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Courtside coverage of the Ericsson Open - Finals

April 2, 2000

This message was originally posted by Michael on the Samprasfanz messageboard...

Hi, everyone. I thought I'd add my thoughts on the final and the tournament as a whole after sitting through the whole thing, cheering Pete the whole way.

I can't tell you all how great it was to watch Pete destroy Moya, Rusedski, and Lapenti. He was just so amazing. Being there in person is really special somehow.

As for the final: I needed a couple Valium when I got home, I was so nervous from the whole afternoon. Pete just killed him in the first set with unearthly tennis 6-1. Then he broke in the second set, and I thought it was all over. Guga really deserves credit for staying in the match despite his problems at that point---Agassi would've given up I bet--and I don't think Agassi sucks, I just think he understands Pete's talent more than Guga does. That's the great thing about Pete beating Lleyton Hewitt and all the young ones--they all get to see what tennis really can be, when executed by the best ever. They all come in thinking they're the hottest--and he cools their jets quickly with masterful style. I've got to hand it to Hewitt; he was duly impressed with Pete's game. He certainly isn't impressed with Kafelnikov's, and Yevgeny is rated around Pete at the moment (in the "masters" race).

Many people have asked for some comments about the game from people there, so I'll give some (I hope) enlightening ones. In the fourth set, around 5-4 or 4-3 Kuerten, during the changeover, I stared (as always) at Pete with my great new binoculars. Even under the umbrella, I could see he was clearly exhausted, and I saw him mutter "Come on" to himself, to try to get himself up to finish the set and get to the tiebreak that we all knew he'd win. He was DEAD tired, yet he somehow found the strength to keep going. True champion. Then he went out there, and I can speak for many of the fans there when I say that we were SICK AND TIRED of those obnoxious Brazilian fans cheering every fault/double fault. So rude. So finally we decided, collectively, lets drown those bastards out and let Pete know we love him more than those Brazilians love Guga. So we started Let's Go Pete! Let's Go Pete! It happened a couple times, getting louder each time, until at almost the end it was overWHELMINGly loud. I have never felt anything like it. It was deafening from where I was sitting. The whole stadium seemed to be pulsating with enthusiasm for Pete, willing him to finish that last tiebreaker. I could tell even then that it wasn't lost on him--you couldn't not feel the emotion. And sure enough, he won. I'll scan in my pictures from where I was sitting tomorrow--I have him throwing his arms up when he won, and I have him holding the trophies.

There is nothing like that feeling of exultation for him when he won. What a rush! It made the 1 1/2 hour drive there from my apartment (only 5 miles away) worthwhile. What a God of tennis! I'm thrilled to have seen it from the court. I had my best friend tape it for me, so I can review all the line calls and great tennis.

Now for the after-tournament ceremony: Pete was very gracious, saying he was "choking" during the last tie-breaker. I personally think he purposefully doublefaulted on match point because he didn't want people to think he won cheaply after the (in retrospect correct) disputed line call on his fanTASTIC shot. He didn't choke, he just didn't want people to feel he got a "cheap" win. As if Guga deserved to win after 6-1 and two 7-6's! Kuerton only won 1/4 of the sets! It's not as if it were 6-7 7-6 6-7 7-6 7-6. 6-1 is a huge difference. So Guga won one close tiebreaker, lost two, and was creamed in another set. Not that close a match really in retrospect.

Anyway, Pete was very gracious, saying Guga was very good, it was a close match, he even admitted his conditioning wasn't really there (he won anyway!). Very nice winner. Guga admitted he had not come up with the goods. I've got to say, it looked like he was devastated that he lost. He just sat there in his chair with his head in his hands and covered by a towel from the moment the match ended until they called him out to accept his trophy. He was a beaten man. And I don't mean to diminish him--he just was second best that day. It's tough for hot young players to accept sometimes, but that's the way it goes.

The presenters made a big deal of how Pete is breaking records constantly, saying his 62 tournaments ties him for 4th with Borg and Vilas, and his 11 Masters Series wins is the record, and it was the first Ericsson Open, etc. Also, Rod Laver stood up, being in the stands to watch Pete win (as usual) a great championship. In all, a very satisfying (if tortuous and draining) match.

All I can say is: Pete is just the best ever, and I think everyone knows it.

—— Michael


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