledon '98 vintage his five-sets victory against Croatian Goran Ivanisevic saw him raising both arms to the sky and gently punching his fist in the direction of his camp of supporters following a final which he really should have lost.
That is Sampras. He doesn't smile too often, he rarely shows emotion.
He refuses to do anything controversial just to please people. But it doesn't mean he doesn't care. Indeed, he admits he still has to pinch himself when he recalls his achievements on the tennis world's most famous strip of grass.
''Five Wimbledons is something I never thought would be touched,'' he says.
''I was truly overwhelmed last year.
"I know I'm a favourite and many fans want to see an underdog, but I felt a new level of respect from the fans which was touching.''
He only wishes that the same respect was afforded him in his home country where baseball, basketball and American Football push tennis to the back of the public's consciousness.
''I know that if Tim Henman or Boris Becker were doing what I was doing in their respective countries it would be huge news, but I'm dealing with a different attitude in the States,'' he says.
''The give and take for me is that I have as normal a life as it's possible to have in my situation.
''It would be easier for me to get headlines if I was controversial, but I'm not going to change.''
Much of the talk after last year's final, which left everyone rightly feeling sorry for poor Ivanisevic, was of the crushing boredom suffered by the 14,000 or so on Centre Court.
Great chunks of that match belonged in the London Dungeon as an exhibit of human torture after Ivanisevic had pounded down 32 aces in a display of power serving which consigned tennis to the realms of watching paint dry.
But that's grass for you. They've suggested making the balls larger and softer, thought about introducing just one serve, even mentioned ripping up the hallowed turf of SW19 which makes Wimbledon the fastest surface in tennis.
And yet Wimbledon is packed out every year.
It has a habit of throwing the cream to the top, just as Pete Sampras has made a career of making tennis history.
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Who Says 13 is Unlucky?

Certainly not Pete Sampras. As if winning his seventh Wimbledon singles championship wasn't impressive enough, this one was even more special. His 6–7, 7–6, 6–4, 6–2 victory over Patrick Rafter was his 13th Grand Slam singles title, breaking the long-time mark of 12 held by Roy Emerson. Making the moment even more memorable was the fact that Sampras' parents, Sam and Georgia, were at the All England Club for the first time to see their son's record-setting performance. Pete also married actress/model Bridgette Wilson in 2000, which was a close runner-up to this moment.

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Pete Sampras: Undoubtedly the greatest ever grass court player

Sunday, July 4, 1999 Published at 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK

Sport: Tennis

Sampras rewrites history

Pete Sampras has won his sixth Wimbledon title in seven years to tie Roy Emerson's record of 12 Grand Slam titles.

The victory also means that Sampras passes Bjorn Borg to own more Wimbledon titles than any man in the Open era.

It was a destructive performance from Sampras, who played a near-perfect game to defeat Andre Agassi 6-3 6-4 7-5.

French Open champion Agassi, who will replace Sampras as world number one on Monday, was relegated to a supporting role as the 27-year-old champion produced breathtaking tennis.

Agassi initially looked the stronger - pushing Sampras in seventh game of the first set when he hit two crosscourt winners for 0-40.

But Sampras came up with two big service winners and an ace, winning five points in a row to hold for 4-3.

Then it was Agassi under pressure as he double faulted to give the top seed two set points, and tamely fired a low forehand into the net to lose his serve.

A seventh ace gave Sampras two set points and he clinched it with a service winner.

Sampras dominant

Sampras broke again in the opening game of the second when Agassi, serving at 0-40, netted a forehand.

Playing some of his best tennis, Sampras then held to make it five games in a row to go 2-0 ahead in the second.

Serving at 5-4, Sampras sent down his 14th ace for three set points and clinched a two-set lead with a powerful service winner.


Agassi was clearly not going to accept defeat easily, however, winning his opening game quickly before taking Sampras to deuce in the second.

The number four seed then opened the third game with his fourth ace of the match, to secure a crucial 2-1 lead.

Sampras retaliated to tie at 2-2 but Agassi looked to have picked up momentum, winning back his lead with a fabulous cross-court forehand drive.

At 0-30 it was Agassi's chance to move away, but Sampras proved to strong, easing his way out of trouble to secure the game.

Sampras then gave himself another two break points in the sixth, but Agassi saved to retake the lead.

Agassi then had another chance at 30-30 but Sampras again saved the game with two blistering serves.

Another strong performance saw Agassi move 5-4 ahead, with Sampras matching with a love game to tie at 5-5.

And when Sampras mishit his return in the next game to move 30-15, it seemed it was not destined to be Agassi's day.

Two more blistering returns saw Sampras break for the first time in the set and left him one game away from a sixth Wimbledon title.

