1996 – 1997, US Open
U.S. Open, New York
August 26, 1996; 128 Draw – $4,806,000; Surface – Hard
Pete Sampras joined John McEnroe as a 4-time US Open champion; en route to the title Sampras survived one of the most memorable Grand Slam matches in the Open era overcoming Alex Corretja in five grueling sets despite vomiting in the 5th! The beaten finalist, Michael Chang was just one win from reaching the top of the men’s ranking. 30-year-old Stefan Edberg, playing his farewell major tournament brought a spark of old magic advancing to the quarterfinals (he hadn’t done that in 10 previous majors). It was also Swan song of 31-year-old former doubles partners, and notable players of the “Edberg generation” – Guy Forget & Jakob Hlasek – both reached fourth round.
First round: Robin Finn
Stefan Edberg‘s diving return winner on the first point offered a clue that his last stand in a Grand Slam tournament would be something special. A classic backhand volley that left Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek looking helpless moments later offered more evidence. By the time Edberg finished his vintage victory, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, Tuesday in the first round of the U.S. Open, he had convinced everyone by unleashing all the beautiful shots in his repertoire, from high-kicking serves to the most elegant volleys in tennis. The 30-year-old Edberg, playing in a record 54th straight and final Grand Slam event (this record will be broken by Wayne Ferreira in 2004), covered the court as lightly and quickly as he did when he won his second straight U.S. Open in 1992. That year, Edberg was seeded No. 2 and had to come back from a service break down in the fifth set in a fourth-round match against Krajicek that lasted nearly 4 1/2 hours. “No chance to be nervous if you get killed like that,” Krajicek said. “There was no room for nervousness. It was not really a contest today.” Krajicek’s loss means no man will win two majors this year. Australian winner Boris Becker is out with an injury, and French champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov is sitting out in protest of his No. 7 seeding. Edberg, enjoying the moment, recalled that he played the best match of his life on the same stadium court when he beat Jim Courier in the 1991 final. “It’s a special court,” Edberg said, adding that it’s also the perfect place to say goodbye to tennis. “I don’t really want to hang around playing tennis out there if I can’t perform the way that I want to perform. I haven’t performed over the last year and a half. I want to be in the top 10 and really have a chance of winning a Grand Slam. Those years are pretty much over next year. Once you go past 30, 31, 32, the chances of your winning a Grand Slam is so little.” Shortly after his 6-1, 7-6(2), 6-2 grandstand victory over Javier Frana, No. 3 Thomas Muster of Austria was questioned about how many matches it takes to get adjusted to the noise and commotion of America’s Grand Slam. “It would take 100 years to get adjusted to all this,” he said. “Unfortunately, the tournament is only two weeks long.” Jimy Szymanski said: “Boom, boom, boom, very hard,” Fifteen minutes later, the 164th-ranked Szymanski was on stadium court, across from top-ranked Pete Sampras, a bundle of Venezuelan nerves. “First time that I play against a player like that. First time in the stadium court. It’s difficult,” Szymanski said after Sampras dispatched him in 87 minutes, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. A so-called lucky loser, Szymanski was the highest ranked remaining player from the qualifying round at No. 5. So when Sampras’ scheduled opponent Adrian Voinea of Romania turned up with a sprained ankle, Szymanski got paged. “I thought he played pretty well,” said Sampras, who knew nothing about Szymanski before a quick briefing from coach Paul Annacone. There was no marquee material on Wednesday’s schedule, no heady grunter, no designer goatee, as out on the grandstand court, David Nainkin, that less-than-notorious former Grasshopper and UCLA standout, mercilessly trimmed the Open’s dwindling collection of seeded men to 10. “He’s the greatest tennis player South Africa has ever had, but I didn’t want to come out there and be intimidated and have him steamroll me,” Nainkin  said by way of apology for his 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 victory over Wayne Ferreira. “I didn’t really go out playing Wayne and who he was and all that,” said the stunned winner. “I went out trying to prove something to myself in Grand Slams no matter who was on the other side, and it happened to be Wayne.” The 13th-ranked Todd Martin, eager to make up for his Greg Normanesque collapse in the Wimbledon semifinals, belted 14 aces and won 48 points at the net as he served and volleyed his way past little-known Younes El Aynaoui 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in the “featured” stadium match-up of the day. In other men’s matches, Andrei Medvedev took the prize for swift-est first-round victory, beating Jean-Phillippe Fleurian 6-2 6-0 6-1 in 77 minutes. Clay-court specialist Felix Mantilla, who was awarded a 17th seeding after French Open champion Kafelnikov pulled out, won 6-1, 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 6-3 over Brazilian Fernando Meligeni for his first career victory on a hard court. The controversial U.S. Open re-draw put Michael Chang and Andre Agassi on course to meet in the semifinals. They both took the first steps toward getting there, Agassi more easily than Chang. Chang showed few of the skills that made him a No. 2 seed as he struggled past Brazilian Jaime Oncins 3-6, 6-1, 6-0, 7-6(6). The sixth-seeded Agassi, on the other hand, looked like the player who has reached the final at the National Tennis Center the last two years as he zipped by Colombia’s Mauricio Hadad 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. Patrick Rafter, champion of the two following US Opens, lost 6-7(7), 3-6, 6-7(6) to Kenneth Carlsen. Rafter’s opponent in the 1997 final, Greg Rusedski also was sent packing in straight sets, outplayed by Hendrik Dreekmann 2-6, 4-6, 2-6. Michael Stich defeated fellow German, 18-year-old Tommy Haas 6-3, 1-6, 6-1, 7-5; for Haas [qualifier, 235] it was a Grand Slam debut, second main-level tournament overall. Roberto Carretero, one of the most surprising winners of a big tournament, when he won Hamburg ’96, afterwards lost 7 straight matches at the main-level snapping the streak in New York when his opponent Jordi Burillo retired trailing 3-6, 6-4, 0-6, 0-1.
