Flashback US Open: Pete Sampras downs Andre Agassi in his last career match
by JOVICA ILIC | VIEW 15209
An incredible career of Pete Sampras had always been linked with the home Major, conquering the US Open as a teenager in 1990 and ending his tennis journey at the same place with another title in 2002, beating his greatest rival Andre Agassi in both finals.
A five-time US Open champion started to struggle with injuries in 2000, but nothing could stop him from making a deep run at his special event, reaching the title matches in 2000 and 2001 when he got beaten by the young guns Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt.
World no. 145 George Bastl stunned Pete at Wimbledon in 2002, and one of the greatest players of all time didn't have a plan what to do after the US Open, motivated to give one last push in New York before further decisions.
Pete was titleless since Wimbledon 2000, and despite advancing to the final in the previous two years, no one could have expected much from Sampras in New York that summer. Nonetheless, he proved everyone wrong, going all the way to win the 14th Major title in what would be his last career-match.
After losing the final in Houston to Roddick, Sampras lost ten of the next 16 encounters before heading to New York, needing no time to find the form and beating Alberto Portas and Kristian Pless in straight sets to reach the third round, having to play against two break points overall.
The American had to work much harder in the third round against a former US Open finalist Greg Rusedski, prevailing 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 after three hours and 22 minutes to enter the last 16. Pete had to save two break points at 3-5 in the opening set before the rain halted the action, and it was a great battle right until the final game of the match when the American earned a break to seal the deal and pass another obstacle in what turned out to be his last US Open quest.
The next clash brought another challenging rival, with Pete needing just over three hours to oust the young German Tommy Haas 7-5, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5, celebrating his 200th Major victory! It was another excellent serving performance from the Pistol Pete, who faced just one break point and played even better in the next encounter against the most prominent American hope, Andy Roddick.
Pete needed only 89 minutes to dismiss the young compatriot, taking an early lead in all three sets and finishing the clash without losing his serve, looking better and better as the tournament progressed. The Dutchman Sjeng Schalken stood between Pete Sampras and his last US Open final and couldn't match Pete's pace either, as Sampras saved all four break points and earned two breaks in the third set for the place in his eighth title match in New York.
Sampras had to save a set point in the opening set tie break, and it was a little bit easier in the second before taking control in the third set to sail towards the final, firing 50 service winners in total for complete domination in his games.
Pete Samras defeated Andre Agassi in 2002 US Open final.
In the perfect scenario for his farewell match, Pete Sampras had to play against Andre Agassi for the 34th and final time in his career, seeking his fourth win over Andre at the US Open in as many matches and the third in the finals.
For the one last time, Pete Sampras managed to leave the nerves and emotions behind him, defeating the great opponent 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in two hours and 52 minutes on September 8 for his 14th Major crown, never stepping on the court again and officially retiring at the US Open 2003.
At 31, Sampras became the oldest champion in New York since Ken Rosewall in 1970, earning the triumph after fending off ten out of 12 break chances and stealing Agassi's serve four times from eight opportunities. Pete fired 66 service winners and dominated at the net, keeping the points on his racquet and taking the rhythm away from his rival, who was eager to impose more extended baseline rallies.
Sampras had a clear advantage in the shortest points and managed to overpower Andre in the longer rallies, where Agassi should have had the upper hand. It was a comfortable start from both players, reaching 2-2 after just eight minutes, with Pete hitting a service winner after deuce in the fifth game for a 3-2.
Sampras drew first blood in game eight when Agassi sent a backhand long, saving a break chance a few minutes later with an ace and closing the opener with a volley winner for a 6-3 after 29 minutes. Things went from bad to worse for Agassi, as he got broken again at the start of the second set after another good net coverage from Sampras.
Pete was on a roll now, holding at love in the opening three service games and creating another break chance in the third game that could have sealed the set for him. Andre saved it with a service winner on the second serve but couldn't do the same at 2-4, spraying more groundstroke errors to lose serve again and fall 5-2 behind.
Serving for the set in the next game, Pete played some loose shots to suffer the first break of the match that didn't hurt his chances, firing four winners in game ten to grab the set 6-4 and move closer to the finish line after just 62 minutes.
Agassi raised his level in the third set and could have gained the advantage in game six, creating three break chances and failing to convert any after three winners from Pete, who served to stay in the set at 5-6. He squandered five game points and Andre broke him after a poor volley from Sampras, taking the set 7-5 and keeping his chances alive ahead of the fourth.
The fourth game of set number four was an epic one, with Sampras wasting five game points and offering two break opportunities that could have sent Andre 3-1 up. Pete stayed focused to fend them off and level the score at 2-2 with a volley winner, gathering the momentum that he had to use in game eight when Andre had another opportunity for a break.
Sampras saved it with a service winner and blasted two more direct points for a 4-4, securing a break in the next game after a deep return and serving for the title in the game that followed. In his last five points of his career, Pete Sampras delivered four winners and closed the encounter with a volley winner at the net, starting a massive celebration of one of the greatest tennis moments.