Serve & Volleyer vs. Baseliner
Sampras and Agassi reach the finals
March 17, 2001
For the first time in more than a year, great rivals Andre Agassi and Pete
Sampras will meet when they battle for the Tennis Masters Series-Indian
Wells title. Third seed Sampras snuffed out seventh-seeded Russian Yevgeny
Kafelnikov, storming back from deficits of 2-5 and 1-4 to score a 7-5 6-4
victory in Saturday's first semifinal.
PETE shook off a slow start and put together impressive runs of five straight
games to close out each set against the frustrated Olympic champion. Sunday's
final between Agassi and Sampras will be the 30th time the two old American
warriors have faced each other, with the 29-year-old Sampras holding a 17-
12 advantage over Agassi.
"We could play in my backyard and I would love it," Agassi said
of the great rivalry. "To play a big match in the final, it's truly
just a memory waiting to happen."
The pair last clashed in the semifinals of the 2000 Australian Open, a
five-set thriller which propelled Agassi to the second of his three Australian
crowns. "That was incredible," Agassi said. "The standard
of tennis was pretty special."
The two former top-ranked players own 20 Grand Slam titles between them
and have been playing each other since grade school, when they met in a
juniortournament in Northridge, California. "He came in from Vegas,
his whole family came down," Sampras recalled. "He beat me. It's
amazing where we are now. Our careers have been pretty damn good."
Agassi recalled Sampras as someone who was always playing "up"
in divisions that included children older than he was. "I remember
seeing him with a two-handed backhand, just a counterpuncher, running down
balls and pushing," Agassi said. "I beat him something like 6-2
Thirteen of their 29 meetings have come in finals, including in 1995 here,
when Sampras crushed Agassi to successfully defend his title in his last
Indian Wells final appearance. When asked about their long history, however,
Sampras names as "classics" two Grand Slam finals in which he
overwhelmed the Las Vegas showman.
"At '99 Wimbledon, that was the best tennis I've played and he forced
me to do that," Sampras said of that straight sets triumph on his favourite
court. "The '95 U.S. Open finals, we both played quite well,"
he recalled o a match in which Agassi had been the hot favourite. "It's
a good match-up. No question it should be some good tennis."
Agassi has been the superior player so far in 2001, winning the Australian
Open and reaching the San Jose final two weeks ago. Sampras will be playin
his first final of 2001, but he doesn't feel like the underdog entering
Sunday's contest. "I feel like I'm still the strong favourite each
week I play," Sampras said. "This year, he' obviously been much
more consistent and has played better. I feel just as much pressure playing
Andre tomorrow or playing him five years ago."
Agassi would not concede the edge to Sampras. "I would bet on myself,
but that's because I like to do that," he joked.
In the match pitting the most feared serve-and-volleyer in tennis in Sampras
against the game'smost lethal returner, there is little doubt that the player
who maintains his rhythm on his money shots throughout will come out the
winner. "I have to execute," Agassi said. "I have to take
advantage of the opportunities I get. I have to make him feel the need to
press. "There's not a whole lot of strategy when I play Pete. I have
to play my best."
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Sampras rallies back to advance to the finals
March 17, 2001
In their last 6 meetings, Pete Sampras has not lost a set to Yevgeny Kafelnikov.
Falling behind 4-1 in both sets, Pete was able to rally back and stretch
his winning record against Kafelnikov.
Although Pete doublefaulted in the first point of the 10th game, he followed
this with a service winner and 2 aces to level the set to 5-5. In the next
game, Kafelnikov committed errors to lose his server by hitting 2 shots
long and 2 shots into the net. Then, Pete served out the first set with
2 of his trademark aces.
Pete lost his serve early on in the second set but started his comeback
in the fourth game. AP describes the second set as follows:
Trailing 3-0 in the second, Sampras didn't lose a point as he held service
in the fourth game. After Kafelnikov held serve, Sampras finished the next
game with an ace. Kafelnikov then hit three shots into the net and another
wide to lose his serve, then Sampras had an ace and two backhand winners
to even it 4-4.
Kafelnikov, obviously rattled, then lost his serve again, hitting two forehands
into the net, double-faulting, then hitting another forehand wide right.
Sampras started the 10th game with two aces, then wrapped it up with an
PETE holds a 11-2 winning record against Kafelnikov. Both losses of Pete
were on clay.
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2001 Tennis Masters - Indian Wells
Pete Sampras defeats Yvegeny Kafelnikov
March 17, 2001
MODERATOR: Pete tomorrow will attempt to win his third title here in Indian
Wells, and his 12th career Tennis Masters Series title. In his head-to-head
meetings, he's 17-12 against Agassi and 4-2 against Hewitt.