Agassi proved stunning, however, hitting an inch perfect cross-court topspin drive to leave Sampras despairing at 30-30.

In inimitable style, Sampras secured glory with two second serve aces to become the greatest grass court player of all time.

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Sunday, July 4, 1999 Published at 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK

Sport: Tennis

Sampras: King of SW19

Pete Sampras: Cemented his place in the sport's history

Pete Sampras's sixth Wimbledon title in seven years has cemented his place in tennis history as the game's greatest grass court player.

He achieved his 1999 title with typical flair - two second serve aces - and in doing so tied Roy Emerson's record of 12 Grand Slam titles, passing Bjorn Borg to become Wimbledon's greatest men's singles champion of the last 100 years.

Despite his success, Sampras remains a reluctant hero.

As a man he is fiercely private, but as a champion he demands that others appreciate his achievements.

His pursuit of Grand Slam titles might have begun as a painfully shy 19-year-old at the US Open in 1990, but it was at Wimbledon in 1993, when he defeated Jim Courier in the final, that his career came of age.

Master of the grass

He has never looked back, treating the 1996 blip against Holland's Richard Krajicek in the quarter-finals with typical contempt to secure consecutive wins over the next three years.

This year's tournament, more than most in recent years, has tested him to the full.

He wandered through with hardly so much as a by-your-leave. The Americans have been as besotted as the British by the retirement of Boris Becker, the renaissance of Andre Agassi, the birth of a new sensation in Alexandra Stevenson, and John McEnroe's mixed doubles magic.

Sampras's progress has simply followed its normal route, undisturbed, understated.

"It's been a strange Wimbledon," he said. "There's no magic formula for dealing with what happens when the schedule is disrupted, in fact, in my quarter-final against Mark Philippoussis, I didn't handle anything very well.

"I've never had a secret here at Wimbledon. I suppose it has helped having been here for 10 years, renting a house in the village, living the same kind of existence every year.

"I had a massage after the Philippoussis match, went home, rented a couple of videos, ate a nice dinner, went to bed, slept well. That's me."

Champion of champions

If he appears understated, his tennis is not. The record books continue to be filled with his exploits and his 1999 victory will send shivers down the spine of his rivals.

This was Sampras at his weakest, we were all told before the tournament began.

In the last 18 months, he had sustained a number of injuries and there were signs that the game was moving into a post-Sampras era.

Last year, Sampras won four titles, including Wimbledon where he beat Goran Ivanisevic in five service-battering sets, and handed over the number one spot to Marcelo Rios before winning it back at the year-end for a record sixth successive year.

The effort required to stay at the top for so long clearly took its toll on the 27-year-old, both physically and mentally.

His decision not to play Davis Cup for the US made him few friends and tennis seemed to give him little enjoyment in 1998 as he constantly complained about the drudgery of the tour.

It was brave decision to take some time off but it worked wonders for Sampras's psyche. "Not going to Australia was perhaps not the best decision as far as tennis is concerned but it was the best decision of my life," he said.

"I was exhausted, both physically and mentally, and I needed to take some time off."

"After all those years I felt like a robot," he said in May.

Doubters proved wrong

The bookmakers again made Sampras favourite for Wimbledon after his success at Queens. But the doubters remained sure that this time he would slip up.

He did not of course. And if one considers his history - in form or not - he should never be underestimated.

Whether he returns to defend his title next year remains to be seen. He has complained that he is tired of the tour.

"The older I get, I feel I want to start to enjoy more of what I'm doing," he said.

"You think, 'Is this worth it?' If you don't enjoy the victories, it's not. I've been at this level, this high level that people have come to expect from me, for a long time now.

"The expectation is flattering, in a way. But at times I want people to appreciate how difficult it has been."

Few could disagree.

No-one has done more on a tennis court than the mild-mannered American, a man whose name will live on for as long as the game is played.
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Sunday, 9 July, 2000, 08:30 GMT 09:30 UK
Sampras on the verge of history

Sampras is chasing title number seven

Pete Sampras can re-write the history books by claiming his seventh men's singles crown at Wimbledon on Sunday (1400 BST).

Victory over Australian Pat Rafter would take the American past Roy Emerson's landmark of 12 Grand Slams.

It would also bring Sampras level with William Renshaw.

The Brit won seven men's singles titles at the All England Club back in the 1880s.


But whoever lifts the trophy on Centre Court, it will be a triumph over adversity.

Both players have had to cope with more than just the person on the other side of the net en route to the final.

Sampras has been dogged by tendinitis in his left shin while Rafter is only weeks into a comeback following a serious shoulder injury.

Sampras has vowed to play through the pain barrier again on Sunday while Rafter admits he takes each match as it comes.

"It's been a long road back," said Rafter. "I'm taking it week by week, just grateful for being out there.

