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September 11, 2000 - Image 23

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-09-11

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The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - September 11, 2000 - 11B
!0-year-old downs Sampras in Open final

NEW YORK (AP) - Marat Safin, a
giant with a peach-fuzz face and a
grown-up game, turned Pete Sampras
into a weekend hacker.
In as thorough a thrashing as anyone
has ever given the career Grand Slam
(anipion, the 20-year-old Safin won
U.S. Open 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 yesterday
and stamped himself as the player of the
future in men's tennis.
Bovish and emotional and blessed
with talents beyond his natural power,
Safin celebrated by getting down on his
knees and kissing the court in Arthur
Ashe Stadium.
The youngest champion since
Sampras won the first of his four U.S.
Open titles a decade ago, Safin won his
f t major title in the most lopsided vic-
tW over a former champion in 25 years.
"He reminded me of myself when I
was 19 and came here and won for the
first time" Sampras said. "lie passed
and returned my serve as well as anyone
I've ever played."
Safin, serving at up to 136 miles per
hour and whacking a dozen aces to push
his tournament total to 115, never faced
so much as a single break point until the
l game when Sampras finally got two.
Sa n wiped those away quickly, and
closed out the l-hour, 38-minute match
with a backhand pass that zipped by

Sampras as so many others had before.
Sampras, holder of 13 Grand Slam
titles, had lost only twice before in a
major final - against Stefan Edberg in
the 1992 U.S. Open and Andre Agassi in
the 1995 Australian Open.
No one had lost in the final so badly
since Edberg beat Jim Courier in 1991.
And no former champion had gone
down so hard since Jimmy Connors lost
to Manuel Orantes in 1975.
Asked how he returned Sampras'
serve so well, Safin replied, "You think I
Sampras unleashed a 131 miles per
hour ace to start the match, a message
intended to intimidate the Russian in his
first major final. But Safin resolutely
stood his ground time after time, waiting
for his chances.
At 3-3 in the first set, on a mild after-
noon with a slight breeze, Safin created
his first break point at 15-40 with a siz-
zling forehand pass into the corner that
Sampras watched like a spectator. Two
points later, Safin rocketed back a return
winner that seemed faster than Sampras
124 miles per hour serve. Sampras bare-
ly caught a glimpse of the ball going past
him as he charged up the middle.
That was all Safin needed as he
cruised on his serve, yielding only nine
points in five service games and going

to deuce only once.
The second set turned at the same 3-3
juncture. After Sampras served the first
of his double-faults, Safin pounced
again, setting up the first break point of
the match with a spectacular running
backhand pass, and taking the game
with a solid return that Sampras slugged
Once more, Safin had no trouble
holding serve to close the set, and his
victory took on an air of inevitability.
When Safin took a 3-0 lead in the third
set, it was just a matter of a brief time
before it was all over.
"I really didn't have my game today,"
Sampras said. "He played so well,
served big. He was not intimidated. He's
a champion. He's young. He's going to
get better and better. I tried to mix my
serve. It didn't work. I tried to chip and
charge. It didn't work. Everything I tried
didn't seem to work. All credit to him."
Safin's arrival as a Grand Slam cham-
pion could be seen coming the past two
years. Everyone in tennis knew he had
enormous talents - the brutal two-fist-
ed backhand, the crushing forehand, the
huge serves, and the feathery touch with
drops and lobs. All this plus a 6-foot-4
body with long, strong legs that allowed
him to cover the court with incredible

Of Safin's many brilliant shots against
Sampras, none stood out more than a
sprint he made diagonally across the
court from the baseline to the net to
chase down a half-volley drop shot by
Sampras. Safin reached it backhanded
with his long arms just before the ball
touched the ground, and he flicked it at a
devastatingly sharp angle over the net
and out of Sampras' reach.
Safin spoke to his friend Alexander
Volkov after a series of first-round loss-
es this year and a 5-1 I record through
the Monte Carlo in April. Told "you
must take this more seriousl," Safin has
been on fire since. lie beat Sampras in
Montreal in August on the way to win-
ning the Canadian Open.
This time against Sampras, Safin
made only 12 unforced errors compared
to Sampras' 25, and struck 37 winners
compared to Sampras 32.
"The way he's playing, he's the future
of the game," Sampras said. "I didn't
feel old. I felt'I was standing next to a
big dude.
"It's a bit of a humbling feeling to
have someone play that well for that
long. He serves harder than I did at 19.
lHe's more powerful. He doesn't have
many holes. He moves well. He's going
to win many majors. it's a changing of
the guard."


Venus Williams wins
second-straight Slam

Russia's Marat Safin, left, shows off after Safin's victory in the U.S. Open
n it

NEW YORK (AP) - A glittery
tiara in her hair and menace in her
strokes, Venus Williams tightened the
family grip on tennis Saturday night,
capturing the U.S. Open title her sister
won a year ago.
Two months after beating Lindsay
Davenport at Wimbledon for her first
Grand Slam title, Williams confirmed
her place as the best in the game, if not
in the rankings, by beating Davenport
again 6-4. 7-5 in the hardest-hitting
women's final in U.S. Open history.
A Never before had two women's
finalists walloped shots so fiercely, so
consistently, from both sides as
Williams and Davenport in this rain-
delayed, I-hour, 25-minute duel. They
each needed to be fast to keep up with
the other, and no one in the game is
faster than the sinewy, long-legged
"I really have some wheels."
Williams said. "I'm really speedy
these days. It helped me out a lot."
Williams gazed at the silver trophy,
taking pleasure in seeing where her
name will be inscribed next to that sis-
ter Serena.
AP PHOTO "It feels real nice," Venus said.
Williams celebrated this victory less
tamely than she did her Wimbledon

triumph, skipping lightly to the net,
twirling a bit, shaking hands briefly
with Davenport. Williams then trotted
over to the corner to kiss her mother
and hug her father and coach, Richard,
who came down to the court and
danced jubilantly beside her. while
Serena told her, "Great job, Venus."
"Venus was playing great. She
forced me to play better and I couldn't
do it." Davenport said.
Davenport beat 18-year-old Serena
in the quarterfinals, but made too
many errors to hold off Venus, who
pocketed S800,000 compared to
Davenport's S425,000.
Though clearly dominant in
women's tennis as she rides a 26-
match winning streak bookended by
two major titles, Williams will remain
No. 3 in the ranking behind No. 1
Martin Hingis and No. 2 Davenport.
The lag in the rankings is due solely to
Williams' absence from the game for
nearly six months until the spring
because of tendinitis in both wrists.
"This was a very nice victory
because I feel like I played Lindsay
when she was playing some of her best
tennis, and now I've beaten the No. I
and 2 players in the rankings succes-
sively." Williams said.



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Venus Williams, of the United States, smiles with her trophy after defeating
Lindsay Davenport in the women's finals at the U.S. Open.

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