Q. Was it difficult to get started again after your tough match yesterday?
PETE SAMPRAS: It was a little bit. I got off to a slow start. I lost my
first two service games, just felt a touch flat. But once I kind of got
through that stiffness, that I felt a little bit this morning, you play
I don't think we both played all that well today. We both were missing
a little bit. It wasn't a very good serving day for me. Kind of hung in
there and scrapped and clawed, down 5-2, 4-1, first and second set, you
know, I fought hard to get back into the sets, ended up winning the match.
I feel like I need to play at a much better level tomorrow to beat either
Hewitt or Andre. It was a good one to get through, but I felt - - I just
felt a touch off, especially on my serve.
Q. You took a couple of months off to get married. Has marriage affected
PETE SAMPRAS: Not really.
Q. You haven't played Andre in a while. It's been over a year now. Just
talk about that potential match-up, and talk about Lleyton.
PETE SAMPRAS: Andre obviously possesses the best return in the game. He's
playing great. He's very fit, very focused. I'm going to have my hands full
against either Lleyton or Andre.
Andre certainly has a little more firepower, and he's confident and playing
great. Definitely not an easy match for both of us. You know, we match up
as a pretty good contrast when we clash. Tomorrow, if he reaches the final,
will be some good tennis.
Q. Given how well he's been playing as of late, do you feel a little bit
like an underdog, which would be an unfamiliar position for you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Not really. I feel like, you know, I'm still the strong favorite,
one of the strong favorites, each week I play. But you look at our years.
He's obviously been a little bit more consistent and has played better.
I don't look at it as an underdog going into it. I feel just as much pressure
playing Andre tomorrow or playing him five years ago. There's not a huge
Q. How about Lleyton?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, Lleyton, you know, he's an unbelievable competitor
that will fight, scratch, do whatever he can to win. He's one of the best
movers in the game. He moves the ball very well around the court, possesses
a pretty good first serve. You know, he fights hard. He's like Michael Chang
but with a better serve.
He's someone that we look at the future of the game, I mean, he's one of
the guys. I think we all know that he's only 20 and he'll just get bigger
physically, more experience as he plays more big matches. Certainly he's
got all the tools.
Q. He had two good wins over you last year. Does that play in the back
of your mind at all going into the match?
PETE SAMPRAS: No, not really. Lleyton, you know, it's like playing a little
bit like Michael Chang. He's not someone that is going to overpower you
like an Andre, but he won't miss much. He returns well, he moves well. He's
given me some problems, especially at Lisbon, Queen's.
You know, it's a matter of finding my game at the right times tomorrow,
if I play him. We'll see.
Q. Andre was talking about how your game has improved over the years, said
you were definitely a better player now. Your serve was better both in terms
of pace, power, you know when to turn it on, when to play safe, when to
be dangerous. Could you comment on how your game has changed?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, when I first broke out on the tour, I played Andre,
I was very inconsistent. You know, I still have those moments in matches.
You know, I think I've improved in a lot of areas, especially my serve.
My second serve, I'm hitting with pretty good pace. As you get older, you
just learn a little bit more.
You know, it's been a steady improvement on both of our parts. He says
he's a better player now than he was six years ago. I feel like I'm pretty
much at the same level. We'll see.
You know, you have to improve. Guys are getting a little bit better, a
little bit younger. You just have -- you need to add some things to your
game to keep up.
Q. You showed again today what many people said, you have the ability to
turn it up at the key moments. How does that process work? Is that a dialogue
you have with yourself?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, there's certain moments in a match, in a set, that
you just push a little bit harder. You know, you play a 4-3 game different
than a 1-All game. You still want to try to win every point, but there's
certain points that you feel, "I have him now; time to put the clamps
Today I didn't really feel like I was on top of him all that match. You
know, once you get to a Love-30, 15-30, it's the time where you tighten
up a little bit. You put the pressure on him. I did that today.
There's certain points after you win a tight first set to raise that level,
and I didn't do it today. I slipped off, went down a break in the second.
Just a little bit careless.
It's just experience, knowing when to turn it on.
Q. The Australian semi has been labeled by a lot of people a classic. After
it occurred, you weren't sure about that. Have you watched it at all? What
do you think about it now?
PETE SAMPRAS: Everyone talks about it being a classic. It was a classic
from the standpoint of how close it was. I didn't think -- it wasn't the
best of tennis. I think we played better matches in the past. I remember
that year in Australia, the courts were really quick. I mean, he won the
match. I'm not taking anything away from the way he played. It wasn't the
best tennis I think we've ever played. It was close, especially that fourth
set tiebreaker when it went to like 8-6 or something.