Second round: Charles Bricker
Michael Chang went on to eliminate the 118th-ranked South African Neville Godwin with ease, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1, and advanced into the third around. There he will face 69th-ranked Vincent Spadea, who downed Germany’s David Prinosil 6-2, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday night on the grandstand court. Five days and two rounds into the U.S. Open, Pete Sampras still hasn’t got a firm grip on the magic that made him No. 1 in the world the last three years. He is through to the third round of the Open, the final Grand Slam of the season, but it took a five-set struggle against Jiri Novak, a baselining Czech who looked far more resolute than he should have, thanks to Pete’s curiously inconsistent play. “I was missing. I was missing a lot,” Sampras said after his 6-1, 1-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory Friday in 2 hours 36 minutes. “There were periods where I was pressing too much.” In short, this match wasn’t far removed from Sampras’ entire year, eight months in which he hasn’t been to the final of any Grand Slams, in which he has never been in a slump, but never been in one of those long stretches of absolute brilliance, either. The final game of this less- than-masterful job was typical of Sampras’ play. Sampras, serving for the match at 5:4 with the money on the table and the beer chilled, flat out blew an easy backhand volley on the first point. At 30/15, he struck a double-fault. But he was there at the end with a 124 mph ace and a great piece of defensive work on the last point to earn the win (Novak had a break point, but Sampras staved it off with a forehand winner which hit the line). The victory, which gave Sampras a 4-0 record in five-setters in 1996, sent him into the next round against Russia’s Alexander Volkov, 29, a left-hander whose star has been dimming for two years. Joining Sampras were fourth-seeded Goran Ivanisevic, who beat Scott Draper; No. 12 Todd Martin, a winner over Andrea Gaudenzi; and No. 16 Cedric Pioline, a former finalist here, who beat Robert Carretero. Stefan Edberg, after dropping the 1st set and looking disgusted with himself early in the second match of his 54th straight and final Grand Slam, turned the match around in the 2nd set after getting broken twice, won five consecutive games and wound up winning 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 1-0 when Bernd Karbacher retired with a left hamstring injury. Ivanisevic, who started this year 39-5 with four titles before slipping, is rapidly regaining his early form. “Yeah, I’m close. But I’m still struggling a bit,” he said. “But it’s good to have a couple of struggle matches and then I think you play better and better.” Andre Agassi is standing on a hot tennis court in Flushing Meadow asking himself, “What the hell am I going to do? I’ve tried everything, and … and … will I be eating dinner tonight wondering what happened?” Most of the 20,000 unbelieving customers Thursday are having similar thoughts. But never mind dinner. A whirling dervish out of Calcutta named Leander Paes is handing Agassi his lunch. It doesn’t taste good. Agassi is behind by a set, behind 3-6, 0:4, as a matter of fact, and facing double break point from 0:5. Andre isn’t the only one sweating bullets as the Indian Rubber Man threatens to wreck the Agassi circus. CBS-TV executives, praying for an Agassi-Pete Sampras U.S. Open final in 10 days, are sweating cathode ray tubes. And Les Snyder, the U.S. Tennis Association president who strove so heavy handedly to arrange that all-American meeting by flim-flamming the seedings in Agassi’s favor, is perspiring stuffed shirts. But, within minutes, their ordeal was to take a sudden U-turn into relief, and presently joy, at the realization that Andre wasn’t going to be left as glamorous second-round road-kill. Abruptly Paes’s racket, which he’d been waving as a magic wand, became a wizened peach tree branch that bore no more succulent fruit. Maybe – nobody will know – Agassi was but one point from hypothetical defeat. But there he resisted five break points in the furious seven-deuce, 11-minute 5th game of the 2nd set on his way to a startling flip-flop that resulted in a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-0 victory. One point? “It looked very much like I’d be two sets behind if Leander won that game,” said Agassi, who has only once in his career revived from two sets behind. No such drama accompanied No. 3 Thomas Muster‘s 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Dirk Dier of Germany (Muster struck 18 aces!), nor No. 13 Thomas Enqvist‘s 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 romp over Guillaume Raoux of France. Sergi Bruguera, the Spanish Olympic silver medalist and French Open champ of 1993-94, has never cared for the hard-courts of the Meadow. But he was encouraged by his performance on the same at Atlanta, more enthusiastic in a brisk 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win over the 1994 runner-up, sore-shouldered No. 17 Michael Stich. After playing 23 matches in 34 days, Alex O’Brien deserves a day off. In an amazing summer run, the Amarillo, Texas, right-hander has zoomed from 285th in the world rankings to the third round of the U.S. Open. There’s always the possibility of more to come. “A month and a half ago I don’t think I would have told anybody I would have won New Haven and beaten several top players,” O’Brien  said after upsetting 11th-seeded MaliVai Washington in a five-set match Thursday night. “I still did believe in myself. Also my family believed in me. It was a great feeling,” defeating Washington 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3 under three hours, O’Brien said. “My whole family is over there, friends are over there, they’re so happy for me, I’m happy for myself, the fans seem like they’re happy for me. Maybe a few of them aren’t.” Washington wasn’t the only seeded player to be ousted Thursday night. While O’Brien was battling Washington on Stadium Court, Jeff Tarango was eliminating No. 10 Marcelo Rios of Chile 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 on Grandstand Court where the crowd booed the winner. Mark Philippoussis marched into the third round when he eased past Russian veteran Andrei Olhovskiy, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, booming 24 aces with a top speed of 136 mph. In his first-round outing, a revenge victory over fellow Aussie Mark Woodforde, who had knocked him out of the Australian Open, Philippoussis unleashed 27 aces, including a tournament-fastest 137 mph. But, before he can envision a match with Sampras, “Scud,” as he’s called by his peers, has a tough task in the third round, where he’s paired with Pioline, seeded 16th and the 1993 runner-up here.
Third round: Meri Borzilleri, Mike Delnagro
This time, everything was in place for Vince Spadea‘s breakthrough at the U.S. Open, even if he was playing No. 2-seed Michael Chang on Saturday. His mom, Hilda, was there with the family camcorder. His dad, Vince Sr., was changing seats at every changeover, too nervous to stay in one place too long. CBS Sports was setting up camera shots, making sure they knew where the Spadeas were – in the special courtside corner box for family and friends. Vince’s sisters, Luanne and Diana, stayed a few extra days before starting the school year at Duke. Spadea had stretched Chang to the limit before, twice losing three-set matches – the most recent in Washington a few weeks ago. Now, ranked 69th, Spadea, 22, held the opportunity of a budding pro’s lifetime. He was serving for the match against third-ranked Chang at 5:4 in the 4th set. Spadea lost that game (six in a row) and later the match, 6-4, 5-7, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. The match, tied for the longest in the tournament thus far, took 3 hours, 50 minutes. Last year, Spadea beat then-No. 7 Yevgeny Kafelnikov on this very court for his first victory over a top-10 player. He became a crowd favorite, the American underdog with a workmanlike game. This year, ready for the next step, Spadea stumbled. Chang, legendary for his escapes, could hardly believe this one. Down 5:4 in the 4th set, Chang – his serve a horrendous 35 percent – had to break Spadea’s serve to stay alive for the fourth round of a tournament in which he was picked to make the final. “To be honest with you,” said the No. 2-seeded Chang, who double-faulted 13 times and had 64 unforced errors, “I don’t really know how I was able to win today’s match. I really don’t.’‘ Spadea topped Chang with 69 unforced errors, and most grievously, let his opponent off the hook as he served for the match. Andre Agassi and Jan Siemerink followed Chang-Spadea on the National Tennis Center’s stadium court. Agassi, the sixth seed who was coached by Nick Bollettieri until 1993 and once claimed Chang-like spirituality, showed the steadiness his current coach Brad Gilbert loves in a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(7) victory. In the 3rd set, Agassi was serving at 5:4, then saved two set points in the tie-break. In a battle of baseliners more inclined to clay than the Open’s medium-paced hardcourts, No. 3 seed Thomas Muster mashed Sergi Bruguera 6-2, 6-4, 6-3. Stefan Edberg keeps lingering at the doorway of the U.S. Open, and Sunday the popular 30-year-old two-time champion indicated – in a straight set victory over Paul Haarhuis – that he might just stick around long term. Playing his final Grand Slam, the retiring Edberg whipped Haarhuis 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-1 in just under two hours. “I would have liked to have beaten him and finished his Grand Slam career right here,” Haarhuis said. But no. Edberg broke Haarhuis’ first serve at 15/40 and led the rest of the way, without seriously breaking a sweat. Crunch time was the 2nd-set tiebreaker, with Haarhuis serving, 4:3. Edberg won the next four points, clinching the set with Haarhuis at the net on a running crosscourt forehand winner that came from right out of his prime. The 3rd set was over in 30 minutes. “It was a good one today,” Edberg said. “I feel pretty good about my game.” Up 2-0 in sets and leading the 3rd-set tiebreaker 11:10, Goran Ivanisevic crunched what appeared to be his 25th ace and was preparing to receive congratulations from victim Hendrik Dreekman when. “Foot fault!” What? On match point? That’s like catcher’s interference in the bottom of the ninth. Foot fault? Ivanisevic liquidated the linesman with his stare. Across the net, Dreekmann actually had to hide his laughter. “It’s not so nice when they call that,” Ivanisevic said. “They make so many mistakes here. But you can’t explode. I didn’t tell the guy (linesman) anything. Until the match was over. Then I tell him a lot of things.” In two more points it was over 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(11). Dreekmann had three set points in the tie-break (7:6, *8:7 & 9:8). Ivanisevic, for only the second time in a career that has brought him two Wimbledon finals and five consecutive years in the Top Ten, is in the round of 16 in New York. Ivo and the Big Apple mix like broth and shaving cream. He explained one first-round loss by saying he saw a plane flying overhead and felt a deep urge to get on it. He has won only nine Open matches in seven years. “This was my goal,” Ivanisevic said, “to get to the second week (of the tournament). I’m going to play on (the second) Tuesday, first time ever. Usually I’m back in Croatia, watching this on TV. But if I’m here now, anything is possible.” Yesterday at the U.S. Open, they blew past their opponents to set up a fourth match between Pete Sampras and Mark Philippoussis – a sequel with Rocky overtones. Sampras, the defending champion and No. 1 seed, reeled off 18 aces in a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 rout of Alexander Volkov on the stadium court. Next door on the grandstand court, the unseeded, 19-year-old Philippoussis looked no less impressive with 25 aces in a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 romp over 1993 finalist and No. 16 seed Cedric Pioline. Javier Sanchez  defeated  Jason Stoltenberg 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(6) saving a match point in the deciding tie-break. In other 5-set match, Guy Forget won his last match in Grand Slams, and pre-last overall, outsmarting ten years younger Sjeng Schalken 6-2, 7-5, 4-6, 4-6, 6-0. Also Forget’s partner of the 1990 triumph in doubles Masters, Jakob Hlasek won his final Grand Slam match outplaying Hernan Gumy 7-5, 6-1, 6-2. Tim Henman took a revenge on Todd Martin for a straight sets loss at Wimbledon a couple of months earlier. This time, it was Martin who left the court as a loser in front of his home crowd. “It was one of the most important matches in my career” said Henman after a 6-2, 7-6(4), 6-4 victory.