"I've done a lot of work on the shoulder and I'm hoping to get a bit more out of it than what the doctor might have expected."


The pony-tailed Australian admits he has exceeded his expectations by reaching the final.

Before the tournament started, he would have been happy with a place in the fourth round.

On the other hand, everyone expected Sampras to be make the final Sunday, although there were one or two doubts when he pulled up lame during his second-round clash with Karol Kucera.

But even a less than fully fit Sampras has proved too hard to stop.

And worryingly for his rivals who perhaps thought his powers were on the wane, the six-times Wimbledon champion reckons there is still plenty of gas in the tank.

"As long as I have my right arm, on grass I'm still a threat," said the 28-year-old American.

"I think you can play at a high level till your early 30s.

"Look at what (Jimmy) Connors did. He's a rare athlete but he played at a high level until he was 33, won the US Open at that point.

"I feel as long as I'm playing the game I'll always be in contention, especially here.

"I feel like I can possibly win here at 30 and beyond.


"You can definitely look at Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. They played until they were 36.

"Tennis is a different sport but it can be done. It's more of a mental battle."

That is what makes Sampras such a force, his ability to focus on tennis to the exclusion of everything else.

It is why the shin injury has not derailed his hopes of winning a record-breaking seventh men's singles title.

Rafter will be a much tougher proposition than his other opponents, though.

The 12th seed's agility and speed around the court will provide the ultimate test.

Andre Agassi found him too hot to handle, losing their epic semi-final in five sets.


Rafter, 27, will be roared on by his proud parents when he takes on Sampras.

They are taking a 20-hour flight from Queensland to London so they can be courtside when their son attempts to add another Grand Slam to his two US Open titles.

"It will take them a while," said Rafter. "They'll get in a 7am on Sunday morning."

Sampras rewrites history
Shanghai Star. 2000-07-11

LONDON - Pete Sampras rewrote tennis history in the Wimbledon dusk on Sunday, winning his seventh singles crown and a record 13th Grand Slam title 6-7 7-6 6-4 6-2 against Australia's Pat Rafter.

With the clock at 8.57 pm local time and light failing fast on Centre Court, a thunderous serve from Sampras on matchpoint forced Rafter to return into the net, etching the American's name into the record books.

Sampras had shared the 30-year-old record of 12 Grand Slam titles with Australia's Roy Emerson since winning Wimbledon last year. Now he stands alone and this record could last a lifetime.

The quiet American broke down, wiping tears from his eyes, as the Centre Court exploded in celebration.

"This is one of my best moments," he said after a match which lasted almost six hours after being twice interrupted by rain. "I'm still spinning, it's amazing."

"I love Wimbledon and I love the people here...this court is the best in the world." His seventh title - in eight years - equals a 19th century record set by Britain's William Renshaw.

The 28-year-old clambered into the stands to hug his parents Georgia and Sam who were witnessing, for the first time, their son winning a Grand Slam title.

"It means so much to me that my parents were here today," Sampras said. "They can share this with me," he said as hundreds of camera flashlights sparkled in the darkness.

(Agencies via Xinhua)

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Holding pattern

Posted: Sunday July 09, 2000 12:57 PM

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- Willie Renshaw may have finally met his match.

The Englishman revolutionized lawn tennis in the 1880s and was the most dominant men's champion in Wimbledon history -- until now. Pete Sampras can equal Renshaw's record of seven titles by beating Australian Patrick Rafter in Sunday's final.

Sampras will also try for his 13th Grand Slam title, which would break the men's record he shares with Roy Emerson.

For one so young, the 28-year-old Sampras has an uncommon appreciation of tennis history, and he's well aware of his chance to make it.

"I'm not looking at Sunday as pressure," he said. "I'm looking at it as an opportunity."

Renshaw won his first Wimbledon title in 1881, three years after a rule change to permit overhand serves. In contrast to the style of play common at the time, he served hard and volleyed aggressively -- like Sampras more than a century later. Renshaw repeated as champion the next five years, and following a bout with tennis elbow won a seventh title in 1889.

But in that era the defending champion automatically advanced to the final, and Renshaw's record at the All England Club was just 22-3. Sampras has to slog through seven rounds every year, and his eight-year record at Wimbledon is 52-1.

"You don't want to play Pete at any time," Rafter said, "but especially not at Wimbledon."

When the 12th-seeded Rafter upset No. 2 Andre Agassi in a thrilling five-setter Friday, his parents scrambled to catch a flight from Australia for his first Wimbledon final. Also sure to be rooting for Rafter will be fellow Aussie Emerson, who faces the prospect of having his Grand Slam record surpassed by Sampras.

"I wouldn't say I was happy about it," said Emerson, 63. "But I will admit that if he does it, it's a terrific effort."

