Pete Sampras ended a slugfest today with a running forehand down the
NEW YORK (AP) _ Pete Sampras ended a slugfest today with a running forehand down the line to defeat Jim Courier 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 and move into the men’s final of the U.S. Open.
Super Saturday at the National Tennis Center followed the Sampras victory with Steffi Graf and Monica Seles _ co-ranked No. 1 in the world _ battling for the women’s title.
Then came the second men’s semifinal, pitting top-seeded Andre Agassi against No. 4 Boris Becker, to determine who will take on Sampras in Sunday’s men’s championship match.
Sampras, seeking his second straight Grand Slam tournament title _ he won Wimbledon in July _ and his third U.S. Open crown, was victorious over a rejuvenated Courier, whose game had been in decline since he was ranked No. 1 in the world early in 1993.
``I had some chances ... and I didn’t capitalize,″ Courier said.
The first set came down to a let cord in the 12th game. At break point, Sampras ripped a forehand down the line that hit the top of the net, bounced high, then came down on Courier’s side of the court before he could race there from his usual spot far behind the baseline.
The rest of the match went the same way _ only one service break in each set.
``Everything was smooth,″ Sampras said. ``I was up one set and then I played a loose game and let him back into the match.″
In the 12th game of the fourth set, Courier serving, Sampras reached match point at 15-40 when Courier pulled a forehand down the line wide. Then, when Courier lifted a forehand half-volley cross-court, Sampras, at full gallop, fired a forehand passing shot down the line.
Sampras finished with 27 aces in the match, which took two minutes more than three hours to complete.
Seles and Graf keep meeting at the most expected places: Melbourne, Paris, London and New York. And at the usual time _ in the finals.
Two weeks ago, there was a difference. That was when Seles was returning to the sport following a 28-month layoff caused when she was stabbed by a Graf fanatic in Hamburg, Germany.
When they met on a practice court in Toronto, they embraced and spoke briefly.
Since then, they have gone their own way, even though both were in New York, speeding their way to their inevitable U.S. Open title tussle. They could have easily have been on the opposite sides of the planet _ playing on alternating days and practicing at different times.
But today is Super Saturday at the U.S. Open, time for them to meet again.
``I am excited to play in the finals and play against her,″ Graf said Friday. ``I don’t think it could get any better than that.″
Between them, Graf and Seles have won 15 of the last 18 Grand Slam tournaments they have entered, and Seles had won seven of eight before being stabbed in the back in April 1993.
Seles hasn’t lost a Grand Slam tournament match since the 1992 Wimbledon final when she fell to Graf. And she hasn’t lost at the National Tennis Center since Italy’s Linda Ferrando pulled off a third-round upset in 1990.
``It’s beyond what I dreamt of,″ Seles said Friday. ``To play against Steffi is going to be fun. It’s going to be a great day, either way it goes. Definitely I am going to be psyched for it.″
Seles zipped into the title match with a 6-2, 6-2 rout of No. 4 Conchita Martinez on Friday. Graf, winner of the French Open and Wimbledon this year, had a much harder semifinal before defeating No. 9 Gabriela Sabatini 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).
``If whatever happened back in Hamburg wouldn’t have happened, I would still be very excited,″ Seles said. ``But being that this is my first Grand Slam after that thing, it is going to be so special that it is beyond me to put it in words.″
Taller and heavier than when she left the tour nearly 2 1/2 years ago, Seles has moved into the final without dropping a set. Martinez did nothing to jeopardize that streak, although she did provide Seles with a good one-hour practice session.
``I have to be impressed,″ Martinez said. ``I think she is very tough mentally and I think she deserves this comeback. She is playing unbelievable.″
Graf has had more on her mind than just tennis recently. She has had chronic back pain from a bone spur, her left foot was bandaged Friday because of an inflamed bone, and her father and manager, Peter, is in jail in Germany under tax evasion charges. Because of an investigation into her involvement, Graf hasn’t even been allowed to speak with her father since he was placed in prison.
``This has been definitely the most demanding time, the most demanding inside of me,″ Graf said. ``It took a lot out of me the last few weeks, much more than any other stage in my life.″