Sampras Weathers Rain Delay to Rout Lee
September 4, 2000
On a sweltering hot afternoon, Pete Sampras continued his advance in the US Open to put out South Korean qualifier Hyang-Taik Lee in straight sets. The crowded Arthur Ashe Stadium buzzed with expectancy as the spirited Lee started the opening set with a robust service game. Then in the sixth game, the American Grand Slam record-breaker found himself having to save three break points. He won the tie-breaker, but only after Lee, going for an overhead, inadvertently touched the net with his foot. Sampras seemed unaware of what had happened, and looked surprised when the Umpire declared: "Game, first set Sampras".
Lee admitted that the loss of the tie-breaker deflated him, but said it would provide a good story to tell his grand children - to make the most of his having shared a court with one of the most successful players of all time.
"I was feeling a little down and lost a lot of momentum, so I wasn't myself at the beginning of the second set", he said. "I think I would exaggerate the story a little, and say I was winning the match, until my foot accidentally touched the net", he said jokingly.
Rarely a player to waste an advantage, Sampras lost no time in building a 3-1 lead in the second set, when the heavens suddenly opened - possibly in response to a prayer from the Korean - and the protagonists found themselves off court for two and a half hours.
Rain delays are bread and butter to a seasoned campaigner like Sampras, but more unaccustomed fare for Mr Lee. As so often happens after a long delay, the match resumed in markedly changed conditions. Not only had the spectators dwindled to a few hundred, but the weather was now decidedly chilly, as well as windy. Probably there were changes in the mind-set of each player as well. Certainly Sampras seemed in no mood to delay a hot shower and massage longer than necessary, rocketing an ace down the line in excess of 130 mph with his first serve, and going on to close out the set by breaking his hapless opponent to love. But Lee, having proved himself to be a strong, fast baseliner, still refused to let himself become overawed by Sampras, or the situation in which he found himself. He attempted a brave fight-back in the third set, but eventually succumbed 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4.
"He was cool as a cucumber", acknowledged Sampras. "He's a good player, and wasn't overwhelmed by the situation, playing me on Centre Court. He served great - took me a while to break him."
Lee was equally impressed by the American's serve, as well as his calm composure throughout the vicissitudes of the match. He felt he had learned much from their encounter.
"After this experience, I feel I can play anyone, without being afraid", he said.
Sampras is unlikely to strike fear into the heart of his next opponent. In the Quarter Finals he will meet Richard Krajicek, who has the distinction of holding a 6-3 career advantage over the American Slam King.
Based on AP news report
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