Fourth round: Jerry Magee, Steve Wilstein
Two unseeded Spaniards were through to the quarterfinals eliminating Frenchmen: Javier Sanchez repeated his best Grand Slam result (US Open ’91) after a 6-4, 7-6(5), 7-6(3) win over 20th-ranked Arnaud Boetsch [in my opinion Boetsch belongs to a narrow group of best Open era players to never reach a major quarterfinal… played fourth round everywhere); in turn 22-year-old Alex Corretja beat Guy Forget 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(5). On the court, matters went well yesterday for Thomas Muster. It was after he left it that his problems began. He became nauseous, according to a USTA spokesman. He also did not show up for the news conference that is mandatory for U.S. Open contestants. Muster was given a grace period in which to present himself for the news conference and still did not arrive. Whether he is to be fined is to be determined today, according to the USTA spokesman. Muster, the No. 3 seed, reached the quarterfinals with a 7-6(4), 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 conquest of Thomas Enqvist, the No. 13 seed and one of the tournament’s hottest hitters. The Swede had not lost a set in three previous matches. In the 1st set against Muster, he led 5:2, and made a double fault trying to convert his only set point in the opener. In last night’s feature, Michael Chang, the No. 2 seed, scored a workmanlike 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Jakob Hlasek of Switzerland, at 31 the oldest player remaining in the men’s draw. Chang is 24. Chang experienced far fewer problems than he had during his five-set escape against American Vince Spadea in the third round. “He just played really well, really solid,” said Hlasek. “I just feel he likes my game. He likes to be a counterpuncher, and I have trouble breaking him because he has such a great serve. I played a good match, but he was the better player.” Chang was accurate with only 46 percent of his first serves. When he did get his first delivery in, he rolled. He won 32 of 37 of these points. He also had 34 winners to Hlasek’s 24 and made 25 errors to Hlasek’s 27. David Wheaton has had more success against Andre Agassi than many players, winning three of seven meetings prior to yesterday. Although he started well, Wheaton was unable to even their series as the sixth-seeded Agassi won, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4, in the Round of 16. The rocket-serving, left-handed Croatian Goran Ivanisevic pounded out 20 aces in his 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2) victory over unseeded Andrei Medvedev of the Ukraine. Medvedev wasted all six break points in the 3rd set, and a set point in 4th. Although he averages only 48 percent on first serves, Ivanisevic had only one double fault today. Medvedev, on the other hand, had 12 aces and 6 double faults. While Ivanisevic is known for his huge serve – several were clocked at 128 mph in today’s match – he also hits groundstrokes with power. Against Medvedev, he hit them with, for Ivanisevic, a semblance of accuracy. The Croat finished with 51 winners and 51 unforced errors. Pete Sampras took the sizzle out of Mark Philippoussis‘ serves, blocking back anything he could see and touch, and knocked the teen-ager out of the U.S. Open on Tuesday. Sampras lost the duel of aces 17-11 but won the fourth-round match 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. This was Sampras at his best, a three-time champion showing Philippoussis how to return against a big server, how to mix up serves, how to be patient in rallies, and how to smother an opponent on key points. In all those ways, this fourth meeting between No. 1-ranked Sampras and the 19-year-old Philippoussis was much like their match at Wimbledon two months ago, which Sampras also won in three sets. On hardcourt this time, Sampras dominated with the same kinds of skills and mature decisions that gave him the win on grass. And this time it was very different from their match in Australia, when Philippoussis won in straight sets and served so perfectly that Sampras said he “didn’t get a sniff” of the ball. Philippoussis felt he “could do no wrong” that night, but this time he could do little right except run up his ace total. “I was a bit nervous at the start,” said Philippoussis, who served as fast as 134 mph but never led in the match after getting broken in third game. Sampras’ fastest serve was 127 mph. “I tried to force it a bit too much instead of playing solid tennis,” Philippoussis said. “I kind of rushed everything and lost my rhythm. I felt it was going bad right at the start. I struggled. It’s not a setback. It’s definitely a roadblock.” Earlier, Stefan Edberg surged into the quarterfinals with a 6-7(2), 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-4 victory over Tim Henman. Not since Jimmy Connors‘ amazing run to the 1991 semifinals at age 39 – the year Edberg won for the first time – has a player been such a sentimental crowd favorite. He’s only 30, but he’s playing in his 54th consecutive and final Grand Slam event. The crowd roared for him on each winning point, clapped for him when he was down. “It does help, but at the same time you need to play good tennis in the match to get them behind you,” said Edberg, a little surprised because he never heard such cheers here in his prime.
Andre Agassi denied it, and so did Thomas Muster. Sort of. When they were done with their 2 1/2-hour showdown Wednesday night, and Agassi had punched out a 6-2, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 victory, they scoffed at their simmering feud in a way that suggested that they basically can’t stand each other. “Next time I wish he would look me in the eye when we shake hands,” Agassi said. “I felt like we had a battle out there.” Agassi said he has plenty of respect for Muster’s game, though he fell short of saying he had any respect for the man. Muster felt about the same way. “There’s no war,” Muster said. “It’s just a tennis match and that’s it. Tomorrow the deal is done. But this Agassi fan club is not the nicest of all. It’s not a secret, and I don’t care.” Though Muster obviously does. By Agassi’s fan club, he means his coach, Brad Gilbert. Muster complained to the umpire about Gilbert and others in Agassi’s box talking loudly throughout the match to distract him. “It is just not fair that they comment on every shot while I am playing,” Muster said. “They are making noise and comments, behaving like a bunch of idiots. It is nothing new.” Muster needed 7 break points to break Agassi in the opening game, Agassi broke back immediately – each of the first two games went to ‘deuce’ 5 times, and they lasted 17 minutes. There were seven breaks of serve in the 2nd set. Agassi led 2:0 in the 3rd set when suffered a lapse in concentration, but it didn’t happen in the 4th and final set. In the other men’s quarterfinal match Wednesday, Michael Chang beat unseeded Javier Sanchez 7-5, 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-3 in a nearly three-hour baseline duel and reached the Open semis for the first time since 1992. The 1989 French Open champion at 17, Chang is still seeking his second Grand Slam title. Sanchez was serving at 5:4 in the 1st set, Chang led 4:2 in the 3rd. In the quiet of a small holding room under Stadium Court, a dehydrated and dazed Pete Sampras wept with relief. Only minutes earlier he had stood at the net, leaning hard on the white tape as he waited to share a handshake and hug with a distraught Alex Corretja after one of the most memorable matches in U.S. Open history. For 4 hours and 9 minutes – the longest match of the tournament – the No. 1 seeded Sampras and the unseeded and mostly unknown Spaniard delivered time-capsule tennis in their Thursday evening quarterfinal battle. It ended with Corretja’s double fault on the 16th point of a fifth-set tiebreaker, and when it was over, and the 7-6(5), 5-7, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(7) score had become part of Open lore, Sampras could barely lift his arms in tired triumph. “I’m not sure there are any words that can describe what happened out there,” said Sampras’ coach, Paul Annacone. Sampras , who needed two full liters of intravenous treatment after the marathon, can explain it. Between sharing tears with his longtime girlfriend, Delaina Mulcahy, Sampras kept saying, “This one’s for Tim. Tim was there for me.” That would be best friend and coach Tim Gullikson, who died of cancer earlier this year. Sampras has drawn strength from Gullikson’s memory before, but perhaps never like this. In the late match, No. 4 seed Goran Ivanisevic ended unseeded Stefan Edberg‘s magical U.S. Open run with a bittersweet 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(9) victory. Edberg had a little chance to prolong the match, but made a forehand error trying to return Ivanisevic’s serve at 7:6* in the tie-break. It was the final Grand Slam event of Edberg’s distinguished career. Ivanisevic will face Sampras in Saturday’s semifinal. Tears were about the only fluids Sampras had left by the end of the night. Doubled over by the effects of dehydration, Sampras staggered around the baseline after game two of the tiebreaker and then vomited. Sampras struggled to stand as the match wore on. By game seven, he could hardly run, and was using his racket as a makeshift cane between points. But somehow Sampras avoided becoming the next in a long line of U.S. Open No. 1 seeds who failed to hoist a trophy at tournament’s end. “I started to think, ‘This guy’s not really tired,”’ said Corretja, who began the night ranked 31st in the world. The amazing details: tied 3:3 in the tiebreaker, Sampras straightened himself out of the jacknife position long enough to send a laser beam serve past Corretja for a one-point lead. Tied 4:4, he whizzed a forehand winner that left Corretja sprawled face first on the court in disbelief. Down 7:6 and facing match point, Sampras summoned enough strength to half-sprint to the net and render Corretja’s forehand crossing shot useless. “I saw his racket,” said Corretja, “and it was, `Oh, no… again.”’ Tied 7:7, he aced Corretja on his second serve. “It is a good decision, because he couldn’t move,” Corretja said. And then, with the tension as taut as a racket string, Sampras stood mostly still as Corretja’s next serve landed just long of the line. Sampras tried to celebrate, but his body wouldn’t cooperate. He traded tired hugs and handshakes and listened as the gentlemanly Corretja told him, “Good luck, and I hope you can win the tournament after beating me like this.” That done, Sampras slumped in a courtside chair. “I really don’t know what to say except that there are certain things you can’t teach,” Annacone said. “There are some things you just sit back in awe and take part in. It is just pretty incredible.” Each player served 25 aces! 60 games marked second longest US Open match in terms of games since the tie-break inception, behind 62 games of a John Lloyd vs. Paul McNamee match in 1979.
