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Flawless Sampras wins record-tying title

July 4, 1999

WIMBLEDON, England -- Pete Sampras strengthened his place in tennis history Sunday, playing with such power and artistry that even he was in awe.

In an all-American final on the Fourth of July, Sampras gave a flawless grass-court performance in overwhelming Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 for his sixth Wimbledon title in seven years.

The victory gave Sampras his 12th Grand Slam championship, equaling Roy Emerson's record. He has also won the U.S. Open four times and the Australian Open twice.

"That's probably the best I've played in many years," Sampras said. "I couldn't have played any better, plain and simple."

Said Agassi: "He walked on water."

The day featured another American champion, with Lindsay Davenport beating seven-time winner Steffi Graf 6-4, 7-5 in the women's final for her first Wimbledon title. Graf said she played her last Wimbledon match.

Sampras became the first player in the Open era to win Wimbledon six times. He's one short of the mark held by W.C. Renshaw, who won seven titles in the 1880s.

At 27, Sampras should have plenty of opportunities to break the Wimbledon and Grand Slam records, especially if he plays as he did Sunday.

"I'm still spinning a little bit," he said. "It's a little overwhelming to have won what I've won. I don't know how I do it to be honest with you."

Agassi considers Sampras the best ever.

"He's accomplished more than anybody else in my opinion," he said. "He has dominated on grass. He finished the year No. 1 six years in a row. His achievements speak for themselves."

Sampras finished the match with two straight aces, his 16th and 17th, the final one on a second serve. After the last ball whizzed past Agassi, Sampras held both arms in the air and threw back his head.

"It was a big occasion, on the Fourth of July," he said. "To win in straight sets, I didn't think it was going to happen. Andre brings out the best in me. There's no question he elevates my game to a level that is phenomenal."

As Sampras walked around Centre Court clutching the winner's trophy, Agassi jokingly threatened to hit Sampras with his runner-up plate.

The match shaped up as a classic contrast: the best serve-and-volleyer (Sampras) vs. the best returner (Agassi). But Sampras dominated in all phases.

"He played some impeccable tennis at the most important times," Agassi said. "I didn't come up with better stuff than he did."

Agassi, coming off a compelling victory at the French Open, never got untracked. The brilliant returns that carried him to the final barely made a mark against Sampras, who repeatedly came up with aces and service winners when he needed them.

Agassi had only four return winners, the same as Sampras. Sampras was never broken in the match, while breaking Agassi once in each set.

Sampras faced only three break points, all in the same game. Down 0-40 in the seventh game of the first set, Sampras erased them all with five big serves.

"That was a huge game," he said. "He breaks me there and wins the first set, it's a completely different match. That's grass-court tennis, when momentum can switch in a couple of minutes, and I got it today."

Sampras won five straight games to go up 2-0 in the second and take control. He could do nothing wrong, slamming aces, blasting winners from the baseline, knocking off volleys and overheads.

"I was on fire," he said. "I was playing in 'the zone.' It was well as I could play, plain and simple."

The only damage Agassi caused was in the fourth game of the second set when he sent Sampras sprawling to hit a spectacular diving backhand volley winner. Sampras scraped his right elbow, but responded with two aces to win the game.

"He played very big at the right times and he's won for a very good reason," Agassi said. "You have got to play the big points well. I could have served a little better to put him under pressure. When his nose is out in front he's really difficult."

Sampras extended his career record against Agassi to 14-10, including 3-1 in Grand Slam finals.

"He has a knack for doing things like that," Agassi said. "He's a champion. He has proven that."

Agassi had won 13 straight matches and taken over the No. 1 ranking from Sampras. But that was little consolation for Sunday's lopsided defeat.

"I feel mentally and emotionally a little beat up," he said. "I didn't feel like I was No. 1 today.

Sampras collected $724,133 while Agassi received $362,066.