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September 09, 2002 - Image 14

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6B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - September 9, 2002

Sampras outlasts fellow journeyman

NEW YORK (AP) - Pete Sampras was
right all along: He did have a 14th Grand Slam
title in him. And just like the first, all those
years ago, it came in a U.S. Open final against
his old rival Andre Agassi.
His serve clicking, his volleys on target, his
forehand as fluid as ever, Sampras beat Agassi
6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 yesterday to win America's
major for the fifth time. At 31, Sampras is the
Open's oldest champion since 1970.
"I guess I'm back," Sampras said. "I played
so well today. Andre brings out the best in me
every time I step out with him."
Sampras' play faded in the third set and the
fourth, and it was hard to tell whether Agassi
or time was taking the bigger toll. But Sam-
pras managed to hold on, the rebuke to his
doubters as loud as the sound made by his 33
aces as they slapped the walls behind the base-
lines: Pop!
"I kind of got in the zone there a little bit,"
Sampras said. "It felt good."
When the 32-year-old Agassi put a back-
hand into the net to give Sampras the last
break he would need, making it 5-4 in the
fourth set, Sampras was so drained he barely

i Mv.

lifted a fist, slowly pumping it once as he
trudged to the changeover.
He then served it out, with an ace to match
point, and a volley winner to end it. And he
had enough energy to climb the stairs in the
stands to kiss and hug his pregnant wife,
actress Bridgette Wilson.
Sampras hadn't won a title since July 2000,
a drought of 33 tournaments, and his record
this year was barely above .500 before the
Open, resulting in a seeding of 17th. He's
deflected questions about retirement for some
time now, insisting he still could produce on
the big stage.
Indeed, Sampras played his best tennis at
the U.S. Open the past two years, making it to
the championship match before losing in
straight sets to a pair of 20-year-old first-time
Grand Slam finalists: Lleyton Hewitt in 2001,
Marat Safin in 2000.
Yesterday, Sampras got to pick on some-
one his own age: Agassi, winner of seven
Grand Slam titles. They've played each
other since the junior ranks, before they
were 10, and now have met 34 times as pros
(Sampras holds a 20-14 edge, including 4-1

in major finals).
If yesterday's match signaled the end of an
era, they produced a gorgeous goodbye.
The crowd of more than 23,000 in Arthur
Ashe Stadium split its rooting evenly, throw-
ing more vocal support to whichever player
trailed. Still, any time a yell of "Pete!" came
from one corner, an "Andre!" would follow.
"Pete just played a little too good for me
today," Agassi said. "It's great to hear New
York cheer again. It was beautiful being here."
Based on recent play, the showdown
seemed improbable. At July's Wimbledon,
both lost in the second round to players ranked
outside the top 50. But they are in great shape.
Agassi was out under the midday sun, swatting
shots on a practice court in a black T-shirt.
Sampras, headphones on, jogged in the hall-
way outside the locker room shortly before
taking the court.
The last time they played on the Grand
Slam stage was in last year's U.S. Open quar-
terfinals, a match Sampras won in four
tiebreakers, with neither player breaking serve.
It was presumed by many to be their last meet-
ing at a major.

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0
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9

Pete Sampras holds up his fifth career U.S. Open trophy after defeating Andre Agassi 6-3, 64, 5-7, 6-4
yesterday. The victory was Sampras' 14th Grand Slam title and his first since 2000.

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Serena one win from career Grand Slam

NEW YORK (AP) - Take that,
big sis!
Serena Williams confirmed at the
U.S. Open what's become clear since
spring: She's not just No. 1 in the
world, she's No. 1 in her home.
Unabashed about powering the ball
and taking advantage of mistakes just
as against any other opponent, she eas-
ily beat Venus Williams 6-4, 6-3 Satur-
day night to win a third straight Grand
Slam title - all by defeating her older
sister in the final.
"Venus dominated me for a long
time, but we always stayed close," Ser-
ena said. "Family comes first for us."
Before the match, they acted like sib-
lings, with Serena walking around the
umpire's chair to whisper in Venus' ear
during a ceremony that included Aretha
Franklin's singing and the unfurling of a
U.S. flag the size of the court.
And when it ended, they hugged and
kissed at the net, both smiling. They
were given a standing ovation by the
record crowd of 23,164, which includ-
ed their parents, Richard and Oracene,
and celebrities such as Hank Aaron,
Spike Lee, Joe Torre and Susan Lucci.
"I'm elated right now!" Serena said.
A look at the
underside of U of M

Between the lines, Serena showed lit-
tle love for Venus, taking full advantage
of her 10 double faults and 23 other
unforced errors. Such statistics might
seem to indicate a poorly played match,
which most of their previous nine tour
meetings were. But like the Wimbledon
final, they pounded the ball and chased
down apparent winners.
With eyes closed, it was tough to tell
which grunt, which thud off the racket
belonged to which sister.
And it was clear in the fifth game
that Serena was taking this seriously:
When Venus' laser backhand was close
to the line, Serena ran over, pointing
with her racket to indicate the shot was
wide - the exact way she does against
any opponent.
Venus had won 19 straight match-
es, owns a tour-leading seven titles
and is 60-3 against everyone but her
sister in 2002. She'll still have to set-
tle, for now, for being No. 2, the spot
she was relegated to by Serena after
Wimbledon.
"I just had a great year," said the
22-year-old Venus, who's 15 months
older. "More than any person other
than Serena could ask for, I guess.
Everyone has their year and this year
is her year."
When Venus faced match points at
5-3 in the second set, she wiped out
the first with a second-serve ace, and
the next by extending for a pretty
backhand volley winner.
Two points later, Venus - playing
with tape on her right hand to cover a
blister - double faulted to set up a
third match point. Serena capitalized,
sending a booming backhand to a cor-
ner, and Venus' forehand hit the net.
Perhaps Serena just wanted it more,

an extension of her self-described
rededication to excellence over the past
year. It's helped her go 4-0 in 2002
against Venus and even their career
series at 5-5.
"I think my level's about the
same" as in 2001, Venus said. "Men-
tally I'm not there as much. I think
Serena's level is definitely more up
than last year."
As often as they are looked upon as
a team, they are individuals, of course.
Serena is more gregarious and talka-
tive in public, and wore a short, black
bodysuit accessorized by pink sweat-
bands and a $29,000 diamond bracelet.
"She's more outgoing," said Venus,
who wore a more traditional, red-
white-and-blue tennis dress.
While Venus was quiet and straight-
faced throughout the match, Serena
displayed plenty of the fire she does
when beating other top women.
En route to breaking Venus for a 5-
4 lead in the first set, Serena yelled
at herself after a poor lob. Later in
that game, a 12-stroke rally ended
with Venus' forehand error, and Sere-
na watched the ball fall out, then
screamed "Come on!" and pumped
her fist.
Serena served out the set at love in
the next game, capping a string of
eight straight points with an exclama-
tion point of an ace at 105 mph. She
had a 16-13 edge in winners, but both
wiped away countless others with the
supreme court coverage they have used
to become the first siblings ranked 1-2.
They have won eight of the past 13
major titles. Plus, they have met in four
of the past five Grand Slam titles. Not
once in the 20th century did siblings
face off for a major championship.

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