An incredible career of Pete Sampras had always been associated with the home Major. Pete claimed the US Open as a teenager in 1990 and ended his tennis journey at the same place with another title in 2002, beating his most significant rival Andre Agassi in both finals.
A five-time US Open winner started to struggle with injuries in 2000. However, nothing could stop him from making a deep run at his beloved tournament a couple of more times, 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 did not have a plan what to do after the US Open, motivated to make 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 expect much from him in New York that summer. Still, he showed his greatness one more time, going all the way to win the 14th Major title in what would be his last match in a career.
After losing the Houston final against Roddick, Sampras lost ten of the next 16 encounters before heading to New York. The legend needed no time to find the form and stay competitive, building confidence with commanding victories in the opening rounds.
Roger Federer spoke about Pete Sampras in March 2003.
Pete had to work harder against Greg Rusedski and Tommy Haas to reach the quarter-final, where he took down Roddick to enter the last four. The home favorite defeated Sjeng Schalken to set the title clash against his old rival Andre Agassi.
Sampras won that one in four sets to collect the 14th Major trophy, enjoying the moment and not thinking about getting back for some more tournaments. Asked about Pete in Indian Wells 2003, Roger Federer said that nobody would be surprised if the American decides to retire, making a comparison with Bjorn Borg, who left the Tour two decades earlier.
"Whenever Pete Sampras retires, it would be a loss for tennis; he has achieved so much. Still, if he pulls out and retires, nobody would be surprised. It would not be a shock like maybe when Bjorn Borg retired. It's going slowly down, and even though he won the US Open, we do not know for how long he will remain active.
His focus is on big tournaments, and he could play for two or three years with no problems; I do not think people think he will retire now. I can not give him advice; he knows better than me," Roger Federer said.