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Sampras in a Zone of His Own

July 3, 1994

WIMBLEDON, England - Pete Sampras threw two rackets into the crowd and two shirts, too. He said he would have stripped to nothing and thrown all his clothes to the crowd if that would have won him a second straight Wimbledon title.

Sampras didn't need to strip on Centre Court. He just needed to serve. His serve is hurtful. It twists, it turns, it digs a little hole in the ground sometimes.

Sampras needed to volley, too. His volleys are cruel. The wrist twists, and the racket hits the ball at angles so low that no human can get it.

Sampras also needed to return serve well. His backhand service return curves down the line like some boomerang, except that it doesn't come back. It just lands softly and out of reach.

Pete Sampras won his second straight Wimbledon title yesterday with the serve, the volley, the return. The No. 1 seed beat No. 4 seed Goran Ivanisevic, 7-6(7-2), 7-6(7-5), 6-0, in the final. The match lasted 1 hour 33 minutes, four minutes less than the best-of-three women's final had taken.

"I feel great," Sampras said. "I'm pumped, man."

He's just too good. That's what Ivanisevic said about Sampras nine times yesterday. Sampras played unbelievable. Ivanisevic said that twice.

Ivanisevic, the tall, skinny Croatian with the serve of death, had been boisterous and boastful before his second Wimbledon final. He had noted that Sampras had trouble with his lefty serve and that he, Ivanisevic, held a 5-3 career edge over the American. Ivanisevic had added that he was playing very good tennis, and that he had big plans for this Wimbledon, and good luck, Pete.

So Ivanisevic blasted 16 aces in the first set but lost it. Sampras accepted the aces gracefully. He would just walk to the half of the baseline and wait for another serve.

Ivanisevic was hitting all those aces, but Sampras was getting all the break points. He got five in the first set. And he didn't seize one. Trouble, you'd think -- wasting precious break points. But what it showed was that Sampras had the more creative game.

Ivanisevic could draw the breath from the crowd when his serve practically knocked Sampras off his feet. But Sampras drew the soft sighs from the crowd when he floated dainty service returns past the flummered Ivanisevic. Or when he almost kneeled to pick the ball off the tips of the grass, then directed it cross-court while Ivanisevic bit his lip or slid like a novice skater, clumsy and desperate, as he tried to retrieve the shot.

Sampras won the last six points of the first set tie-break with a first serve that Ivanisevic returned into the net, with a backhand winner, with a vicious forehand return that Ivanisevic lunged at and swatted long; with a fabulous backhand pass that Ivanisevic tipped wide; with a cruel backhand volley; and with another big first serve that Ivanisevic flailed at.

There was no hope for Ivanisevic, who lost the second set tie-break because Sampras plucked a ball that was almost dead in the grass and turned it into a cross-court backhand volley.

After that, Ivanisevic was a mess, talking to himself and hitting double faults and wild, no hope shots.

Sampras had shrieked and pumped his fist on that last point of the second tie-break. Ivanisevic mumbled for the 20 minutes it took to finish the third set.

Sampras is far and away the best tennis player in the world right now. There is no vulnerable part of his game.

Ivanisevic found that out. His game plan turned into this: try to serve well and hope Sampras misses some serves and gives him chances to return.

"Then the guy doesn't miss so many serves," Ivanisevic said. "I don't have so many chances for the second serve. That's tough. I mean, then, it's not too much game plan. It's just hoping."

Just hoping. That's what it's like playing Sampras now. He is 22 years old, and he has won four of the last five Grand Slam tournaments and reached the quarters of the French Open. He is the first player since Boris Becker in 1985 and 1986 to win consecutive Wimbledons.

Sampras leads the computer rankings by more points than anyone has since the rankings came into existence in 1973. For two weeks, other players have said that, for the time being, they've given up the thought of being ranked first.

"One year and a half, Pete's been playing this level of tennis -- very high, " Ivanisevic said.

So all there is is hope. Hope that Sampras gets bored, gets hurt, gets worse by magic.

Sampras isn't interested in getting bored or hurt or worse. He is quiet and he is criticized for not being flamboyant or able to offer up great and funny quotes. He doesn't cause a ruckus on the court or swear or dye his hair or design psychedelic clothes. He is interested in history and being part of history.

"The Grand Slam wins that I've had are something that's proven to people that I can go down in the history books," he said. "Winning the Grand Slams - that's the answer. That's the best thing I can give."

Only 22 and Sampras owns two Wimbledons, two US Opens, and an Australian Open title. He keeps giving the right answer.