Emerson counts Wimbledon championships in 1964-65 among his 12 major titles. Sampras tied the record by winning Wimbledon last year.

"He's a great champion, and records are there to be broken," Emerson said. "You can't hold them forever."

Limping at times, the top-seeded Sampras is back in the final despite tendinitis above his left ankle. The injury prevented him from practicing for most of the tournament, but he benefited from an easy draw and breezed past qualifier Vladimir Voltchkov in the semifinals.

Sampras has complained that some players believe he exaggerated the severity of his injury. Emerson didn't address the subject, but it's interesting that he once explained the Australian code of sportsmanship this way: "You should never complain about an injury. We believe that if you play, then you aren't injured, and that's that."

The 12th-seeded Rafter has had health concerns of his own. The two-time U.S. Open champion is surprised to be playing for another Grand Slam title only nine months after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder.

"It's been a long road back," he said. "That's the most satisfying part about it. It has been probably a big shock. But I don't want to think about it right now. I want to go ahead with the job and put in my best on Sunday."

Sampras and Rafter both serve and volley, which means they'll pressure the return. The likely result will be few rallies and a match that boils down to a few pivotal points, which is when Sampras thrives.

"I'm not going out on a limb to say I think Pete's going to win," Agassi said.

In Wimbledon finals Sampras is 6-0, beating Agassi, Boris Becker, Jim Courier, Cedric Pioline and Goran Ivanisevic twice. Now he confronts Rafter -- and history.

"My legacy is really the last thing on my mind Sunday," Sampras said. "When you're competing, you're kind of on the inside, not looking on the outside. I'm sure two weeks from now, a month from now, 10 years from now, I can appreciate my career much more."

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Sampras lords it over Centre Court domain
By Paul Hayward
(Filed: 10/07/2000)

THERE is a line in Patrick Rafter's favourite film, Jerry Maguire, where a highly marketable American football star says to a beleaguered sports agent played by Tom Cruise: "You are hanging by a very thin thread."

Rafter might have recalled that passage last night when the unthinkable happened on Centre Court and Pete Sampras looked vulnerable in a Wimbledon men's final. Rafter, the "typical Aussie bloke", as his coach, Tony Roche, once described him, was 4-1 up in the second-set tie-break after taking the first 7-6. But then a double fault and a poor stroke let the six-times Wimbledon champion back into a rain-interrupted match. Tension was mounting.

The only word which adequately describes Pete Sampras's hold on Centre Court over the last eight years is tyrannical. All of us sports addicts make mental lists of athletes we will still be droning on about when our teeth need soaking in Steradent. Sampras ought to be on everybody's list. He is now officially the greatest player to have grabbed hold of a racket. "This is the best court in the world," Sampras said through tears that fell in place of the spiteful rain, "and I'd like to come back next year."

However boldly the invader marches on to his lawn on Wimbledon's final Sunday, Sampras is able to send out whichever version of himself is needed to quell the hostile incursion. Against Vladimir Voltchkov on Friday, he dispatched the low-wattage semi-final cruiser, conserving energy for his first match at the 2000 Championships against a fellow seed.

It was a strangely fragile and hesitant Sampras who re-emerged after the longest dreary downpour. The game itself was a mess of percussive spasms: serve-volley-serve. Neither player struck the ball with sufficient authority to suggest that the dry spells would yield a speedy winner. It was a sore shin against a dodgy shoulder. Yet this potentially ground-breaking encounter was kept on the emotional high-wire by the sense that Sampras was a faltering champion being held exasperatingly on history's cusp.

Proprietorial, vigilant, spikily defiant. Sampras is all these things when his dominion over the most sacred patch of turf in tennis is challenged. Even performing moderately, as he did for long phases through the fading evening light, he conveys the impression that he can shift into a higher dimension at any moment. His adversaries have to get past the aura before they start chipping away at the man.

Last year Andre Agassi burst out of the players' tunnel bug-eyed and intent on causing havoc with the champion's attempt to clinch a record-equalling 12th Grand Slam title. Sampras looked coldly across the net and unleashed a reign of terror. He was physically and psychologically dominant, punishing Agassi for his impertinence.

Only Rafter can know whether the brutal subjugation of Agassi 12 months ago swirled in his thoughts as Sampras set off after a place in legend. Every last swinger and swiper on the men's tour knows that to defeat Sampras on grass you have to destroy the certain knowledge he carries that when he is on song he is invincible. Sampras's passivity on court, his preference for not making eye contact with his opponent, accentuates his almost callous power.

