On this day: Pete Sampras topples Brad Gilbert to win first Grand Slam Cup



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On this day: Pete Sampras topples Brad Gilbert to win first Grand Slam Cup

1990 was one of the most significant years in modern tennis, with the formation of the ATP Tour and more organized game for both the players and the fans. The ITF had only Grand Slams and Davis Cup left under its umbrella, desperate to challenge the ATP Masters Cup with its own event that would gather the best players of the season, at least at Majors.

For ten years, the ITF ran the Grand Slam Cup in Munich as one of the wealthiest tennis events in the world, offering no ATP points but colossal prize money. In the first edition, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, Goran Ivanisevic and Ivan Lendl went to Germany to fight for the title and $2 million in prize money, joined by 12 other players who were trying to spoil their party on an indoor carpet court.

The first two rounds saw best-of-three encounters and no tie break at 6-6 in the third, with Goran Ivanisevic and Pete Sampras going to the distance in the match of the tournament so far in the quarters. The US Open champion Sampras won that one 7-6, 6-7, 8-6 in just under two and a half hours, advancing into the last four together with Michael Chang, Brad Gilbert and David Wheaton who took down Ivan Lendl in straight sets.

Four Americans were left in the title chase and things would only get tougher from the semi-final round, with the best-of-five clashes required to set the champion. In the battle of two youngsters and Major champion, Sampras took down Chang 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 for the first professional victory over Michael, firing more than 30 service winners and dropping only four points behind the first serve, also cracking more than 20 groundstroke winners to leave a compatriot far behind.

The second semi-final offered fearsome battle between Brad Gilbert and David Wheaton, with Gilbert prevailing 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-4 in three hours and 53 minutes after all kinds of drama, exchanged words and heating moments to join Pete in the title match.

On December 15, Sampras defeated Gilbert 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to pocket the biggest prize money in the history of the sport and finish the season on a high note after struggling with injuries in a previous couple of months. Interestingly, Brad had the opportunity to break the young Californian in the first game of the clash, wasting a break chance after a forehand winner from Sampras and never reaching deuce on the return for the rest of the encounter.

Pete had more than 30 service winners, dominating from the field as well to create 11 break opportunities in seven different games, converting four to seal the deal and claim the trophy. Sampras broke at love in the sixth game with a backhand down the line winner, closing the opener with an ace in game nine for a 6-3 after 30 minutes.

Gilbert stayed in touch in the first four games of the second set before Pete grabbed a break with a backhand down the line winner to move 3-2 up, controlling his service games and sealing the set with an ace in game ten for two sets to love advantage after 70 minutes.

Things went from bad to worse for the 29-year-old, hitting a double fault in the third game of the third set and allowing Sampras to move 5-2 in front with another break in game seven following a backhand down the line winner.

Serving for the title, Pete delivered another excellent hold to cross the finish line and earn the biggest check in the history of our game, becoming the first Grand Slam Cup champion just a couple of months after writing history books as the youngest US Open winner.