Article supplied by Sandie Anthony



Sampras able to show emotion, too

July 3, 1994

WIMBLEDON - Critics of Pete Sampras say he's a great player but he doesn't show enough emotion on the court.

That cool-as-cucumber, all-business veneer was pulled away yesterday when Sampras let out some piercing screams as he got closer and closer to victory over Goran Ivanisevic in the men's singles final.

When the final point was won, the 22-year-old American star flung his racket skyward and it landed some six rows back, where a female fan wrestled the prize from other grappling hands. She certainly knew what to do with it. She immediately sent it to the dressing room for the champion's autograph.

When Sampras reached the sideline after his moment of triumph, beaming broadly, he whipped off his shirt and threw it into the stands. Then, he grabbed another out of his bag and tossed it to the fans. The, he flipped his Wimbledon towel.

"I would have taken all of my clothes off...two (titles) in a row," said Sampras, still feeling the euphoria that envelopes a champion who has just made a successful defense.

But not quite; he needed his third shirt to wear for the award ceremony that followed on Centre Court. Pete was so close to perfection, it's hard to fault him. He made his only mistake in the historic arena when he forgot the customary bow to royalty during a greetings exchange with the Duke and Duchess of Kent.

Sampras's efforts during his straight set success were a command performance worthy of royal respect.

The racket, shirts and towel left his hands rather quickly. What stayed firmly in his grasp, though, was the silver trophy he held high over his head during the traditional champion's walk around the outer reaches of the court where the "commoners" greeted him warmly.

It wasn't the roaring ovation that Martina Navratilova received after failing a day earlier to win a 10th women's title against Conchita Martinez. And it certainly would have paled to what might have been the response generated had Andre Agassi been king for a day.

"I think I'm winning their hearts," observed Sampras. "My main concern is to focus on winning and I just hope people can appreciate how I go about my tennis and how I play."

Superbly, Pete just goes about playing the old fashioned way. He earns his points with brilliant play. No time for emotional displays during a match that will sidetrack his intense concentration on the business at hand.

"You're not going to see a lot of communicating with the crowd because I feel like I really can't do both and stay focused on winning.

"People can say what they want, but the fact is that I have two in a row and that's going to stay with me forever."

Sampras hopes to have the same love affair with Wimbledon as Navratilova has had.

"I'd like to be around here dominating for as many years as I can," Sampras noted, "as long as I'm healthy and I'm enjoying the game. Hopefully, I can stay on top for as long as my body can handle it."

Sampras admitted being swept up with the tide of emotions generated by Martina's try for a 10th title in her final year.

"I felt for her," he said. "She wanted badly to end on a positive note. I don't know if I'll play until I'm 37, but I hope tha tone day, the last time I walk off the court, I can get the same response."

Comparing his emotions and thoughts of a year ago to this triumphant moment, Sampras had to collect his thoughts.

"Right now, I'm feeling pretty stoked, " he said. "The first one is something you never forget. The second is just a little bit sweeter."

Sampras always talks about his admiration for Aussie greats, Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall. He feels they were class acts.

Class is a word he uses frequently, wanting to be a "class" player, winning in a "class" way.

"I want to win in a class way, receiving a great response from the crowd," the 22-year-old Tampa, Fla. resident said. "I don't throw my racket or yell at umpires, maybe now and then, but not very often, like the Australians.

"They won with a bit of grace and that's something I've always tried to emulate."

Because of his resolute avoidance of controversy, because of his wary, unaggressive demeanor both on and off the court, it has been easy to underestimate the enormity of Sampras's achievements.

Pete became the youngest U.S. Open champ in 1990 and was runnerup to Stefan Edberg in 1992 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

Great champions win great tournaments and that is what Pete Sampras is all about these days. He has won four of the last five Grand Slams.

He watched films of Laver when he was a youngster. He considers "The Rocket" the greatest player of all time and would like someday to be favorably compared to him.

Sampras is going about his business in a manner that certainly will place him in consideration as one of the game's great champions.

"I'm getting closer," said Sampras, responding to how he feels to be part of tennis lore. "I'm getting there.

"The Grand Slam victories I've had in the last couple of years is something that proves to people and to myself that, hopefully, I can go down in those history books."

Sampras is not the sharpest conversationalist. But like his game, he has come a long way from his less communicative teen days. He has learned to articulate his thoughts in a measured and thoughtful manner.

When asked what is takes to be a champion, he gave a clear response that youngsters with similar ambitions should heed:

"You need some talent, you need hard work, you need discipline and you need the determination to keep trying to get better. You have to have that burning desire to improve.