Pete Sampras choked. He knew it. The crowd saw it. Goran Ivanisevic celebrated it. The moment passed in embarrassment for Sampras, and he played an extra set he didn’t need and most certainly didn’t want two days after getting sick and nearly fainting on court. Yet when he walked off after the third semifinal on Semi-Super Saturday, he held up his arms in triumph, a U.S. Open finalist again in defense of his title. Sampras, who will go for his fourth Open championship, wound up with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(9), 6-3 victory over Ivanisevic. The Sampras-Ivanisevic match lasted 2 hours, 21 minutes – about 40 minutes longer than it would have if Sampras hadn’t done the unthinkable. Sampras wanted this match over as fast as possible. He just couldn’t quite do it when he first had the chance with four match points in the 3rd set. Leading 6:3 in the tiebreaker, with two serves to put the match away, Sampras watched one backhand go by him for 6:4, then double-faulted to 6:5, both serves clipping the net cord and popping out. “I basically choked on the second serve,” Sampras acknowledged. “Then I was waiting for him to miss, and you can’t do that.” Ivanisevic didn’t miss the rest of that tiebreaker, closing it out with an ace. He saved the third match point after the longest rally of the match – 28 strokes. Sampras saved first set point with an ace (the same did with the second one at 8:9) and had fourth match point leading 8:7* – Ivanisevic fought it off rapidly with excellent FH volley, and passing-shot gave him a 10:9 lead – with a slice service winner he converted his third set point. The Croat won a set saving set points in fourth consecutive match! “The first couple of games in the fourth set, I couldn’t believe I was still out there,” Sampras said. “I wasn’t mad at myself. I was a little bit rattled. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I needed to regroup and regain my composure.” That’s exactly what Sampras did, settling down, waiting for his chances, finally gaining a break to 5:3 with the help of a fan (he saved a break point at 2-all). At deuce in that game, Ivanisevic, after saving a triple break point, was about to hit a forehand when a fan yelled out in the silence, “Whooo!” Ivanisevic turned, took his eye off the ball, and netted it. The point lost, he scowled up into the crowd, but knew he could do nothing. Sampras closed him out in the game with a backhand return. “It’s frustrating, but what can you do?” Ivanisevic said. “I can only jump from the bridge on the way to the hotel.” Sampras, who served 24 aces, played well enough to beat a big hitter who cracked 30 aces but didn’t try to tire him out in long rallies. “I knew he was going to be strong,” Ivanisevic said. “He had one day to recover. I knew it would not bother him today. He came through strongly.” Sampras will face a much different opponent in the baseline-bashing, tireless Michael Chang. Chang’s 16th ace, as emphatic as an exclamation point, knocked out Andre Agassi on a half-cloudy, half-sunny day of three semifinals. “Everything clicked,” Chang said of his surprisingly quick 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 rout of a halfhearted Agassi. “I was playing some of my best tennis, for sure.” Chang, ranked No. 3 but seeded second, can jump up to the No. 1 ranking for the first time in his career if he beats Sampras today. “I never could find my rhythm,” said Agassi, the 1994 champion and 1995 runner-up. “He was serving big. He got on top of me, and I never could quite get out of it.” The match was equal until 3-all in the 1st set, since then Agassi was a forehand error machine. It was their second Grand Slam semifinal in 1996, the previous one in Melbourne, Chang won with similar ease (6-1, 6-4, 7-6).
Final: Diane Pucin
Pete Sampras does mostly everything – hits forehands, backhands and serves – better than Michael Chang. Sunday night, after a 2 and 1/2-hour rain delay, in the last championship match at Louis Armstrong Stadium, the top-seeded Sampras did it again, did everything better than second-seeded Chang, and won his second consecutive U.S. Open title, by 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(3). Next year, the Open will move into a new, 23,500-seat stadium across the way, and the old Stadium Court, the biggest on the Grand Slam circuit, will have its top chopped off and be made smaller. That is how Chang must have felt Sunday night – as if his top were chopped off, as if he were very small. Chang lost the 1st set in 28 minutes (but had break points in two different games), and in 1 hour, 59 minutes, he converted only 1 of 7 break points (in the 2nd set). In the 3rd set Chang held a set point leading 6:5 but netted a volley. It wasn’t for lack of effort or because of terribly bad play on Chang’s part, either. Sampras’ forehand is large and fast, like a train coming. The backhand is so low, you can’t limbo under it, but almost always, somehow, it slides over the net into some far corner. Of course, the Sampras serve is a wicked combination of speed and placement. Eleven times in 13 meetings, Sampras has beaten Chang since the initial 0-5 record (1989-90). Sunday night, Sampras was hitting everything too hard, too fast, too well. “When Pete’s at his best,” Chang said, “obviously, he is a very tough player to beat. Pete is not going to give you a whole lot. You have to play some of your best tennis.” Sampras was at his best, and Chang wasn’t. It was the 24-year-old Chang’s first Open final, and he was aiming to become the No. 1-ranked player in the world. All he had to do was beat the No. 1 player, the player who has come to own this tournament in the 1990s. Chang for the second time in career could reach the No. 1, previously he was two wins away when he lost in the semifinals of the Tokyo-Indoor 1992. Sampras has won four Opens now, the first in 1990, when he was barely 19 and unable to appreciate what had happened. This fourth might have been the hardest ordeal. Sampras has been emotionally weakened since the illness, then death from brain cancer, of Tim Gullikson, his coach and friend. Gullikson died in May, and when Sampras hit his final shot – a 117-m.p.h. service winner – he looked to the sky and raised his arms. Sampras got 300.000 $ for his eighth Grand Slam title (42nd in total at the time). Stats of the final
U.S. Open, New York
August 25-September 7, 1997; 128 Draw (16 seeded); $5,512,000; Surface: Hard
Pete Sampras was a huge favorite to become the first man since 1988 to win three Grand Slam tournaments within a year. However, he was ousted in the last 16 by an inspired Petr Korda, in the same round other American champion, Andre Agassi (out of form in 1997, but very solid in the first week of the UO ’97 edition) was eliminated as well. It opened the draw for young attacking players, Jonas Bjorkman , Greg Rusedski  and Patrick Rafter , the latter dealt the best with the underdog status becoming a sensational new champion. The US Open ’97 featured the beginning of decline for Michael Chang, who wasted in that event his last opportunity to prove that his Roland Garros ’89 triumph wasn’t a fluke.
