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Sampras Halts Hurricane Hewitt

April 1, 2000

After advancing to his first Final this year, Pete Sampras declared:

“I’d love to win here. My game is starting to come around and I feel this is where I want to be. I’m confident – feel I have a good chance to win it.”

But after losing the second set to the Aussie youngster Lleyton Hewitt, the 12 time Grand Slam winner looked as though he might soon be on his way home.

“I was up a set and a break”, said Sampras, “but kind of let him back into the match. I was sweating a lot and having a hard time holding on to my racket. After losing the second set I changed my clothes and got off to a fresh start – playing a lot lighter not carrying around wet shorts.”

This was evident when Sampras was able to make an early break in the second game of the deciding set. On the pivotal point, he rocketed five consecutive forehands into the corners, then broke with a beautiful backhand volley. The usually undemonstrative American celebrated as though he had won another Slam, yelling jubilantly and throwing punches with both arms. The delighted crowd responded by roaring approval.

“I felt like I was grinding him down on the backhand and it was just a matter of time before I was able to come in”, he explained. “Paul, my coach, gave me a great strategy – he likes it wide, so serve to his body. But Lleyton fights very hard. He’s very quick and doesn’t give you an inch. But after that break point, the whole momentum of the match changed. I tightened up my game a little bit, got my groundies in, served well. That was pretty much it”.

It was, with the scoreline a roller-coaster 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

Sampras’s record in finals is an amazing 61 – 17 and he will start as strong favourite against the Brazilian sixth seed Gustavo Kuerten, who is bidding for his first hardcourt title.

In the favourite’s opinion: “The Brazilians will be loud, but there are a few Americans here. I’ll get them going somehow.”

Somehow? He only needs to play like he did in the Semi-Final to have his supporters on the edge of their seats again.


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