On this day: Pete Sampras edges Guga Kuerten for last Masters 1000 title


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On this day: Pete Sampras edges Guga Kuerten for last Masters 1000 title

Standing as the dominant figure in men's tennis for over half a decade, Pete Sampras had started to slow down a little bit in 1999, plagued with injuries that kept him out from the court in January and also between August and November, playing just 14 tournaments that season.

When he was on, Pete was still the player to beat on the Tour, winning titles at Queen's, Wimbledon, Los Angeles and Cincinnati, rattling off 24 wins in a row before missing all the tournaments until Paris Masters, including the US Open.

The American finished the season with a title at Masters Cup and was ready to embrace a reduced schedule in 2000 as well, competing at only 13 tournaments and lifting the titles in Miami and Wimbledon. The final of Miami Masters was one of the best in the history of the famous Florida event and Pete prevailed against Gustavo Kuerten 6-1, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in three hours and 18 minutes to grab his 62nd ATP title and also the last at Masters 1000 series (by the end of his career he would win Wimbledon 2000 and the US Open 2002).

Sampras barely beat Andreas Vinciguerra in the third round but passed three top-20 obstacles after that to reach the final, seeking his third Miami crown after back-to-back ones in 1993 and 1994. This was the second match against the clay court specialist after 1999 Masters Cup and Pete needed his best to overpower the Brazilian and claim the trophy on his seventh match point in the fourth set tie break!

Firing 20 aces, Sampras saved five out of six break points to keep the pressure on the other side of the net while Gustavo did his best to fend off 11 out of 14 break points and overcome a second set deficit to stay in touch with a mighty opponent all the time.

Pete won 13 points more than Gustavo and it was a fast and floating match with quick points and a lot of service winners on both sides, with both players eager to take control and impose their shots as quickly as possible.

Kuerten had a slim edge in the shortest points although Sampras compensated that deficit in the more extended rallies to bring the match home after a great battle. The American drew first blood in the fourth game when he broke after a nice volley at the net, saving a break point in the following game to increase the lead to 4-1.

Kuerten struggled to find his shots and dropped serve again in game six following a volley winner from Sampras 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.

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

Pete confirmed the break with a hold at love and had a set point on the return in game nine while leading 5-3. Gustavo saved it for an important hold and had to break Pete in the following game to prolong the set, which was never an easy task.

Pete served great so far but the Brazilian managed to 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 of the net. Kuerten held from 0-30 down at 5-5 to move in front and the set went into a tie break after a good service game from Sampras as well.

Kuerten's backhand worked better and better and he sealed the deal with two service winners, taking the breaker 7-2 to boost his confidence after an impressive turnaround. They both served well in the opening seven games of set number three and Sampras was the first who made some damage on the return, creating two break points at 4-3.

The second was a huge one but he missed a routine forehand that could have cost him dearly if he went to lose the match in the end. 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 own serve before Pete clinched the set with a nice serve&smash combo that gave him so many points throughout his career, winning the breaker 7-5 and moving a set away from the title.

Gustavo kept fighting and could score an early break in set number four, with two break points up for grabs in game two. Pete repelled them with two winners and he was in charge in the following game with a break point of his own.

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

Another good return delivered the second break point for the Brazilian, only to be denied by a volley winner from Sampras at the net who brought the game home with two service winners to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard, heading towards the third tie break, a must-win one for Gustavo.

Sampras was more composed and he opened a 6-2 lead, with four match points up for grabs. Kuerten was there to fight until the very last point, hitting a service winner and two good returns to reduce the deficit to 6-5, with the match being pretty much on when Sampras sprayed a backhand error to let his rival climb back to 6-6.

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

Kuerten saved six match points and had to play against the seventh one after a volley winner from Sampras at the net. This proved to be the lucky one for the American, converting it after a poor forehand from Gustavo who smashed his racquet in a fury after such a close encounter that could have easily gone into a deciding set and last for more than four hours.