Seventh Heaven for Pete Sampras as He Rides on Cloud 13
July 9, 2000
Many people had assumed that Pat Rafter, a player known to have caused Pete Sampras a few problems in their previous encounters would again cause Sampras problems by threatening to take the Wimbledon crown from the King of Grass Court Tennis and Grand Slams. So surely this final match was one too far for Pete Sampras? That is what many a commentator and spectator had been predicting, but they should all have known better than to underestimate the determination, spirit and the enormous talent that Pete Sampras has.
They had all concluded that the tendonitis he had developed in his left shin in the first week of the tournament would be his undoing, but they were to proven wrong.
The final on July 9th 2000, was filled with a lot of drama, a lot of that caused by delays due to bad weather and failing light on the court.
It looked as though the defending champion was on his way to defeat, having lost the first set on a tiebreak, serving double faults at the most in appropriate of times. Then in the second set tiebreak going 1-4 behind, even Rafter thought he had control of the match as he punched his fist in the air in premature celebration, but like all great champions, Sampras fought his way back into the tiebreaker and subsequently won it. Rafter had given Sampras an opening and Sampras took advantage of that.
The drama of the match was intensified by the countless delays, an hours rain delay before the match started. A 26-minute delay in the 7th game of the first set, in which Sampras almost got knocked down, by a youngster rushing to help roll out the tarpaulin. Then there was a 2-½ hour delay in the ninth game of the fist set. When play finally restarted at 6.33pm British Summer Time, it wasn't until 8.57pm, 6 hours after the first ball had been served, that a tired, very emotional and jubilant champion stood victorious. It was beginning to get really dark to play, Sampras served his final serve and saw Rafter's return hit wide.
Who will be able to forget this Wimbledon Final? Pete Sampras, after he had raised his arms in victory bending on to his knees covering his eyes that had filled with tears, the tears were a mixture of the physical pain and endurance he had gone through to win the championships, the obvious joy at what he had achieved by winning this title and the fact that it had been witnessed by his parents, Sam and Georgia Sampras who had flown in specially from Los Angeles on Saturday to see their son for the first time win at Wimbledon.
Pete Sampras climbed up into the stands to hug his proud parents, who had deliberately sat in an area of the Centre Court so as not to be in the eye of the cameras, instead of sitting with their son's fiancée Bridgette Wilson and his other supporters in the family box. It was a usual open display of celebration by the normally reserved character of Pete Sampras, who had often been accused by the media of not being emotional enough in his matches.
"I thought I had let it slip away, I lost my nerve in the first set. We all choke, no matter who you are." Sampras said afterwards
Yes it's true even the greatest of champions get nervous, but it is the great ones that find a way to overcome this failing and find a way to win, just as Pete Sampras had done by finding the inspiration to play the big points and produce the right shot at the right time to win the points and the match.
The name of this champion will now and forever have his named etched in the history books as Pete Sampras has now beaten the record for the number of Grand Slam Singles titles, 13 following winning his record equalling 7th Wimbledon title. It is also his 7th Wimbledon triumph in 8 years.
The only other player in the history of the game that had won 7 Wimbledon titles had been W.C. Renshaw, but that was in the 1890's. Roy Emerson "Emmo" the Australian had won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, the French, US, Australian and Wimbledon in the 1960's.
Surely now people will sit up take notice and acknowledge Pete Sampras' place amongst the greats in not just tennis but in sport in general.
Only this week Sampras had referred to Michael Jordan, basketballs greatest player and Wayne Gretzky, hockey's greatest player in history. His references were not of him insisting that he belonged in the same category he was merely giving an example of how long they have lasted and maintained such a high level of performance and success in their careers. He has for the best part of the last decade dominated the men's tennis circuit.
He is still only 28 years old, and has achieved so much, and yet he still remains intensely motivated in winning at the Major events.
This is why it must be acknowledged by all that Sampras deserves and belongs to have his name placed amongst the greatest sports personalities of all time, along with stars such as Joe Montana, Jack Nicklaus and Willie Mays.
"It didn't matter if we played until midnight," a bemused Rafter said "I couldn't return his serves anyway."
Pete Sampras couldn't return Rafter's serve for the best part of 2 sets. In fact Sampras had 9 chances to break Rafter, but didn't take any until the 10th attempt in the 5th game of the 3rd set!
It is testament as to the quality of play from both players, that they held their service games relatively easily.
"I don't plan on breaking records. This hasn't hit me. It's amazing how this tournament panned out. I didn't feel I was going to win here." Sampras said.
"With everything that happened, I would say this is one of my best moments. These two weeks were the most difficult and the most satisfying. The fact that my parents were here, it was a great script and it worked out well for me." Sampras modestly admitted.
It was a good day for all, considering the match finished on the same day that it had started, well perhaps not a good day for Patrick Rafter.
Based on "An athlete for the ages - Sampras' 7th Wimbledon singles title should bump him into the elite club" by Art Spander, SportsWritersDirect & "Wimbledon champions dinner an American affair"