Sampras' Exit Leaves Cincinnati Master Wide Open
August 11, 2000
Mason, Ohio - At the seventh attempt, Britain’s Tim Henman finally succeeded in beating Pete Sampras.
“This is very satisfying,” said Henman. “It’s been a long time coming. I’ve felt like I had some opportunities against him and I was getting closer. You’ve just got to keep putting yourself in that situation.”
Henman’s 6-3, 6-4 win in the third round of the Tennis Masters Series-Cincinnati means there will be another change at this event: not only the new purple-coloured courts and change of name, but a first-time champion. Sampras was the defending champion and his exit was preceded by compatriots Andre Agassi and Michael Chang, who are also previous winners here. The eight players left probably all fancy their chances now.
Although Henman described this victory as the most satisfying of his career – in fact he went as far as to say that it was the best moment of his life - he acknowledged that Sampras was not firing on all cylinders.
“He didn’t play his best tonight,” Henman admitted. “But I certainly took advantage of the chances I had”.
The reigning Wimbledon and all-time Grand Slam champion never got into his rhythm. He seemed sluggish and, unusually for him, didn’t attempt to chase all his opponent’s shots. During a changeover in the second set he called for the trainer and was given some pills to take. When questioned at his press conference Sampras said they were a painkiller. Asked what was wrong, he was clearly reluctant to make excuses. He had played a late match the previous night, beating Taylor Dent in two tiebreakers, but insisted he had had plenty of time to recover. He was generous in defeat to his frequent practice and golf partner.
“There’s always a little pain somewhere,” he said. “But I think today it was in the head. It’s just … a little soreness, but nothing too serious. I just came out a little bit flat … and ran into a Tim Henman who was playing great. I wasn’t at my best, but I think he had a lot to do with that. He definitely outplayed me in just about every area. He got off to a good start and I kind of let it slip away a little bit. Then he got on a great roll and was just too good. He played really well.”
Sampras will now take the next two weeks off, to rest before attempting to land his 14th Grand Slam at the US Open.
“It’s disappointing not to go into New York with a victory in one of these big tournaments”, admitted Pete. “But I’ve gone to New York playing well and I’ve won and gone to New York not playing well and won. Hopefully, I’ll rest the body and go in playing my best.”
Sources: Janet Graham (Cincinnati Post) and Terry Kinney (Associated Press)
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