First round: Bob Greene, Al Picker, Steve Wilstein
In a spectacular tribute to Arthur Ashe the greatest collection of tennis champions ever assembled gathered Monday night at the dedication of the new U.S. Open stadium named in his honor. The emotional one-hour ceremony epitomized the dignity and grace that characterized Ashe’s life and the mood of the night blended solemnity with joy. Ashe “embodied the best in tennis and sports” John McEnroe told the sellout crowd of 22500. “He was a remarkable athlete who led an even more remarkable life. He was far and away the greatest ambassador tennis has ever had.” South African Bishop Desmond Tutu paying homage to Ashe for joining the fight against apartheid was among the dozens of celebrities attending the ceremony. Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe received two warm standing ovations from the crowd as she spoke of her late husband’s emphasis on “inclusion” in tennis and in all walks of life. From Don Budge and Jack Kramer to Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg from Louise Brough to Billie Jean King from Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova to Monica Seles and Steffi Graf 37 U.S. singles champions from the past 60 years attended the ceremony. Whitney Houston, who passed away recently, sang “One Moment in Time” in front of 22,000 spectators. Among the notable absentees was Andre Agassi who attended a players’ dinner earlier in the evening but skipped the ceremony. The crowd booed when it was announced he was “unable to attend.” Pete Sampras also failed to join the parade of champions staying in the locker room while waiting to play qualifier Todd Larkham. Sampras seeking his third straight U.S. Open title and fifth overall cruised through his opener 6-3 6-1 6-3. It was a different Thomas Muster  who showed up at this year’s U.S. Open. This one smiled. He even laughed. And this one lost in the first round. “He is a pretty entertaining guy both on and off the court,” Britain’s Tim Henman  said after upsetting the fifth-seeded Muster 6-3, 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4 Wednesday in the opening round of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. After one of rallies when Henman won the point at the net, Muster even chased Henman off the court in the new Arthur Ashe Stadium 🙂 “That was more like fun,” Muster said. “I just like a bit of fun, too, sometimes.” On the court, Henman had the most fun, finding answers to every problem the hard-working Muster presented. “With his style of play and my style of play, he has got a good game for me to play against,” Henman said. “He stands quite a long way back on the serve and gives me an opportunity to get pretty close to the net.” That the British right-hander did, going to the net 103 times against just 26 for Muster. Henman won 71 points at the net and sometimes out-hit Muster from the baseline, an area of the court where the Austrian has ruled for the last few years “He is not somebody you could warm up against, and if you don’t have a real good rhythm and timing, it is easy to lose that match,” Muster said. “Tim served well and took his chances, and he covered the net very well. And I obviously made too many mistakes at certain stages of the game.” Some players dislike the best-of-five set standard men must endure at the Grand Slam events. Not Wayne Ferreira  or Sergi Bruguera . Ferreira, once a Top 10 player now fallen on rough times, and Bruguera, who dropped out of the elite 10 and is now part of the group again, looked like beaten players yesterday in the U.S. Open. It was the third day of the tournament, but the first day on the court for Ferreira and Bruguera. Their stay looked as if it would be brief. Ferreira, a 25-year-old South African, and Bruguera, a 25-year-old Spaniard, wore worried looks. They were in agony on the two main courts at the National Tennis Center, Ferreira playing the first match in the Louis Armstrong Stadium and Bruguera competing in the first match in the Arthur Ashe Stadium. Each had played two sets and found themselves two sets behind. Ferreira was bewildered. He was losing to a clay-court specialist on the hard courts of New York. And Bruguera had to have an awful feeling in the pit of his stomach. He had entertained high hopes when he started. Facing him across the net was a qualifier who was ranked No. 167. But after two sets, things get interesting in Grand Slams. Tennis is a different game at a Slam event. It’s not the best-of-three sets as it is at every match on the men’s ATP Tour. Grand Slams for the men are the best-of-five sets. Pete Sampras always talks about five-setters and how tough it is to beat him over that stretch. The top players prove themselves over the long run, he says. And that’s what Alberto Berasategui  and Michael Tebbutt found out the hard way yesterday. Ferreira had been making life awfully easy for Berasategui. He had committed 56 unforced errors in the first two sets; that’s right, 56. In a first-set tiebreaker game, he hadn’t won a point. Berasategui, who puts more spin on the ball than most players, got close to victory. He probably smelled it, only three games away from reaching the second round at 3:3 in the third set. But the scent obviously disappeared, the air cleared. Ferreira was in a different mood. He wasn’t giving away points so rapidly. It was time to assert himself, and that’s just what he started to do. Nineteen more games were played and Ferreira was the one who walked off the court wearing a broad smile. He had won 15. He had advanced with a 6-7(0), 2-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 comeback in 2:16 h. Ferreira was pleased that he hadn’t broken the string for South Africans. “It’s good to see Grant (Stafford), Marcos (Ondruska) and Amanda (Coetzer) come through.” The men have reached the second round, while Coetzer, the No. 5 women’s seed, is into the third round. Minutes later, Bruguera had completed his turnabout against hard-hitting Tebbutt, an Australian left-hander, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, in 2:20. While Ferreira understood the root of his problem, an inability to put the ball in the playing area, Bruguera had a different one. Tebbutt. “The first two sets were not my fault,” proclaimed the two-time French Open champion. “I think he played unreal tennis. He was first-set serving 120 mph, the second serve 100 all the time… playing unbelievable.” But Bruguera bided his time. “It’s difficult to keep this level all the time. If he did, he wouldn’t be playing in the qualifiers.” For two crisp sets, a faster and less flabby Andre Agassi finally played as if he wanted to be on a tennis court Tuesday night as he showed flashes of his 1994 championship run at the U.S. Open. Then they played the third set. Agassi looked slow, sloppy, impatient, and when he placed an overhead against the back fence on set point, even his bride, Brooke Shields, cursed in disgust at courtside. In the end, Agassi walked away with a 6-1, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 victory over wild-card entry Steve Campbell, ranked 130th in the world, and convinced no one that he’s ready to launch another drive toward the title. Agassi, who has plummeted in the rankings to No. 63, was playing his first Grand Slam match since losing in the semifinals here a year ago. He showed he can still drum ground-strokes into the corners, deliver deft drop shots, and return serve with power and accuracy – but is sorely lacking in stamina and sustained intensity.
Second round: Steve Wilstein
Pete Sampras, a four-time Open champion, had been scheduled to play at Arthur Ashe Stadium during the day. Instead, he was sent to the old grandstand in the evening and labored to a 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 triumph over an inspired Patrick Baur of Germany. “All these guys I’m playing have nothing to lose,” said Sampras, who advanced to the third round with his second win over a qualifier – this one No. 338. “I came out firing but he was serving huge.” Sampras showed how fired up he was at the end of the second set when he caught Baur leaning one way, then ripped a stunning backhand pass in the other direction from the baseline at set point. Sampras, in a rare show of emotion, punched the air and bellowed. “There’s always a time and a place for that,” Sampras said. “This is the time and this is the place to show some emotion. Once I knew I won that point, that was pretty much the match.” No. 6 Alex Corretja of Spain, who battled an exhausted and sick Sampras through an epic four hour match last year, struggled to a nearly three-hour 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Bohdan Ulihrach of the Czech Republic. French Open champion and No. 9 seed Gustavo Kuerten was switched from day to night and won, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, against Sjeng Schalken. Former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, unseeded, also won in straight sets. Unseeded Todd Martin, who knocked out Jim Courier in the first round, succumbed to 17th ranked Jonas Bjorkman, 7-5, 6-4, 6-0. This was Martin’s first tournament since elbow surgery last February. The day’s trials may have best been put in perspective by Greg Rusedski of Great Britain, a 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-1 winner over Marcos Ondruska of South Africa. “A difficult match to play,” said Rusedski. “I got here at 9:45 in the morning. When you don’t start your match until 7 in the evening, you’re going to start a little tighter.”