"All these ingredients are needed to be a champion."

And what does Sampras think are his chances whenever he enters a tournament?

"I feel that every tournament I enter will not be satisfying unless I win," he said. "To get knocked off, I need to be playing someone that's really on while I have to be having an off day."

Champions talk that way.

Article supplied by Sandie Anthony



Sampras: Star of undramatic final

July 3, 1994

... Sure people who had the TV turned on, turned off their sets. It was such a nice day. I'm sure they went outside and sunbathe."

It was one of the hottest days in Wimbledon history, 116 degrees on Centre Court. With no rain the past week, the grass was dry and fast, virtually guaranteeing there would be no long rallies. But that didn't bother Sampras. He loved the conditions and the winner's prize - $ 517,500. Ivanisevic earned half that amount. The victory was the eighth of the year for the topranked Sampras, who had won four of the last five Grand slams, losing only in the French Open to Jim Courier.

"I thought the tennis was very high class today," said Sampras, whose serve was never broken and who faced only two break points all match. "Maybe you're not seeing a lot of long rallies, but it's tough to hit a serve that hard in a matter of three or four inches. When you have two guys who play very similar like us, you're not going to see a lot of rallies."

The absence of drama had less to do with the aces and two or three shot rallies than it did with the score. It was as if everyone wanted to press fast forward in the first two sets to get to the tiebreakers, knowing that neither player would yield serve. Yet when the tiebreakers came, they concluded in straightforward fashion, Ivanisevic never threathening Sampras.

When Ivanisevic had two break points against him, trailing 4-3 in the first set, he uncranked an ace and two service winners, then closed out the game with another ace. When he faced three more breakpoints at love-40 in his next service game, he slammed four more aces. His 15th ace sent the set into the tiebreaker, his 16th gave him a 2-1 lead, but then Sampras won six straight points to win the set.

If there was any thrill in watching the match it was seeing the sheer power and accuracy of the two players, serves with top speed approaching 130 mph and skipping off the lines. It was a little like seeing two pitchers throwing a shootout against each other with 15 strikeout apiece. It may not produce much action, but it can be exciting.

The difference here was that all of Sampras's and Ivanisevic's matches have been this way for two weeks and their power nullified each other until Ivanisevic simply wore down mentally.

"It's tough," said Ivanisevic, whose performance here will lift him from No. 4 to No. 2 in the new ATP rankings today. "You lose two sets 7-6, it puts pressure on me, and I have to keep that level because he was all over me. I didn't have much chance because he was playing better and better. I think he was just too good. Then you crack a little."

There is nothing that could be done about the non-rallies with these players under these conditions, and nothing is likely to be done to prevent a repeat of this kind of match in the future. It is in the nature of grasscourt tennis.

"You can put a clay court down, but that's not going to happen," Sampras said. "I remember watching (John) Newcombe play a big German fellow. They didn't have a lot of long rallies. You saw (Bjorn) Borg win here so many years and you saw long rallies.

"Now you have two big serve and volley players like Goran and myself. You're not going to see long rallies. That's the bottom line."

Article supplied by Sandie Anthony



Sampras overpowers Ivanisevic to repeat as men's champion

July 3, 1994

WIMBLEDON, England - Another superhuman effort, another Grand Slam title for Pete Sampras, the player who has lately made invincibility look easy. On a steamy afternoon when the brevity of point-making made plenty of survival sense, Sampras blasted by Goran Ivanisevic in straight sets, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-5), 6-0, to become the first man since Boris Becker in 1986 to successfully defend his Wimbledon title.

His immediate reaction to the victory was to douse himself with ice water, hurl his racquet into the stands, rip off his shirt and send it skyward as a souvenir. Then, with a fresh shirt in place atop his baggy shorts, he ambled over to shake the pair of royal hands that hand over the trophy he covets most.

No pyrotechnics for Sampras, 22, just a steady progress that has rendered his the most complete game in the Open era and, quite possibly, ever. "The Grand Slam wins I've had in the last couple years is something that's proven to people and to myself that hopefully I can go down in the history books,'' said Sampras, for whom winning his second Wimbledon championship and fifth Slam over all is all part of a master plan to join immortals like his role model, Rod Laver, in the record books. "Winning the Grand Slams, that's the answer,'' said Sampras, whose next task is the defense of his 1993 U.S. Open title but whose hope for a 1994 Grand Slam was spoiled last month with a quarterfinal loss at the French Open.

