ATP Finals Flashback: Pete Sampras edges Jim Courier and wins title
by JOVICA ILIC | VIEW 1728
The defending champion Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Guy Forget, Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Karel Novacek and Michael Stich battled at the 1991 ATP Finals. It was the 12th and last appearance at this event for Ivan Lendl.
The legend scored three commanding round-robin victories to advance into the semi-final like in the previous 11 occasions, never leaving the tournament before entering the last four! Agassi reached the semi-final, but two other Americans were there to steal the show that year, with Pete Sampras toppling Jim Courier in the title match for his first ATP Finals trophy on November 17.
It was a very balanced season, with Stefan Edberg and Guy Forget leading the standings with six ATP titles. Jim Courier grabbed Indian Wells, Miami and Roland Garros for a prominent year. Unlike in 1990, Pete Sampras could not win a Major crown.
Still, he went all the way in Frankfurt to add another notable title to his tally, already owning the US Open and the Grand Slam Cup. Ivan Lendl scored all three victories in the Ilie Nastase Group, losing 15 games in six sets.
Jim Courier joined him in the semi-final after toppling Forget and Novacek on his ATP Finals debut. In the John Newcombe Group, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Boris Becker scored two victories. Pete and Andre moved into the last four and joined Courier, with three Americans in the last four for the first time since 1982!
In their first clash since the Roland Garros final, Jim Courier dethroned Andre Agassi 6-3, 7-5. Pete Sampras scored a commanding 6-2, 6-3 win over Lendl, who barely escaped an embarrassing bagel in set number two. In the first all-American ATP Finals title match since 1978, Pete Sampras defeated Jim Courier 3-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and ten minutes to lift the trophy and avenge the US Open straight-sets quarter-final defeat.
It was their fifth meeting and the fourth triumph for Pete. He lost serve four times (thrice in the opening set) from five opportunities offered to Jim. Also, Sampras made more damage on the return to secure the triumph and conquer another notable tournament at 20.
Sampras hit 30 service winners and had a clear advantage at the net, an expected scenario against a baseliner.
Pete Sampras claimed his first ATP Finals title over Jim Courier in 1991.
Sampras overpowered Courier in the backhand department and groundstrokes to earn the victory fair and square.
Pete had over 60 winners and owned the mid-range and more extended rallies. He found a way to impose his shots and move Jim away from his comfort zone with deep and accurate groundstrokes and volleys. After four solid games on both sides in the opener, Courier drew first blood in the fifth game when Sampras netted a volley.
Pete pulled it back immediately with a volley winner to level the score at 3-3 and return to the positive side. Jim grabbed another break in game seven with a forehand down the line winner, and the set was in his hands after the third successful return game in a row, moving 6-3 ahead after 34 minutes.
Sampras had to change something quickly, starting serving much better in set number two. He created two break chances in the fifth game that could have pushed him ahead. Courier repelled them with a service winner and a solid forehand attack that drew Sampras' error.
Jim had to work even harder the next time he served, offering the younger player three break points at 3-3! Jim stayed composed and defended them to survive another tough challenge. Sampras finally grabbed a break at 5-5 with a backhand crosscourt winner and served for the set in the next game.
Suddenly, Courier broke back to stay in contention and set up a tie break. Jim trailed 5-1 before reducing the gap to 6-5 and extending the drama. His efforts were in vain after netting an easy forehand in the 12th point to hand the set and momentum to his rival.
Sampras lost just five points on serve in the third set and placed a forehand crosscourt winner in the sixth game to steal Courier's serve and move 4-2 ahead. Serving for the set at 5-3, Pete fired two winners to move closer to the finish line.
Carried by this boost, Sampras continued to perform well in set number four. He dropped five points in five service games and faced no break chances to keep the pressure on Courier. Jim was drifting further away from the finish line when he got broken in the opening game after a loose volley at the net.
Pete hit four winners in the next one to confirm the advantage and get the finish line within his sight. Courier avoided an even bigger disaster when he held after four deuces at 0-2, the last troubled game for the serves. They both played well behind the initial shot in the rest of the encounter, and Sampras served for the victory at 5-4.
He produced another comfortable hold to wrap up the win and become the youngest ATP Finals champion since John McEnroe in 1978.