Miami Flashback: Pete Sampras wins titanic battle vs. Gustavo Kuerten

Pete Sampras claimed his last Masters 1000 title in Miami 2000

by Jovica Ilic
Miami Flashback: Pete Sampras wins titanic battle vs. Gustavo Kuerten

Pete Sampras and Gustavo Kuerten played a thrilling final in Miami 2000, battling for over three hours. The home favorite scored a 6-1, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 victory in three hours and 18 minutes to notch his 11th and last Masters 1000 title.

Standing as the dominant male tennis figure for over half a decade, Pete Sampras started to slow down a bit in 1999, plagued with injuries that kept him out of the court in January and between August and November. When his game was in the highest gear, Pete was still a player to beat on the Tour.

He won titles at Queen's, Wimbledon, Los Angeles and Cincinnati and rattled off 24 victories before missing all the tournaments until Paris Masters, including the US Open. The American finished the season with the title at the Masters Cup.

Pete was ready to embrace a reduced schedule in 2000, competing at 13 tournaments and lifting the titles in Miami and Wimbledon. Sampras barely beat Andreas Vinciguerra in the third round in Florida. The American passed three top-20 rivals to reach the final, seeking his third Miami crown after back-to-back ones in 1993 and 1994.

Pete met Gustavo for the second time and had to give his everything to overpower the Brazilian and lift the trophy on his seventh match point! Sampras fired 20 aces and erased five out of six break points to keep the pressure on the other side.

Gustavo did his best to fend off 11 out of 14 and overcome a second-set deficit to stay in touch with a mighty opponent. Pete won 13 points more than Gustavo, and it was a fast and floating match with short rallies and many service winners on each side.

Both players were eager to take control and impose their shots quickly. Kuerten had a slim edge in the shortest points. Sampras compensated in the extended exchanges to bring the match home after a great battle. The American drew first blood in the encounter's fourth game when he broke after a lovely volley at the net, saving a break point in the next game to increase the lead to 4-1.

Kuerten struggled to find his shots and dropped serve again in game six following Sampras' volley winner, who was now serving for the set. A home player blasted four aces to grab the opener 6-1, looking determined to bring more of the same in the rest of the clash and grab the trophy.

Gustavo had to dig deep right from the start of the second set. He saved two break chances in the opening game to avoid the setback before Sampras eventually got the break at 2-2, dominating at the net and keeping the points on his racquet to forge the advantage.

Pete confirmed the lead with a hold at love in game six and had a set point on the return at 5-3. Gustavo saved it for a vital hold and had to break Pete in the next game to prolong the set, which was never easy.

Pete Sampras won a memorable Miami final over Gustavo Kuerten in 2000.

Sampras served great so far, but the Brazilian read his serves better in that tenth game to earn his first break with a beautiful backhand lob that sent the momentum to his side.

Kuerten held from 0-30 at 5-5 to move in front, and the set went into a tie break after a good service game from Sampras. Kuerten's backhand worked better and better, sealing the deal with two service winners to take the breaker 7-2 and boost his confidence after an impressive turnaround.

They both served well in the third set's opening seven games before Sampras created two break opportunities at 4-3. The second was a huge chance, but he missed a routine forehand that could have cost him dearly had he lost the match.

The set went into a tie break, and Pete moved 5-1 and 6-3 in front. Kuerten saved the first couple of set points on his serve before Pete clinched it with a nice serve & smash combo that gave him so many points throughout his career.

He claimed the breaker 7-5 and moved a set away from the title. Gustavo kept fighting and could have scored an early break in set number four, with two break chances in game two. Pete repelled them with winners and was in charge in the next one after creating a break opportunity.

Gustavo denied it to remain on the right side of the scoreboard, and we saw excellent serving on both sides that sent the Brazilian 6-5 ahead, leaving Sampras serving to stay in the set at the three-hour mark. A return winner gave Gustavo a set point, and Pete saved it with a service winner, one of the most important he hit in the match.

Another good return delivered the second break chance for the Brazilian, denied by Sampras' volley winner at the net. The American brought the game home with two service winners to survive the challenge and head toward the third tie break, a must-win one for Gustavo.

Sampras was more composed and opened a 6-2 lead, with Kuerten hitting a service winner and two good returns to reduce the deficit to 6-5. The match was on again when Sampras sprayed a backhand error in the 12th point to let his rival climb back to 6-6.

Pete earned the fifth match point with a backhand winner but hit a double fault to prolong this dramatic encounter and give the crowd more fuel and excitement. A service winner pushed him 8-7 in front, and that again was not enough to seal the deal, with an unreturned serve from the other side of the net that kept them locked at 8-8.

Kuerten saved six match points and played against the seventh after Sampras' volley winner at the net. It proved to be the lucky one for the American, converting it after Gustavo's poor forehand. The Brazilian smashed his racquet in a fury after a close encounter that could have easily gone into a deciding set and lasted over four hours.

Pete Sampras Gustavo Kuerten