Seldom has so much history overlain a men's final here at the peak of the English anti-summer, which has forced the crowd back for a 14th session for the first time since 1988. The first Open-era final was won by an Aussie, Rod Laver, who beat Roche in 1968. Sampras had been chasing a 13th Grand Slam crown for a full year after joining Roy Emerson with 12 by crushing Agassi last year. Only injury could have stopped Sampras stepping into that exalted realm.

There would have been romance either way. The elimination of Agassi on Friday deprived this final of the most potent match-up in men's tennis: the fizzing baseline power of Agassi against the all-round might and athleticism of Sampras. But Rafter's story was a worthy addition to the book of Wimbledon epics. A lover of surf and ski, a rock-climber and skydiver, he worked his way into the elite by camping with his mother at junior tournaments and later sleeping on wooden floors.

One of nine children, Rafter once kipped in one of those entrance halls where banks have started putting cash machines. Whether he was merely 'tired and emotional' is not recorded. "He plays hard and parties hard," Roche once said. Like Sampras, he has impressed with the quiet dignity he has brought to a sport where inflated incomes and the insular nature of the tour can distort perspective. On court, though, Sampras is no respecter of humility. The vocabulary he uses is one of ruthlessness and power.

It was the second-set tie-break before Sampras allowed signs of anguish to escape. A brief yelp was proof that for all his unwavering strength of concentration he needed Rafter's errors to help him back into the match. "I thought I was on my way to losing," he admitted. But Sampras is a towering champion, who has never been known to hand out second chances. Rafter, pottering nicely along, was still in a promising position with his one-set lead but was about to disappear in history's march. Sampras seized the next three sets in near-darkness and was then consumed by the magnitude of what he had achieved.

A short while back, he was asked why he shows so little of himself on court. He denied that he feels nothing, either in victory or defeat: "If you just look at what I have to give up and sacrifice in my daily life to compete at this level, it would be very weird if, in my own way, I wasn't ecstatic about winning." Last night, at 8.57pm, he was euphoric and overcome, hugging his parents and mopping away tears.

Hanging by a thin thread? For a while, yes, but it was only the golden twine of history.
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Sampras rewrites tennis history

LONDON, July 10 — Pete Sampras made tennis history at Wimbledon yesterday by beating Australian Pat Rafter 6-7, (10-12) 7-6, (7-5) 6-4, 6-2 to win the men’s final for the seventh time and claim a record-breaking 13th Grand Slam title. The 28-year-old defending champion and top seed flung his arms up in delight and wiped tears from his eyes after Rafter, twice US Open champion, put another huge Sampras serve wide on the first match point on Centre Court.
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by Vijay Amritraj

Men’s final had everything going for it

Finally, Pete Sampras walked into the history books doing what he does best and at a place that had already become his second home. Sampras beat the Australian Pat Rafter seeded 12 in four sets in the Wimbledon singles final giving him his incredible seventh title at the All-England Club and his 13th Grand Slam title overall. He was tied with Emerson’s 12 titles coming into the championships and he knew this was the best surface to do it and that time was running out. At age 28 and a chronic bad back, it was not going to be long before his chances of winning another title went away. So at 8.57 pm on Sunday night he completed his win and did what no man has ever done or is likely to do and took his place in history. William Renshaw won Wimbledon seven times in the 1880s but that was when they had the challenge round where the winner only match the final — once everyone else had through the draw and a challenger rose from among them. But today as we know it is seven rounds against the toughest competition.

The match itself came down to two tie-breaks and who would handle the rain delays well enough. With two of the best serve and volleyers in the world playing each other, one of them chasing history and the other desperate to be part of it, the men’s final appeared to have everything going for it. It was a contest between perfection and attraction — Sampras could never figure out what the public wanted from him while Rafter just had to smile and the crowd would melt before him. Sampras has been looking for the perfection that kept him at No 1 on the ATP ranking for so long and when he comes to the All-England Club his eyes usually light up and he knows he is at home. But this time was different. He came in with injuries and desperate to break Roy Emerson’s 12 Grand Slam titles record, he knew he was not really tested, in the first six rounds. He never played a seed till the final. He knew Rafter was going to be his biggest test. The match came down to the first two tie-breaks. The first one, in which Sampras had several chances to break in the set and two more in the tie-break, went Rafter’s way after two double faults from the champion. When he lost the first set tie-break 12/10, I thought maybe, just maybe, the enormity of the occasion might be too much even for Sampras.

In the second set, again, Sampras had chances to break but could not convert. It came down to the second set tie-break and when yet again he served the double fault to open and got down 1-4 with Rafter, to serve, I was sure my instincts were right. But I should have guessed that if Sampras was caught up in history then so was Rafter in his own way. There is no question that the Australian tightened up and his double fault came. Once the hurdle of the second set was crossed, Sampras knew his only danger was past. He became the Sampras of old and the winner, came freely of both flanks. The crucial break in the third set, started to see Sampras head for home, as Rafter had nothing more to offer. You could almost see Rafter settling for second place in his mind before the match ended. As Sampras sent down another rocket for a serve on match point, his feeling all came pouring out. A man who always maintained calmness through his first six Wimbledon victories broke down on Centre Court. Going up into the player’s box he hugged his parents watching him win here for the first time and took his place in the history.