In the past, I think we have played, as far as a level, a lot higher.
Q. Was the level of the match you played here when you beat him in '95,
'96, was that better?
PETE SAMPRAS: It was a long time ago (smiling).
Q. Straight sets.
PETE SAMPRAS: I look at some of our indoor matches that I played against
Andre as some pretty good match-ups, a couple Paris Indoors matches we played;
The Championships, ATP Championships, we've had pretty good battles; US
Open, a couple finals there.
Australia, I remember it was a little bit breezy that day. I remember the
court was very fast. I was serving bombs. It was more dramatic more than
it was great tennis. I didn't think we both played that great.
When we do play great at the same time, it's some of the best ever.
Q. We see that as a priceless match. You feel slightly the other way. If
you had to pinpoint the one match that you think you and Andre have played
which was the beat all, end all, which one would that be?
PETE SAMPRAS: That's really hard to say one match. You know, I can't think
of one right now. From my standpoint, I mean, that final a couple years
ago at Wimbledon was the best tennis I've ever played, and he forced me
to do that.
You know, we've had some memorable moments. US Open finals in '95, I believe,
we both played quite well. I'm trying to think of where else we played.
It's a good match-up. No question it should be some good tennis.
Q. Do you remember the first time you ever played him?
PETE SAMPRAS: In the pros?
PETE SAMPRAS: I got embarrassed by him on the clay in Rome. This is when
I was -- it was 2-1. I wasn't very good. He pretty much embarrassed me.
Q. Do you remember the first time you played him as a kid?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. It was in Northridge at a junior event, 10s or 12s,
I'm not sure which one. He came in from Vegas, his whole family came down.
I think he beat me there.
It's amazing where we've started and where we're at now. It's pretty amazing.
Our careers have been pretty damn successful.
Q. Your first impression of somebody? I'm sure he had the long hair then.
PETE SAMPRAS: I didn't remember much of what he looked like. It was so
long ago, it was like '87 or '8. I don't have a strong memory of it. Just
knowing that, you know, he was more from the Bollettieri, Courier era, and
I didn't play him too much in the juniors because he was in Florida; I was
in LA playing against Michael Chang. It wasn't until the pros when we actually
started playing a lot.
Q. Were you still hitting with two hands, your backhand, the first time
you played him?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah.
Q. So he couldn't exploit that?
PETE SAMPRAS: Not at that time (laughter). He beat me, so I guess he did.
Q. Five or so years ago you were asked if there was one thing you could
have that Andre has, what would it be? Interestingly enough, you said, "A
jet plane." Andre is a smart guy, so he doesn't have the plane anymore.
Seriously, if there was one quality that Andre has that you could get, what
would that be?
PETE SAMPRAS: As a player?
Q. Yes. Or a person.
PETE SAMPRAS: As a player, it's hard to answer. He's got some of the best
returns ever. I'd love to have his return of serve. You can't have your
cake and eat it. You can't have my serve and return the way he does. I mean,
that's one thing he possesses over me, is the return.
Q. You've also seen him evolve as a person. Is there anything you admire
in term -- any traits you'd like?
PETE SAMPRAS: When he was at a point where he was ranked 120, he went to
the challenger circuit, just kind of started over. I mean, you respect someone
that was able to put it all together, get his life in order to play great
tennis, and he's done so.
Q. In saying about not being comfortable here, irrespective of what happens
tomorrow in the final, do you think the monkey will be off your back by
reaching the final, or do you have to win it?
PETE SAMPRAS: It would be great to win it. I got a lot of good matches
under my belt this year, which I haven't had all year. Yeah, I mean, it's
been a struggle. This is the first time I made the weekend in over five
You know, it's still always a struggle each match I play here, just to
find my game. As much as I love serving, serving in these conditions isn't
always easy for me because the ball does go a little bit faster. I wish
I had it a little bit heavier out there. It helps out in some areas.
You know, the monkey might be off my back for a little bit. Hopefully I'll
get through tomorrow.
Q. How much longer do you think you're going to play?
PETE SAMPRAS: I see myself at least another five years.
Q. Do you see a slight advantage for either you or Andre, you or Lleyton,
with the conditions here?
PETE SAMPRAS: Someone that plays well in these conditions is someone who
hits the ball pretty flat with short back-swings. They both have that. My
swings are pretty long; play with a lot of spin. It can go a little bit
more. Those guys swing the racquet with nylon, a little easier to keep it
in the court.
They have the short swings and the good backhands. It's a good shot out
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