Sampras scorches young pretender Roddick
Pete Sampras brought the flaming torch of American tennis to the U.S. Open on Thursday night. But instead of passing it to Andy Roddick, he scorched the young pretender.
In a prime time clash of yesterday and tomorrow Sampras proved he was best today, swaggering into the semi-finals of the hardcourt grand slam with all the pomp and elan only a great can muster.
His 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory spanned just 90 minutes and turned what Roddick had called his dream quarter-final into a sweat-inducing nightmare.
The leader of the new guard banging on his door had provided more than enough inspiration for Sampras to storm to a 201st grand slam match victory and stretch his perfect night-time record in New York to 20-0.
"Absolutely, it fired me up," the 31-year-old said as he sat on his courtside seat with cheers ringing in his ears.
"You know, he's the young up-and-comer who has a great future... I was pumped up, there is no question.
"I love it here. It is awesome at night in New York."
Sampras, too, was awesome and his performance will have done little to settle the nerves of Sjeng Schalken.
The Dutchman must face Sampras next after earlier beating Chile's Fernando Gonzalez to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final.
Due on court at 1900 EDT (0000 GMT), Sampras and Roddick didn't show until more than half an hour later as the Flushing Meadows crowd continued to filter in to Arthur Ashe stadium.
By the time the two Americans began brandishing their rackets, the atmosphere was hair-raising.
Roddick likes it that way, deliberately teasing his locks to stand high above the sun-visor currently in vogue with New York's fashionistas.
He took to the court, unshaven in a bright blue shirt, all grimaces, gestures and lop-sided grins.
Sampras was Sampras, straight as they come.
White socks, white shorts, white shirt.
Nowadays he has less hair to play with than when he won his first grand slam here in 1990 -- aged 12 months younger than Roddick's 20 years -- but even in his hirsute heyday, he was never tempted by style statements.
On the tennis court, Sampras has always let his strokes do the talking. For 10 years they spoke louder and longer than anyone else, as he amassed a record 13 grand slam titles.
Since his 13th major at Wimbledon in 2000, he has not won a title of any description.
On Thursday, though, he was irrepressible.
Serving with authority and smothering the net at every opportunity, the 31-year-old outshone the brilliant floodlights on centre stage.
Roddick had won both previous matches these two Americans had played, in Houston earlier this year and in Miami last year.
Both those matches were in ATP Tour events, however, and by his own admission, they are not what gets Sampras going these days.
A prime time grand slam quarter-final in front of a vibrant New York crowd is what Sampras dreams of, now that the lawns of Wimbledon no longer slake his thirst for success.
Sampras loved it, spectators were treated to a masterclass. Only Roddick looked like he wished he were anywhere else.
Broken at the first opportunity, 11th seed Roddick looked startled as he swiftly fell behind 3-0 in the swirling wind.
Once Sampras got a grip on the set, he squeezed harder, closing it out in 27 minutes.
Sampras has won four U.S. Open crowns and been runner-up on three other occasions including the last two years. All his big stage presence came to the fore in the second set.
He broke Roddick in the third and seventh games before serving it out to take a two-set lead after only 56 minutes.
Roddick, muttering to himself and rubbing his face, was running out of ideas fast. As the second set closed, the 20-year-old dropped his racket and wailed in despair.
As soon as the third set began it was Sampras's turn to scream, a triumphant roar and a clenched fist accompanying another break of serve for 1-0.
Roddick was all but done as the crowd shifted uncomfortably in their seats. They had come for a battle and were served a massacre.
Slicing through the wind with heavy groundstrokes and pin-point serving, Sampras ambled towards the finishing line with a steely look in his eye.
Roddick had a wild look in his, but could not translate that into genius, or even fight, on court, and Sampras served out after 90 minutes ending the match with a delicate drop shot which had Roddick scurrying off the court and out of the tournament.
"Disappointing? Yes, I am trying to soak it all up at the moment," the youngster said.
"This is all still a learning experience. I watched what I should be doing on all the big points because I was on the other side of it.
"You know, I think I'll have my moment here some day."