Andre Agassi always has seemed blessed when it comes to the U.S. Open. This is his kind of city, his kind of fans, his kind of place altogether. Night matches – unique to this Grand Slam event – seem made for his brand of tennis theater. So he’s always thrived on the courts of the National Tennis Center, no matter what the current state of his career. Judging from his first two rounds, Agassi and the Open are renewing their bond at the tournament this year, and the magic is working for him once again. Agassi not only won easily Friday – he crushed Adrian Voinea, 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 – but the biggest obstacle in his path to the semifinals, third-seeded and third-ranked Yevgeny Kafelnikov, was removed. Kafelnikov ended a disappointing Grand Slam season with yet another disappointing performance at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where Australia’s Mark Woodforde defeated him, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4). Kafelnikov on his trials: “I felt like, you know, he was standing in one corner and I was doing right, left, right, left. You know, you cannot afford to do that on such a level.”… “I think I’m in two different places,” explained Agassi. “In ’94 I was coming off wrist surgery at the start of the year. I played the whole year; I was working up and building momentum, suffering the losses. My game started to come together when I won the Canadian Open, and it was there for the U.S. Open. This year has been more up and down, less consistent, but over the last few weeks my game has started to come together.” As a struggle, nothing that has occurred here has rivaled last night’s Marcelo Rios – Kenneth Carlsen  match. After 3 hours and 13 minutes, Rios, the No. 10 seed, finally put away his cramping opponent 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(3). Patrick Rafter notched second straight set victory over a dangerous opponent; after eliminating Andrei Medvedev in round one, 6-3 6-4 7-5, he dismissed Magnus Norman 6-2, 6-1, 6-2. Rafter will lose one game fewer in his third round match against Lione Roux. Roux struggled past Paul Haarhuis in a 4-hour encounter dropping sets Nos. 3 & 4 in tie-breaks. Curiously, Haarhuis survived his first round encounter (vs. Galo Blanco in 3:11 hrs) in a similar fashion – for the Dutchman it was third win despite losing two tie-break sets, he experienced it previously at Roland Garros ’90 (Jim Pugh) & US Open ’95 (Gilbert Schaller)!
Third round: Wayne Coffey
Mark Philippoussis, seeded 14th and considered a dark-horse contender for this championship, could not save himself in the third round Saturday, even with his 25 aces (22 in the first two sets!). The chagrined Australian, who has yet to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal despite owning the world’s most futuristic serve, lost by 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-2, to 83rd-ranked Daniel Vacek, a Czech-born resident of Nick Bollettieri’s Florida tennis think tank. Philippoussis said he committed the ultimate blooper: in the first-set tie breaker, he built up his opponent’s confidence, instead of his own. “Normally when I lose, I don’t want it enough,” said Philippoussis, who continues to blame his setbacks – such as Saturday’s seven double faults and less-then-vehement volleys – on immaturity. “Didn’t take my chances; didn’t have a ball toss, whatever.” Four-time men’s champion and top seed Pete Sampras is 26 years old and in the best shape of his life as he pursues his 11th Grand Slam title. He ran into little resistance against Alex Radulescu to move into the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory. Sampras hasn’t dropped a set so far in the tournament. Next up for Sampras is left-hander Petr Korda, who stretched him to five sets at Wimbledon but never broke his serve. “That was a tough match against Petr at Wimbledon, the toughest I had, but I’m serving well here,” said Sampras, who has won 232 of 238 service games over his past 17 matches since the start of Wimbledon. Jonas Bjorkman, ranked No. 17, knocked off French Open champion and No. 9 seed Gustavo Kuerten, 6-3, 6-1, 7-5 in a night match. Bjorkman avenged a defeat to Kuerten at the last Roland Garros and said: “I’ve got a feeling I play the best tennis in my life”. Scott Draper beat Jeff Tarango in a 3-hour, 29-minute show that lasted five sets on the Grandstand Court: 7-6(6), 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 and carried Draper to the U.S. Open fourth round for the first time in his career. The match pitted the well-mannered Draper, 21 and ranked No. 66, against No. 51 Tarango, 28, fined in 1995 for walking off the court at Wimbledon and slandering an umpire. It featured a standing-room-only crowd, where Americans cheered for the Australian against their own countryman. Also on the playbill: stalls and counter-stalls, a mouthy spectator and an argument over a half-eaten banana. “I find it amazing that an Australian was getting supported by the Americans,” Draper said. “It was probably the most exciting match I’ve played in. It was a great feeling.” Elsewhere on the grounds, the tournament was also showing signs of its former street-tough self. Felix Mantilla, seeded 12th, won his third-round match against John Van Lottum, 6-7(1), 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2, despite Mantilla suffering groin cramps. The Dutchman was serving to win the match at 5:4 in the 4th set. Leander Paes had more aces (13-11), fewer double faults (3-7), more winners (62-49) and more points (151-146), but lost to Cedric Pioline 3-6, 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. “The difference in winning or losing a match is very minimal on courts this fast,” said Paes, ranked No. 110. Paes, who fought off five match points, was down 2:5 in the fifth set before closing to 4:5 against the 23d-ranked Pioline, who made the Wimbledon finals before losing to Pete Sampras. Pioline also lost to Sampras here in the 1993 finals. Pioline, whose next challenge is No. 2 Michael Chang, said he never counted out Paes. “He could come back, sure,” Pioline said. “A guy like this, he looks like he’s playing (for) his life out there.” Andre Agassi, who skipped the first three Grand Slam events of the season, is appearing to look more and more like the 1994 version. The 27-year-old American, who has fallen to a No. 63 world ranking, gave the crowd of 24,882 plenty to cheer about yesterday when he stormed into the second week of the U.S. Open with a consummate effort in beating No. 43 Mark Woodforde, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4. Two weeks ago, Woodforde beat Agassi in Indianapolis. But this is the Open, where Agassi’s adrenaline starts to flow. Hitting whipping returns and mixing up his pace, Agassi brilliantly cut down Woodforde in 93 minutes and took his place in the final 16. “I had a talk with Brad (Gilbert, his coach) and it boiled down to one question: `Are you committed, do you still want this (to play)?'” said Agassi, who did not appear to have much dedication or resolve earlier in the season. “The answer has been clear the whole time: Yeah, I’m going down this road.” No. 10 Marcelo Rios of Chile needed five sets to get by Germany’s Tommy Haas, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 a result Haas attributed to a lack of conditioning as he played the first five-setter of his life. “At the end, my body stopping working,” Haas said. Rios about his seventh five-setter won in a row within two years: “I’ve been playing five sets and winning two matches in a row. I think I’m concentrate a lot. I’m not going like rushing too much every point. I think I’m concentrated really good.” In the 9th game of the 2nd set of Justin Gimelstob‘s prime-time U.S. Open match against Wayne Ferreira late last night in Arthur Ashe Stadium, it looked like the New Jersey native was poised to advance to the fourth round and send an already raucous crowd into an absolute frenzy. He was up a set and serving for a two-set lead. But it all fell apart. Gimelstob, serving at 5:3 in the 2nd set, was broken at love by Ferreira. In the following game he blew a set point and lost that set in a tiebreaker, and Ferreira proceeded to steamroll past him, 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-0. “I didn’t make too many first serves and he hit too many great shots,” Gimelstob said of the pivotal game, which included a sizzling return winner by Ferreira to make it love-40. “I think I lost some momentum (after that set). He started picking up his game and ran with it. But it was a great experience and hopefully I can learn a lot from it. That’s the type of experience I need to learn from.”
