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Sampras Turns Back The Clock.

Sampras Turns Back The Clock

NEW YORK, Sept. 9, 2002
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Pete Sampras isn't shy about showing his feelings as he accepts the trophy in Flushing, New York. (REUTERS)






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"I still want to play. I love to play. But to beat a rival like Andre in a major tournament at the U.S. Open, a storybook ending."
Pete Sampras

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(AP) The tennis champ tossed his racket off the court, walked wearily into the stands and hugged his wife.

Whether Pete Sampras, husband and father to be, picks up his racket again is a mystery as difficult to solve as his strong, spinning serve.

"I'm sure the next couple of weeks I'll reflect on it and kind of see where I'm at," he said following his amazing career revival with Sunday's U.S. Open championship.

Andre Agassi didn't have the luxury of time to figure out Sampras' serve — or catch up to it if he did — when the two 30-something Americans thrilled a crowd that rooted for both.

The final cheers were for the once-dominant Sampras, who won his first championship in more than two years, 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

"I still want to play. I love to play. But to beat a rival like Andre in a major tournament at the U.S. Open, a storybook ending," Sampras said. "It might be nice to stop. But ..."

Then the 31-year-old long shot who was seeded 17th smiled.

While he contemplates how the two loves of his life — family and tennis — can coexist, he can savor one of the most gratifying wins of a career in which he beat Agassi in the 1990 and 1995 Open finals and was the top-ranked player from 1993 through 1998.

He won his fifth U.S. Open title and 14th Grand Slam championship, breaking his own record of 13 set at Wimbledon in 2000.

"This might take the cake. This might be my biggest achievement so far — to come through a very, very tough time and to win the Open," he said. "I mean, that's pretty sweet."

Sampras hadn't won since that Wimbledon triumph two years ago. He lost the only final he reached in 15 previous events this year. And he was knocked out in the first round at the French Open.

Then he returned to Wimbledon for a second-round disaster against George Bastl, who played only because another player withdrew.

"It was an empty feeling," Sampras said.

Sunday was full of emotion.

He was playing the 32-year-old Agassi for the 34th time — Agassi winning 14 — and the winner would be the oldest U.S. Open champion since Ken Rosewall, who was 35 when he won in 1970.

The final point was a snapshot of two playing styles — Agassi at the baseline and Sampras serving and rushing.

Agassi hit a forehand from the right corner, but Sampras was in the perfect place at the net. He hit a backhand volley to the other side, out of Agassi's reach.

Sampras thrust both arms up then put a hand on his head. The players embraced at the net.

Then Sampras threw his racket by his courtside chair, turned his back on it and walked across the court and into the stands.

He slapped hands with fans on his way to his sister, coach Paul Annacone and actress Bridgette Wilson, whom he married two months after his last Wimbledon win.

"I met the woman of my dreams and now we're going to have a child," Sampras said. "That's what life's about."

The other celebrity wife, Steffi Graf, watched Agassi start flat, gain momentum late in the third set but never hit enough winners to deny Sampras his day.

Sampras hinted that he might play Wimbledon next year or may never play again. He said coyly that he and Agassi may not meet in another Grand Slam final, "but maybe next year we'll do it again."

Maybe not.

"I could step away from the game and feel really good about what I'd done," Sampras said. "But I still felt like I had one more moment, maybe a couple more moments."



©MMII The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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