After dissecting Ivanisevic's game with increasing efficiency this afternoon, Sampras explained the ingredients that have gone into his own game in the course of an 18-month span in which virtually every opponent has routinely hailed him for playing at a level above the fray.

"You need some talent, you need some hard work, you need discipline and determination to keep on trying to get better,'' said Sampras, who admitted he was happy with "all categories'' of his game Sunday.

"I'm No.1, I won last year, and I want to win it again, so I've got that burning desire to keep on getting better,'' he said. Sampras has compiled a 14-match unbeaten streak at Wimbledon, and his victory over Ivanisevic gave him a 12-0 record against left-handers, who used to bother him back when his game was played on a less ethereal plain. Although the second-ranked Ivanisevic out-aced him by 25 to 17, Sampras was twice as effective at net, nearly three times as accurate from the baseline and allowed the baffled Croat only two break points and squelched them both with big serves.

"I never had a chance,'' said Ivanisevic, 22. "He was always serving unbelievable, he played unbelievable, and today he hit some great returns, so I have to hit a great volley or I'm in big trouble.''

Ivanisevic's only other appearance in a Grand Slam final came at Wimbledon in a five-set loss against Andre Agassi in 1992. "When you lose to a guy like Pete it hurts less than it did two years ago,'' he said, "because two years ago I knew I had a good chance. But today, he was just too good.''

Sampras has now collected four of the last five Grand Slam crowns, has already won eight tournaments in 1994, which matches his total from last year, and has taken his No.1 ranking to a height unlikely to be scaled by any challenger for the duration of the year. He said he couldn't worry about the staccato pace of the match, in which just three rallies contained more than five shots.

"It's a grass court, and you have two big serve-and-volley players like Goran and myself, so you're not going to see long rallies; that's the bottom line,'' he said. "But when it comes down to a tie breaker like it did today, that's exciting. I knew the match was going to come down to a couple of points, and I got them.''

Sampras so nearly approached flawlessness in this 1-hour-55-minute final, which began as a serving race but concluded in a rout, he felt compelled to apologize to Ivanisevic after it was all over. "He just said `Sorry'wasn't that nice from himand he said, `I couldn't play any better,''' Ivanisevic said.

Through the first 12 games, neither player seemed able to adjust to the speed of the incoming serves, which in both cases averaged nearly 120 mph. But Ivansevic, previously 6-3 in tie breakers against Sampras, faltered badly at those stages Sunday, serving only one ace. In the 10th game of the first set, Ivanisevic saved three set points, two of them with aces, before closing out the game with another ace.

"That's where I told myself not to get down on myself,'' said Sampras, who did precisely that in his semifinal loss to Ivanisevic at Wimbledon in 1992. "When I played him here two years ago, he was acing me left and right and I did get down on myself. Today I told myself to stay positive.''

As soon as Sampras earned a fourth set point and went up by 6-2 in the tie breaker with a backhand crosscourt volley, Ivanisevic surrendered the set by pumping a backhand return out of bounds. The pattern of the second tie breaker was similar, with Ivanisevic playing an unproductive game of catch-up that took him only as far as 5-5. Sampras cracked a serve and backhand volley winner to reach set point, then rifled a backhand pass down the line that Ivanisevic couldn't handle



Sampras puts wood in frame

July 3, 1994

Pete Sampras surveyed the bombardment tennis had taken after his second Wimbledon triumph and said: "If they want to bring back wooden rackets, that's fine by me."

The world no. 1 is only too aware of the criticism his sport suffered following the ace-splattered men's final shoot-out with Goran Ivanisevic.

But he maintained the players had become just too good for Wimbledon's speedy grass rather than dig up the hallowed turf, he was willing to listen to other alternatives.

He agreed the most simple way to bring about a reduction of power would be a return to wooden rackets.

Another would be to use heavier, less pressurised tennis balls, although Wimbledon's are the weightiest used on the world circuit. "I really would not have a problem with going back to a wooden racket, so long as all the other guys did the same." said 22-year-old Sampras. "I grew up playing with a wooden racket, the older Jack Kramer autograph number.


"I used it until I was 14 and I think that's the reason my strokes are the way they are. Nowadays, kids are growing up with these graphite, wide-bodied models and they are not learning to hit the ball properly." None of the world's top players use wide-bodied, which do give added power, but all use graphite, knowing anything less would leave them exposed.

Sampras is looking to add three more Wimbledon titles to his collection and equal Bjorn Borg's unique feat of the game's modern era.

"Five in a row is tough and it's more dangerous out there now but if I play the way I did this year, then it's possible," said Sampras.

Article supplied by Georgia Christoforou