US Open Classics – Sampras vs. Agassi
The 2002 US Open final will forever be remembered as Pete Sampras’ last stand. Not only would he find the inspiration to win his 14th Grand Slam title, but he would do it against his toughest rival, and in the incredible atmosphere of New York City. It would be no shock that he would declare his retirement shortly after the victory. What a way to go out!
In contrast, Agassi, who was almost a year older than Sampras, would soldier on playing the tour as a top 10 player for four more years. Also, despite the fact that it would be his third US Open final that he would lose to Sampras, Agassi found a way to shake that defeat off, and capture the 2003 Australian Open in dominating fashion.
Pete’s incredible run to the 2002 US Open title was not expected though. He’d been struggling with form and had been blown out in both the 2000 and 2001 US Open finals by Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets. At Wimbledon, where he had dominated for almost a decade, he had posted fourth-round and second-round defeats in 2001 and 2002. This title was not in the cards. Pete had come in as the 16th seed. Pete also struggled in the early rounds, going to fifth sets against Srichaphan and Rusedski. It may have been Rusedski who lit a fire under Sampras when he commented that Pete looked like he had lost a step!
Pete may have lost a step, but that incredible serve was rock solid, and it would look impossible to break in the final against Andre Agassi. Andre would go on to lose the first two sets in a routine fashion. He did not know what had hit him. He was supposed to be the favorite in the final and had just taken out the defending champion, and number one seed Lleyton Hewitt in the semis. Agassi was in fine form. This was a shock to most who were expecting Agassi to get over the Sampras hump in this final.
Agassi’s fitness saw him prevail in the third set and Sampras would look like he was beginning to fade in the fourth. Agassi would even have a breakpoint at 4:4 in the fourth and had a look at a second serve. His backhand return would clip the net though and Sampras would hold and then immediately break Agassi to then serve for the Championship. If Agassi had broken Pete in the fourth and taken the match to a fifth set, it is very likely that Agassi would have been crowned the champion. It was not to be though.
Sampras would prevail, wielding the same classic Pro Staff 6.0 he would use since winning his first US Open in 1990. Coincidentally, Wilson has just reissued that great racket!
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