Wimbledon continues to have the magic that will never end. I have always enjoyed coming here and it was wonderful to see history being rewritten with Sampras and the Williams family. — PMG
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Sampras Overcomes All Obstacles

WIMBLEDON, England, July 2000

By the dying light, Pete Sampras served himself two huge pieces of history Sunday - a record-tying seventh Wimbledon and a 13th Grand Slam title that made him king of the slams.

Twinkling flashbulbs lit up Centre Court like fireworks in the night when Sampras kissed the trophy once again, his eyes glistening from the tears he had shed moments earlier after he whacked his final service winner to beat Patrick Rafter 6-7 (10), 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-2.

Rarely emotional on court, Sampras showed how much this victory meant to him as he bent over in tears after the final point, then climbed up into the stands in a tearful embrace with his mother and father, watching him win a Grand Slam in person for the first time.

"I wanted them to be a part of it," the 28-year-old Sampras said. "As much as I like to say I'm going to be back here every year, there's no guarantees. Win or lose today, I was going to invite them here. I'm glad they hopped on the plane and made the trip."

Sam and Georgia Sampras flew in from Southern California only the day before and sat high above Centre Court to watch their son pass Roy Emerson for the most Grand Slam championships and tie Willie Renshaw, a player in the 1880s, for the most Wimbledon titles.

"Time will tell if it will be broken," Sampras said of the Grand Slam record. "I think in the modern game, it could be difficult. It's a lot of commitment, a lot of good playing at big times. It's possible. I mean, the next person might be 8 years old, hitting at a park somewhere around the world."

Sampras has won 28 straight matches at Wimbledon, extending his mark there to 53-1 over the past eight years.

"This is the greatest player ever at Wimbledon," former three-time champion John McEnroe said. "This guy's not someone you can put anyone up against, nobody. No one has ever come close to Pete."

Sampras is only the sixth player in history to win Wimbledon four straight years. The last to do it was Bjorn Borg, who won five straight from 1976-80.

No Wimbledon title had ever come with more pain and difficulty than Sampras suffered in this one, dealing with acute tendinitis above his left ankle from the second round on. He couldn't practice between matches, and couldn't warm up before them until the final. No final took longer to win or ended later than this one with four hours of rain delaying the start and interrupting play twice.

It ended at 8:57 p.m., after 3 hours, 2 minutes of actual play on a Centre Court that has no lights, and they could not have played much longer. If Rafter, the two-time U.S. Open champion, had won the fourth set, they would have had to return on Monday.

"It was difficult in the end," Sampras said. "We only had mybe 10 minutes left to playing. I think we both knew by 9 o'clock they were going to call it. It would have been a tough night of sleep.

"It's not easy to play out there under these conditions. The nerves, the emotional roller coaster we both went through today, coming back, on and off, on and off. It's just amazing how it all worked out. It really is amazing how this tournament just panned out for me. I didn't really feel like I was going to win here. I felt I was struggling."

Sampras had said before the match that as long as his right arm held up, he would be a threat. It held up fine. Rafter couldn't return Sampras' blur of serves in the afternoon, and he surely couldn't return them in the fading light. Sampras served 27 aces at up to 133 mph, and had 46 more unreturned serves as he averaged an incredible 123 mph on first serves.

Sampras faced only two break points and won once more without yielding a single game on his serve. Rafter couldn't break him in 21 service games, just as Boris Becker couldn't break him in 19 in 1995. In his seven title matches, Sampras has dropped serve only four times in 131 games.

The only time Sampras buckled was in the first-set tiebreaker. He had lost only four points on serve in the first set, three of them on double-faults, and double-faults came back to haunt in the tiebreaker. He hit one to fall behind 10-9, saved that set-point, but then lost the set with his fifth double-fault.

"We all choke," said Sampras, who wound up with 12 double-faults. "No matter who you are, you just get in the heat of the moment. The title could be won or lost in a matter of a couple of shots. I really felt it slipping away. I felt like I was outplaying him for the first set. I didn't get the break. I was outplaying him a little bit in the second. Comes down to a tiebreaker, anything can happen. Just roll the dice."

