Sampras solidifies stature
January 31, 1994
MELBOURNE, Australia - Pete Sampras, the ultimate power tennis player of the 1990s, evoked images of the sport's past while winning his first Australian Open title.
Sampras, who defeated Todd Martin 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 6-4 in Sunday's all- American final, became the first man in nearly three decades to win Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open consecutively. He reasserted his dominance of men's tennis, drawing comparisons with boyhood idols such as Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall, by overpowering Martin with 126 mph aces and unreturnable groundstrokes.
His match with golf buddy Martin was a throwback in other ways to the yesteryears of tennis, when gentlemen wearing crisp white outfits were more concerned about performance than personality. Sampras and Martin, both of whom have been ridiculed at times as boring and too polite, praised each other after the match.
"It makes it more fun for me when people appreciate two guys who just go and play tennis,'' Sampras said. "I think that is the way tennis should be played, with class and someone who doesn't lose his temper and embarrass himself."
Martin, wearing a cowboy hat given to both finalists afterward, said he appreciated "all the support a little American kid can get.'' Martin looked up with a bemused smile when a woman in the crowd yelled, "C'mon Todd, play hard,'' during the second set. He was playing hard, but was unable to pose much of a threat to Sampras after the first set.
Martin, seeded ninth, had his best chance at 3-3 in the first set when he had four break points, but Sampras saved them all and eventually forced the tiebreaker. After that, the top-seeded Sampras was in control, finishing with 13 aces.
"When I did lose the breaker, I think it motivated Pete, it loosened him up,'' Martin said. "Like most of the top players, he plays a lot better when he's ahead.''
Sampras was so consistent that when he had two aces in a three-point span in the final set, each of the serves went past Martin at exactly 119 mph.
Martin and Sampras put their arms around each other's shoulders at the end, and Martin needled Sampras about leading 5-1 in the third set and dropping three straight games including a service gamebefore finally ending the match.
"He said, `Way to serve it out,''' Sampras said. "He was giving
me a hard time.'' It was the first all-American final at the Australian
Open since 1982, when Johan Kriek defeated Steve Denton. Sampras received
$322,000, Martin $161,000.