Fourth round: [Charleston Gazette], Jody Goldstein
The first harbinger of trouble for Pete Sampras, on the way to a 6-7(4), 7-5, 7-6(2), 3-6, 7-6(3) rain-interrupted loss against Petr Korda  that took more than five hours to finish, came when Sampras popped a string on the opening point. The second portent appeared in the form of a spitting shower as Sampras, the four-time Open champion, served in the fifth game of the second set. Moments later, he double-faulted at break point – only his second break of the tournament and seventh in 246 service games since the start of Wimbledon. The third clue to his ultimate defeat showed up when he drilled a passing shot on serve in the third-set tiebreaker, only to see the ball clip the net cord and sit up perfectly for Korda to put away for a 3:1 lead. And between all those signs, the sluggish Sampras could see the match slipping away with little things like forehands that sailed a bit wide or caught the tape, and backhands by Korda that landed in the corners. The 15th-seeded Korda, a pencil-thin left-hander who gave Sampras fits in a five-setter at Wimbledon, had all the luck and all the right answers this time in an inspired performance. This was a match that got the fans in the new Arthur Ashe stadium rocking and stomping and chanting and cheering in a way they hadn’t all tournament long, though Sampras played far below championship form. In the hot, humid weather between the three rain delays, he looked slower than usual and missed shots he would normally make easily. Korda, meanwhile, couldn’t have played better. Off the tour much of the past two years because of two groin surgeries, he ran down balls doggedly and frustrated Sampras with his unorthodox but effective style. It was a classic match that showed each player’s intense will to win, a match of competitive brilliance and frequent, if not consistent, shot-making genius. They were on court for 3 hours, 37 minutes, and it came down to the final tiebreaker after Korda had scrambled back from 3:0 down in the fifth set (Sampras led 3:0* in the 2nd set as well; in both sets two points away from – respectively – set and match). “That’s when I had my chance,” Sampras said. “At 3:1, I should have put the clamps down and I didn’t. When he gets hot, there’s nothing you can do. He just raised his level from 3-1 down to the end of the tiebreaker. I played pretty solid, but not great by any means. He played some unbelievable tennis. I’ve got to give him credit.” Sampras started the tiebreaker with a weak forehand into the net, then fell behind 4:0 when Korda ripped a backhand cross-court pass. The last of Sampras’ 24 aces made it 4:1, but Korda came right back with an ace of his own, his 15th. A few points later, Korda closed it out with a service winner. Korda celebrated in his unique way, leaping high in a double scissor kick when he captured the third set and once again when he put away the match – his first victory in six matches over Sampras since the 1993 Grand Slam Cup (in that 5-set thriller, and at Wimbledon-US Open five-setters in 1997, Korda won every time two tie-breaks against Sampras!). The loss ended Sampras’ bid for a third Grand Slam title this year – he won the Australian Open and Wimbledon – and the 11th major of his career, which would have put him one behind career leader Roy Emerson. “It kind of reminded me of my match against [Alex] Corretja last year,” Sampras said. “I ended up winning that and winning the tournament. This time I lost. Maybe what goes around comes around.” In other men’s matches, Greg Rusedski beat Daniel Vacek 7-6(2), 6-2, 6-2, and Jonas Bjorkman downed Scott Draper 6-3, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(6). Michael Chang and Cedric Pioline shuffled as if they wore lead sneakers, the muscles in their legs pulsating with pain, their feet sore, shoulders slumped, mouths gulping for air. And they still had a set to go. Chang, that most indefatigable of players, looked as if he had absolutely nothing left Tuesday, as if he most certainly would follow Pete Sampras and Monica Seles out of the U.S. Open on this hottest and muggiest of days. There was no reasonable way Chang could come back, trailing 5:2 in the fourth set and down and two sets to one. Yet, somehow, he did. Chang dug into his incredible reservoir of desire, called upon those thick, sculpted legs to start moving, and won game after game – seven in a row and 11 of the last 12 – to produce a masterful 6-3, 0-6, 5-7, 7-5, 6-1 victory in 3 hours, 41 minutes to move to the quarterfinals. The unseeded Pioline served for the match at 5:3 in the fourth set, and Chang didn’t give him a chance to put it away. At the end of a long rally on the first point, Chang tattooed the sideline with a winning forehand. Chang worked his way to two break points before Pioline struggled back to deuce. Then, with another break point against him, the fatigued Frenchman sent a forehand long.
Andre Agassi, who was starting to look like the former champion, fell to Australian Patrick Rafter 6-3, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3 in a match that didn’t end until nearly 1 a.m. “I’m trying to give my all to everything in my life, and it doesn’t seem to do anything but drain you,” said Agassi, all but admitting that his recent marriage to Brooke Shields has been a distraction. “So I’ve responded to it real simply by focusing my attention intensely at different times. It’s not as simple as saying, `Now I’m trying.’ It’s not as simple as that. I wish it was.” Rafter, whose serve-and-volley style has put him in five finals this year (with no wins), drilled 12 aces despite going up against the best return-of-serve player in the game. He fought off a set point in the second and frustrated Agassi with his net play and near-perfect passing shots, including a backhand volley winner on match point. “Certainly, it’s disappointing,” Agassi said. “He forced me to hit shots early, and with the swirly wind and the little delay before we got out there, I got behind from the get. In the end, he did what he needed to do.” Agassi came back from *1:4 (0/30) down in the 3rd set. It was the first match in which Rafter showed a pony-haircut ‘a la Rios’…
Quarterfinals: Jerry Magee, Steve Wilstein
The English, who thought up tennis, would seem to have come across a chap who can play it. About time, wouldn’t you say? For the first time in 36 years, Great Britain has a semifinalist in a U.S. national championship: Greg Rusedski. Oh, he wasn’t born in England? Never mind. The Brits are embracing him. Rusedski, a native of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, endeared himself further to his chosen countrymen yesterday by out-serving Richard Krajicek 7-5, 7-6(5), 7-6(6) in 1 hour 57 minutes. He is Britain’s first U.S. Open semifinalist since 1961, when Mike Sangster did it. On Saturday, Rusedski is to engage Jonas Bjorkman. The unseeded Swede advanced last night when Petr Korda retired with Bjorkman leading 7-6(3), 6-2, 1-0. According to the Open’s medical staff, Korda was experiencing “flu-like symptoms and general fatigue.” The Czech never performed with the fervor he demonstrated on Monday evening, when he removed defending champion Pete Sampras. “This morning I woke up and I could hardly lift my arms,” said Korda. “I spent the whole day in bed, sweating. I didn’t want to give up. It really hurts. But I was struggling from the beginning. I just didn’t have it.” Even fully fit, Korda likely would have had problems against the athletic Bjorkman, a player on the rise. Bjorkman has improved his ranking this year from No. 69 to 17 and coming into the Open had won 45 matches. Only Michael Chang, with 47, had won more. Bjorkman said he sensed Korda was weakening when he took a 5:2 lead in the 2nd set “and all of a sudden, he started looking a little different in the face. I’ve also got a cold.” In 1961, Sangster went no further than the semis, losing to Rod Laver. A Britisher has not won this event since the late Fred Perry captured it in 1936. By Canadians, Rusedski is viewed as a Hessian, having forsaken his homeland for England. He had several reasons. His mother was born there, he had a girlfriend there, and Tennis Canada, the game’s administrative arm in that country, might not have been supporting him in the manner he would have preferred. Rusedski, who will be 24 on Saturday, has not become a citizen of Great Britain, according to sources from there, but his intention is to do so. He has lived there for seven years. His tennis, though, lacks the restraint that is supposed to be a British characteristic. He just hammers the stuffings out of his serves. He had one against Krajicek caught at 142 mph. His straight-sets conquest of the 1996 Wimbledon champion gave him a sweep of the 15 sets he has played here this week, yet Rusedski talks as if his progress is a surprise to him. “I’m still on such a cloud; I can’t believe I’m in the semis,” he said. “I guess when I get up there and have to play on Saturday, I’ll realize I’m there.” In yesterday’s wind, Rusedski, oddly, had only two aces. Krajicek delivered 10. “It was extremely difficult,” said Rusedski. “I mean, it was very windy out there. I think I handled the conditions better, made Richard play a few more volleys than he made me. I got a lot more free points from him.” Krajicek, ranked No. 18, was in position to win the third set tiebreaker against Rusedski and gain some momentum. The 6’5 Dutchman had appeared to turn the corner, coming from *2:5 to serve for the set at 6:5. But the 20th-ranked Rusedski met the challenge and won the next three points, winning the match with a second service winner. When Krajicek had his set point, Rusedski played two consecutive backhands above his standards. At 6-all he made a forehand passing-shot winner. Never one to finish a match fast, Michael Chang ran and ran Thursday night, leaving skid marks on the court, until he got into familiar territory, then ran upstart Marcelo Rios out of the U.S. Open, 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3. Chang’s second straight five-set victory sent him into Saturday’s semifinals against Patrick Rafter, a 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-2 winner over Magnus Larsson. Though not as fatiguing as the 3-hour, 41-minute marathon Chang won in the fourth round against Pioline, the second-seeded American waged a harder-hitting duel against the 10th-seeded Rios. As Chilean fans cheered and chanted for Rios, the two players pummeled each other from the baseline and ventured to the net whenever they had a chance – a departure from both their styles. The difference between them came down to the eighth game of the final set, when Chang led 4:3 and launched one last attack on Rios’ serve. On the first point, Chang slugged a rare one-handed backhand that zipped past Rios as the Chilean dived for it and scraped his knee rolling on the court. That point took its toll on the next one as Rios double-faulted for only the third time in the match. Rattled but still fighting, Rios ran down a ball in the next rally and drilled a forehand down the line, only to see Chang rip it back with a backhand cross court for a love-40 lead. Rios saved two break points, but couldn’t save the third, sending a backhand wide to let Chang serve for the match. The end didn’t come easily for Chang – he had to fend off two break points of his own – but he prevailed as he usually does in five-setters, putting it away with a service winner at deuce and a forehand winner at match point. “Oh man, I was so stressed,” Chang said.”Marcelo was such a talented player. I knew it would be a tough match. It was an unbelievable match. It could have gone either way.” Chang, 19-9 in five-setters, had never lost a set against Rios in their four previous meetings. “Records mean nothing,” Chang said. “Everyone out here is fighting as hard as he can. I knew he was not going to give up.” Rafter, spearheading a revival of Australia’s proud tennis tradition, reached his second Grand Slam semifinal this year with a classic attack reminiscent of his famous mentors. Rafter’s victory bore all the hallmarks of the great players of Australia’s past, from John Newcombe to Rod Laver, from Tony Roche to Ken Rosewall to Pat Cash. The link between the long-haired Rafter and those champions is evident in his serve-and-volley style, his powerfully sculpted legs, and the pleasure he takes from the game – even down to clowning a bit at match point as he did against Larsson. Roche is Rafter’s tutor at the major tournaments these days, and Newcombe has been talking to Rafter about strategy and desire in an effort to build his confidence and see him fulfill his promise. For Australians, their lost dominance in the sport is seen as something of a national challenge to recover, and they are banking on players like Rafter and Davis Cup teammate Philippoussis to reclaim it. Rafter’s emergence this year as a championship contender – he finished the past two years ranked 68th and 62nd as he struggled with injuries – began in February in Australia when he came back from two sets down to beat Pioline in a thrilling, five-set Davis Cup duel.