They rolled the dice in the second-set tiebreaker, and this time Rafter threw snake eyes. Serving with a 4-1 lead, he netted a volley, double-faulted, then netted a forehand to let Sampras tie it. Sampras then smacked a service winner and won his fifth straight point with a stunning inside-out forehand crosscourt that zipped past Rafter. Sampras punctuated the moment with a big uppercut in the air, his first demonstration of emotion in the match, and two points later he put the set away with a solid volley.

Right there, the match was virtually won.

"There's a lot of nerves out there," Sampras said. "We both were feeling it. I lost my nerve in the first set. He lost his nerve 4-1 in the second breaker. ... Somehow I got through that tiebreaker. From a matter of feeling like I was going to lose the match, I felt like I was going to win the match within two minutes. That's grass court tennis."

Rafter admitted the tension got to him in tat tiebreaker.

"I did get a little bit tight," he said. "It was an opportunity for me to go up two sets to love. From there it's a very tough position, as Pete knows, to come back from that. But that's what happens when you get tight."

When Sampras broke Rafter for the first time for a 3-2 lead in the third set, the Australian bounced his racket on its head twice as he headed for his chair. He had the look of a man staring at defeat, even if the end was more than an hour away. As the light faded, so did Rafter, going down another break, and going down hard.

"I wasn't getting his serve back anyway," Rafter said. "I didn't really care if it was midnight, really. When you're down 5-2 in the third, double break, mate, it's sort of hard work being out there. Mentally, I sort of had done my bolt."
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Wednesday, August 09, 2000

Sampras on roll and having fun

Cincinnati always a good time for him

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MASON — See Pete ride water slides at The Beach. See Pete take batting practice with the Reds. See him blow out birthday candles, eat at Waffle House, go to Riverbend.

Pete Sampras is arguably the top player in tennis history, but when he's in Cincinnati, he isn't afraid to take in the town. He has made a point of making himself at home here.

The fact he usually sticks around in the Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati draw hardly hurts.

“You always look forward to coming back to a place you play well,” he said.

Including his 6-4, 6-2 beating Tuesday of Mariano Zabaleta, Sampras is 35-8 (.814) here, including three championships. This week, he could surpass Michael Chang's total of 38 victories to become the tournament's winningest active player. Sampras' winning percentage is second only to Mats Wilander (36-7, .837) in the event's history.

Sampras is 27-4 (.871) here since 1991. There is only one place he has had as much success here during the same span: Wimbledon.

Sampras has been good to this tournament, and it has been good to him. His birthday annually falls during the event — he turns 29 Saturday — so he often celebrates here. Sampras even took time Monday to visit Cinergy Field, meeting some Reds and taking batting practice. (Tuesday Story)

“In Toronto (last week), I heard that was a possibility,” he said. “To meet Ken Griffey Jr., who is one of the all-time greats, and to see him hit a few out and be able to partake in some batting practice, it was great.”

Sampras never played baseball, so he said he was pleased to hit a couple of balls well. “Close to the warning track,” he said. “On a roll.”

Fact is, Sampras looks more relaxed now than ever. The obvious thinking is relief after setting a record with his 13th Grand Slam title last month at Wimbledon.

“Being with 11 or 12 Slams, people talked about the pressure of breaking the record,” he said. “I didn't look at it as pressure. Obviously I wanted to do it. Now that I did break it and I do have the unbelievable record put away, sure, it feels great. But now that I'm where I am, I'll try to add on to that.”

Sampras elected not to play in the Olympics next month because it's just 10 days after the U.S. Open concludes. As far as playing for his country, he said, Davis Cup represents his commitment.

Right now, his goal is to recapture top form on hard courts. Sampras took nearly a month off after Wimbledon before playing in the Tennis Masters Series Canada last week; he blew three match points in an eventual quarterfinal loss to Marat Safin.

“This is a Grand Slam type of atmosphere,” Sampras said. “When you can win here in Cincinnati, you know you're playing great going into the U.S. Open.”
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Monday, 9 September, 2002,
Sampras cements place in history

By Caroline Cheese
BBC Sport Online

If ever there were any doubts about Pete Sampras' right to call himself the greatest, he crushed them in emphatic style with his epic four-set win over Andre Agassi for a fifth US Open title.

Facing his long-time rival, the only man to have challenged his dominance in the 90s, Sampras somehow summoned a performance which overshadowed all his previous 13 Grand Slam triumphs.

For two and a half sets, a sentimental New York crowd were treated to the kind of breathtaking serve-volleying which had seen Sampras climb to the pinnacle of world tennis in 1993 and stay there for six years.

Sampras' serve, once one of the most feared in tennis, was suddenly impregnable even to one of the game's greatest returners.

And once that was firing, the rest of Sampras' game clicked seamlessly back into place.

Such was the devastation wreaked by Sampras that the crowd, desperate for more entertainment, threw their weight behind Agassi.

