ATP Finals Flashback: Pete Sampras prevails over Jim Courier to lift first..



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ATP Finals Flashback: Pete Sampras prevails over Jim Courier to lift first..

Andre Agassi claimed the first edition of the Masters Cup in the newly-formed ATP Tour in 1990. He returned to Frankfurt a year later to fight for the title against Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Guy Forget, Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Karel Novacek and Michael Stich.

It was the 12th and last appearance at this event for Ivan Lendl, who scored three commanding round-robin victories to advance into the semi-final just like in the previous 11 occasions, never leaving the tournament before hitting the last four!

Agassi reached the semis, but two other Americans were there to steal the show that year, with Pete Sampras toppling Jim Courier in the title match to lift his first Masters Cup 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 was unable to win a Major crown but went all the way here in Frankfurt to add another notable title to his tally, already owning the US Open and Grand Slam Cup.

World no. 1 and the last year's finalist Stefan Edberg was forced to miss the tournament due to tendinitis in his knee that had bothered him already for a few weeks, clearing the path to someone else to grab the honor. In Ilie Nastase Group, Ivan Lendl scored all three wins (losing 15 games in six sets), and Jim Courier joined him in the semis after toppling Forget and Novacek, making a name for himself on his Masters Cup debut.

In John Newcombe Group, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Boris Becker all scored two victories, with Pete and Andre moving into the semis to join Courier as three Americans in the last four for the first time since 1982! In their first clash since the French Open final, Jim Courier dethroned Andre Agassi 6-3, 7-5, while Pete Sampras became the second finalist after a commanding 6-2, 6-3 win over the great Czech, who barely escaped an embarrassing bagel in set number two to soften the defeat.

In the first all-American Masters Cup title match since 1978, Pete Sampras defeated Jim Courier 3-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and ten minutes to wrap up the title and avenge the US Open straight-sets quarter-final defeat.

It was their fifth meeting and the fourth triumph for Pete, who lost serve four times (thrice in the opening set) from five opportunities offered to Jim, making 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 the baseliner.

In 1991, Pete Sampras claimed first Masters Cup title after beating Jim Courier.

Nonetheless, he overpowered Courier in the backhand department and groundstrokes overall to earn the victory fair and square despite hitting two double faults in the second set tie break that he had to claim to avoid two sets to love deficit.

Pete had more than 60 winners and owned the mid-range and longer rallies, finding the way to impose his shots and move Jim away from the comfort zone with deep and accurate groundstrokes and volleys. After four solid games on both sides, Courier drew first blood in the fifth game when Sampras netted a volley to give serve away, pulling it back immediately with a volley winner to level the score at 3-3.

Jim grabbed another break in game seven with a forehand down the line winner, and the set was in his hands after the third straight good return game, moving 6-3 ahead after 34 minutes and looking strong to beat Pete for the second time in a row at the big event.

Sampras had to change something quickly, starting to serve much better in set number two and creating two break chances in the fifth game that could have pushed him ahead for the first time. Courier repelled them with a service winner and a solid forehand attack that drew Pete's error, having to work even harder next time around when the younger player had three break points up for grabs at 3-3!

Jim found the way to save them all and survive another tough challenge before Sampras finally grabbed a break at 5-5 with a backhand crosscourt winner, serving for the set in the next game. Out of a sudden, Courier broke back to stay in contention and set up a tie break where he trailed 5-1 before reducing the gap to 6-5.

However, 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, and the set was in his hands when Jim sprayed a forehand error, sending Sampras a set away from the title. Carried by this boost, Pete continued to serve well in set number four, dropping five points in five service games and facing no break chances, keeping the pressure on Courier, who had no room for errors behind the initial shot.

Jim was drifting further and further away from the finish line when he got broken in the opening game after a loose volley at the net, with Pete hitting four winners in the next one to confirm the advantage and make another big step towards the crown.

Courier avoided an even bigger disaster when he held after four deuces at 0-2, the last troubled game for the serves, as they both played well behind the initial shot in the rest of the encounter. Serving for the title at 5-4, Pete delivered another great hold to wrap up the victory after a service winner, becoming the youngest Masters Cup champion since John McEnroe in 1978.