Semifinals: Rachel Alexander
By late Saturday afternoon, Arthur Ashe Stadium was almost empty. But as the last fans streamed toward their cars and ushers began collecting trash, Carl Chang remained in his seat, staring at the court, lost in what might have been for his younger brother, Michael. With Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi eliminated early in this U.S. Open, the No. 2-seeded Michael Chang appeared on a collision course with his first Grand Slam title since capturing the 1989 French Open as a 17-year-old. But that giant opportunity slipped away Saturday when Australian sensation Patrick Rafter dominated him in a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 semifinal victory. Rafter, seeded 13th, will meet unseeded Greg Rusedski in today’s final after Rusedski’s 6-1, 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory over unseeded Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden. “This may have been more of an opportunity than other chances” to win another Grand Slam title, said Michael Chang, who seemed as reflective after the match as his brother, who coaches him. “All I can tell you is that they all hurt. What’s been frustrating is that you get close time and time again. It’s almost as if someone’s teasing you with something. They give you a piece of candy and then they take it away. I have to hope that perseverance will pay off one day.” His perseverance didn’t pay off though, he never advanced even to the last 16 in majors in the next six years, having reached at least one quarterfinal in years 1989-97. Chang, who said he was nervous before his quarterfinal match Thursday, said he felt “peaceful” before Saturday’s match. But if Chang was calm, he wasn’t sharp, allowing Rafter to break him in the very first game. Rafter opened the second set almost as quickly, breaking in the second game before going up 3:0. Chang finally began to show some life in the third set, winning the first point of the first game with a cross-court winner that he had to run diagonally across the court to reach. He began yelling at himself, pumping his fist and engaging the crowd, but while he won his service game, he was never able to break Rafter. By the end of the match, he had missed all eight of his break-point opportunities. Rafter converted four of nine times. “You never go out there expecting you’re going to beat Michael like that,” said Rafter, who has become one of the best serve-and-volley players in the world. “Everything worked for me today. Every big point he had, I came up with something I usually don’t come up with.” Today will be Rafter’s sixth final this year, although he has yet to win a tournament. Rafter has lost just one set in six matches and will be the favorite against Rusedski, a native Canadian who became a British citizen in 1995. Rusedski’s victory was much less of a surprise than Rafter’s but much more difficult. His march through this tournament has provided a beacon to Britain in the week of Princess Diana’s death, and if that wasn’t enough pressure, Saturday marked Rusedski’s first Grand Slam semifinal and his 24th birthday. He also woke up Friday with severe laryngitis, needing treatment from Gwen Korovin, opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti’s personal doctor. “It was hard to breathe” Friday, said Rusedski, who had never won a match at the U.S. Open before this year. “But when I got on the court, I was fine. I was going to play no matter. In a Grand Slam, if you can step on the court, you play, because you don’t get these opportunities very often.” Rusedski blazed through. The 1st harbinger of trouble for the first set as if powered by adrenaline, going up 5:0 before winning 6-1, but the rest of the match was not as easy for the 6-foot-3 serving specialist. After losing the next two sets, Rusedski battled back in the fourth, breaking Bjorkman in the third game. The pair stayed on serve in the fifth set until Rusedski battled back from a 40/15 deficit in the 12th game to win. The match ended after Bjorkman’s volley skidded over the net, landing softly in front of him. With Bjorkman helpless to do little more than watch, Rusedski hit the forehand passing winner. “I’m proud maybe I could put a smile on some people’s faces because of the tennis,” said Rusedski.
Final: Steve Wilstein
The phone calls for Patrick Rafter came at odd hours in strange places. John Newcombe would offer a few words of advice. Tony Roche would notice something about Rafter’s strokes and movement and ring him up. In the middle of the night at hotel rooms around the world, Rafter would listen intently. He’d chat at times, too, with Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall and Fred Stolle, learn something from them all. On Sunday, Rafter linked his name to those great champions of Australia’s proud tennis heritage as he overcame the fastest server in history to win the U.S. Open and secure his first Grand Slam title. Rafter stared at his racket to see if it had cracked when Greg Rusedski unleashed a record 143-mph (230 kph) serve in the fourth set, then bore down to finish off a 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 victory. In a scene reminiscent of Australian Pat Cash’s climb into the stands to hug his father when he won Wimbledon in 1987, Rafter climbed up to embrace his family, friends and Roche, his coach this year at the majors. “Cashy did it and I thought it was pretty cool,” Rafter said. “I could have jumped up and down for the next half-hour.” The first Australian champion of the U.S. Open since Newcombe in 1973, Rafter played in the tradition of his famous mentors with a serve-and-volley style and an athletic flair that never wavered even under pressure. “He’s got the same competitiveness, the serve-volley routine, the aggressiveness, and the willingness to put yourself on the line,” Newcombe said. “Australians are not born with this, you know. They’ve got to achieve it like everybody else. Now, he’s done it, he’s arrived, and the job is to hold onto it.” Rusedski, trying to become the first British winner since Fred Perry in 1936, provided plenty of pressure with his booming serves and gutsy shots in a third-set comeback (Rusedski saved two-mini match points at 4-all in the 3rd set). But Rafter broke him in key games, kept attacking the net, leaping for almost impossible volleys and making them. “The difference was I missed a few easy volleys, a few balls by an inch,” Rusedski said. “Pat was just the better player on the day. I think I’ll learn, like I did from being in the quarters at Wimbledon. Learn to push it up a notch.” Rafter’s path to the title was littered with top players, including former champion Andre Agassi and No. 2-seed Michael Chang. But he lost only two sets in the tournament, one against Agassi and one against Rusedski. “I always felt like I could lose,” Rafter said. “Everything was going great. But Michael could have done it. It was my day. It was my two weeks. I let fate take hold. I did all the hard work, and then I let things flow.” Rafter’s rise this year – he reached five finals before this one without winning any – has been nothing short of remarkable. He had won one title in his career, Manchester in 1994. He finished the past two years ranked No. 68 and No. 62 while battling injuries. Now, Rafter will be ranked No. 3 behind Pete Sampras and Chang. Stats of the final