It was just like the good old days when tennis crowds became bored of Sampras' procession of titles and would always support his opponent, more out of sympathy than hope.

Only in the last two years has Sampras found himself back in favour during a barren spell which has seen him slump to a series of new and shocking lows.

The most painful came at Wimbledon this year where in the second round he was beaten by 'lucky loser' George Bastl, a player who can most favourably be described as a journeyman.

A shell-shocked Sampras afterwards spoke of his belief that he was merely short on confidence and that he would be back for another shot at the title he had won a record seven times.

"I'm not going to give into the critics - I'll stop on my own terms," he said.

"What I've done here and what I've done to the game is always going to stick no matter what happens in the next few years. But I still believe I have a major in me."

But to the majority of observers, it was the forlorn cry of a proud champion who would not accept the passing of time.

Having suffered moral-crushing defeats to 20-year-old opponents, Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt, in the previous two US Open finals, many might have taken the hint that their time was up.

Not Sampras.

After two run-of-the-mill matches at this year's US Open, he faced an in-form and fired-up Greg Rusedski in the third round.

Driven on by a wildly partisan crowd, Sampras scraped a five-set win which gave no indication of the fireworks he was about to produce.

Rusedski afterwards became the first of Sampras' contemporaries to say that he was no longer the player he once was, adding that he was a "a step-and-a-half slower" getting to the net.

Sour grapes

But though Rusedski might have saved his comments for a situation in which he would have avoided the accusations of sour grapes, the British number two did not seem to be too wide of the mark.

Having lost the spring on his serve, Sampras was no longer the imposing figure who would rush the net before dispatching the easy volley.

It was evident as far back as 2001 in his defeat to Roger Federer at Wimbledon that Sampras was having to pick too many half-volleys off his toes.

Most observers attributed it to his age but Sampras' performances at Flushing Meadows from the fourth round onwards told a different story.

His confidence flooding back, Sampras returned to the player of old, winning points with a swinging serve and crisp volley and demoralising opponents with his ability to produce an ace at the scent of danger.

And against Agassi, in a final played in an emotionally charged atmosphere days ahead of the 11 September anniversary, he lifted the bar once again.

Sampras will not be drawn on his future, but after leaving those who pushed for his retirement red-faced with the emphatic nature of his victory, he has ensured that the decision will be left entirely in the hands of the legend himself.
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Monday, 9 September, 2002, 02:32 GMT 03:32 UK
Sampras savours 'awesome' win

Sampras won his fifth US Open title

Newly crowned US Open champion Pete Sampras said his 14th Grand Slam triumph was probably his best ever.

The four-set win over Andre Agassi on Sunday moved Sampras to compare it with victory at Wimbledon in 2000 when he captured a record 13th Grand Slam title.

Sampras had not won a Grand Slam since his last Wimbledon triumph and this season had slumped in the world rankings in what had been his worst year.

To beat a rival like Andre at the US Open, a story book ending, it might be nice to stop

But on Sunday he defied the form book and his critics as he rolled back the years for a vintage Sampras performance.

"This one might take the cake," said Sampras.

"I never thought anything would surpass what happened at Wimbledon a couple of years ago, but the way I've been going this year, to come through this and play the way I did today, it was awesome."

Sampras, whose wife Bridgette Wilson is expecting their first baby, thanked his family and friends for their support through what he admitted had been a trying time.

"I got through it with a lot of support from my wife, from my family, working with Paul [Annacone, Sampras' coach] again.

"So much of kind of what I was going through this year was mental. It wasn't forehands and backhands and serves. I kind of got down on myself extremely quick out there.

"All I could do after Wimbledon was start working again, get back to the drawing board and start doing the running and the practicing. And it paid off this week."

Sampras, who was urged to retire by many during his two-year title drought, refused to be drawn on his future but admitted that he would find it hard to surpass winning a US Open final against his greatest rival.

"I'm going to have to weigh it up in the next couple of months to see where I'm at," he said.

"I still want to play. I love to play. But to beat a rival like Andre in a major tournament at the US Open, a story book ending, it might be nice to stop."

Extra gear

Sampras said that he and Agassi had shared a special moment as the two hugged at the net after the match ended.

"No disrespect to anyone I've played over the years, but he's the best I've ever played," he said.

"He has that extra gear that is very tough to play against. Those moments are great moments. It's about competing against the best. He still is one of the best."

Agassi, who has lost four out of five Grand Slam finals to Sampras, said Sampras' ability to produce a winning serve at crucial moments had been the difference.

He said: "He's a good pressure point player. He senses the important times of a match and puts pressure on you, then elevates his game."

"He can play for an hour where you don't even break a sweat sometimes because he's just taking the rhythm out of the match.

"Then all of a sudden he plays a good game and he's off."
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