Awesome display of power was beyond belief
July 4, 1999
It's appropriate on a fantastic day for American tennis to use a very English word to describe Pete Sampras. Majestic.
A sixth Wimbledon singles victory in seven years is awesome in anyone's language. There are plenty of guys who know how to play on the grass, who feel good on the surface and are dangerous, so for Pete to lose only one match in seven years speaks for itself.
The final was a letdown, not because Andre Agassi didn't do himself justice, more because Pete was quite brilliant and no-one could have handled that kind of power. When Andre won the French last month, I suspected it would light a fire under Pete and look at his response.
No matter how well Agassi was returning, if you serve as well as Pete did yesterday, he has to have the edge. We hadn't seen Pete play at his best in the championship before the final. He had his scare and got lucky against Mark Philippoussis, and then everything fell into place for him.
He hit his forehand returns of serve better than one of the finest forehand returners in history - even if he wasn't seeing quite the same serve Andre was. Andre told me straight after the match he couldn't remember anyone hitting the ball that consistently hard against him. He expected Pete to chip his backhand and wait for his opportunity, to chip and come in, but instead Pete went for it and struck the ball so cleanly, so often. It was unbelievable.
When you see someone playing that well, it's hard to believe he could possibly go up another level. I'm sure seeing Andre out of the corner of his eye meant Pete was fully focused. They had a rivalry in the early Nineties which fell by the wayside, they hadn't met in a major since the final of the 1995 US Open, but Andre presented just the type of player and personality Pete required to bring out the best in him. He should thank Andre for that.
Pete has reached a remarkable comfort level at Wimbledon. He has shown he has the ability to recover quickly, even if he's playing day after day as you often have to here because of the suspensions and delays.
And, as hard as it is for me to believe, having played here myself so many times, it appears that Pete can hold something back in reserve. He didn't have to bring out his best in previous rounds - although he would have had to have done in the second set against Philippoussis before the Aussie broke down - but that didn't affect him. Tim Henman didn't play near the level he's capable of in the semi-final, he made it easy for Pete - double-faulting on set point to lose the second set.
The build-up to the final was such that its outcome was something of a letdown because it was semi one-sided. At 3-3, 0-40 on the Sampras serve in the opening set, something had to give. That moment was an important juncture. Pete came up with four monster serves, another brilliant second serve and won the game. Andre served with new balls, he started to feel the pressure, had a slight lapse and the set was gone. As quick as that.
I sensed that late in the first set and at the beginning of the second Andre lost his way, but it's very difficult not to get uptight when an opponent is striking the ball at such a level. Andre has had this tendency to rush and it becomes even more noticeable when he's losing points. No, there is no denying the greatness of Pete Sampras. The trophy is his by rights again, and we should remember too that he's not just won on grass, even if half his 12 Grand Slam titles have come at Wimbledon. I wouldn't put No 13 beyond him in New York in September.
He had his moment on Centre - I would like to have had one last chance, but when Steffi Graf withdrew from the mixed on Saturday, it had gone. This is probably my last Wimbledon as a major factor too. I didn't want to go out that way. Maybe no one cares, but I care. My kids were here, they cared. It was great that they were here, because as bad as I felt, they made me feel better. I hugged them afterwards, they said they were proud of me, it was a beautiful moment.
I wanted to try to win the championship and what happened still feels like a punch in the stomach. It's really hard to speak about it. It didn't feel as though I said a proper goodbye.