The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts on July 10, 2000 · 47
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The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts · 47

Boston, Massachusetts
Issue Date:
Monday, July 10, 2000
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D7 Feeling down, Down Under THE BOSTON GLOBE MONDAY, JULY 10, 2000 ft AWV AAW. ii ' ... s U, I I IV'.'' , , V'jcV ... I r ; I ? e C : r , f J f 'I 1 K J . " h AP PHOTO A frustrated Patrick Rafter tosses his racket after dropping a point against Pete Sampras In the men's final at Wimbledon. LONDON -THERE IS NO joy in Blackbutt or Mount Isa today because Pete Sampras is the biggest MHjoy known to those two Australian country towns somewhere in the vast, desolate reaches of Queensland. Sampras killed two burgs with one stony serve that comes at you as a swirling rock, daring you to get a racket on it, making a tennis court a very hard place. It makes strong men weep. Although Patrick Rafter controlled his tear ducts last evening in Pete's Parlor (also known as Centre Court, Wimbledon), when he had a right to cry, he couldn't control the Sampras serve that snakes and bakes with venom and heat In beating Rafter, the favorite son of hot, dusty Mount Isa, in four sticky sets and almost 3 hours, Sampras also erased the pride of Black-butt, Roy Emerson, from the record book, evict-' ing "Emmo" after a 33-year residence. Is that any way to treat a 63-year-old good old Aussie boy? The double dip was enough to make strong men, women, and children weep in both outposts. Surely it unmade their day and may have caused the dark-trunked eucalyptus trees from which Blackbutt takes its name to turn pale. Facing the Sampras serve would do that to anybody or anything. Sampras collects major titles - especially Wimbledons - the way Imelda Marcos snaps up shoes or congressmen rake in soft money. Hell soon run out of fingers and toes to count them on. He's up to 13 majors, dissolving the tie with Emerson at a dozen, and seven of those - also a record - have been seized at the Big W, which, as he points out, is "the biggest event in our game." His decade's quest began with the 1990 US Open triumph at 19 over Andre Agassi. Illuminating the gloaming with his firepower, Sampras fought off both Rafter and impending darkness. He beat Rafter, 6-7 (10-12), 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-2, and nightfall "by 10 minutes," Sampras said. "I didn't want to have to try to sleep knowing I'd have to come back Monday to finish." Rafter might as well have cuddled up in a sleeping bag on court during the fourth set for all the good it did him as he probed for Sampras's serve like a drunk trying to find a keyhole in a dark room. Two intermissions for rain-watching pushed the dicey finish back to 8:57 p.m., the latest conclusion for a Wimbledon singles finale. It is not wise to go into the same room with Sampras at the All England Club - if that room is rectangular, carpeted in grass, and contains 13,812 people who will scream with glee as he Champion of champions Yesterday's win gave Pete Sampras the record for victories In the four Grand Slam tournaments - Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open. Ant Fnm Wimb US Total Pete Sampras 2 0 7 4 13 Roy Emerson 6 2 2 2 12 Bjom Borg O 6 5 0 11 Rod laver 3 2 4 2 11 BillTilden 0 0 3 7 10 serves yellow bullets at speeds of up to 133 miles per hour. "Pistol Pete" is too tame a sobriquet for him, actually a one-man firing squad. Nevertheless, Rafter gamely went after Sampras with abandon. The US Open champ in 1997-98 had - for a few shining moments - a chance to bring down this American contender for baptism as greatest of the greats. "My title was slipping away there. I was tight, I'd lost my nerve," Sampras said. "We all choke, you know. Then Pat lost his when I thought I was gone." He meant the moment that Rafter led, 4-1, in the second-set tiebreaker with two serves to come and 3 points from a two-set lead. "But things can change so fast in a match like that," Sampras said. Within two minutes, they had changed. Sampras grabbed 6 of the breaker's remaining 7 points - the critical ones to 6-4 - and rediscovered his invincible Centre Court self, an ogre who has permitted only two foes of 41 to emerge from his torture chamber breathing. "Within two minutes I knew I'd win," said Sampras. "I knew I was screwed. It was a mental blow, and I went downhill," Rafter said. Two minutes out of the 277 played, 5 points of 299, and the championship slid from the Aussie's hands into those accustomed to its weight At 4-1, Sampras rapped a good, low forehand return. Rafter double-faulted, 4-3. The Aussie wasn't through. He poked a netskimming backhand return to the server's feet Though Sampras dug it out his half-volley lazed to the service line where Rafter waited to deliver a crushing forehand passer. They were eyeball-to-eyeball. "I make that and it's another mini-break, 5-3," Rafter said. However, he lashed the ball into the net "I'm screwed." Reprieved, Sampras socked a service winner, and then a sizzling backhand return to set up a forehand passer. From 4-1 down to 6-4 up. Having become Wimbledon's Man of the Century last year with his sixth title, surpassing Bjorn Borg and Laurie Doherty, Sampras is now this tennis bee's current Man Forever. All right I know Willie Renshaw also won seven, and Sampras has merely tied him 111 years later. But things might not have been quite so demanding in the 1880s. Renshaw shined during the era of the "challenge-round" system whereby the defending champ had to play only one match the following year, against the survivor of a pre liminary tournament Renshaw, who won five titles as one-round knockouts, had a career record of 22-3 at Wimbledon. Sampras is 59-5, with title-bout knockouts of Jim Courier, Goran Ivanisevic, Boris Becker, Cedric Pioline, Ivanisevic again, and Andre , Agassi starting in 1993, a pretty fair cast of wrecking-ball artists themselves. Pained by a gimpy left shin and foot Sampras played nevertheless, and persevered in his kind' of bing-bang, slick-quick game. Let's charge, bump heads, and see who lasts. Serve-and-volley. Five shots was a long and rare point They stayed back on all of 4 points, their lengthiest rally 14 strokes. ' Though not engrossing like Rafter over ' Agassi in that sublime semifinal, it was tense and suspenseful because at that highly competitive ' pace, one mistake could be costly. " Despite his infirmity, Sampras had said, "If my right arm stays on I'll get through it" He was right Rafter's main difficulty was literacy. Read-' ing. "You can't read Pete's serve, pick where it's going, or what spin is coming." J It's easier reading James Joyce in Sanskrit ' than deciphering the Sampras serve: same toss and motion for every delivery. LA Pete is the ! Boston Pedro of tennis the way he works his h plate (the service box) and opponent moving the ball to maddening locations. Heat changeups, i breaking balls, in and out jams manicuring the other guy's nails. Sampras holds serve like Slobodan Milosevic hangs onto his job. Particularly in Wimbledon ; finals, where he's 7 for 7. But he does lose it every few years. Courier broke him twice in 1993, Ivanisevic twice in 1998. Four serving games lost of 137 over seven finals. Five guys couldn't splinter that serve even with a jackhammer. Scroo- ,i gian-plus. Centre Court never has experienced a weapon so devastating. Of the 101 points he won while serving, his serve was responsible for 64 unplaya-bles: 27 aces, 37 winners. Rafter did have a look at two break points. Obstructed view, you might say. They vanished like snow in Florida. But Sampras broke Rafter only once in the first two sets. That's how tight it was. "That's the situation I love. Nerves, anxiety," said Sampras. That's the way champions talk. For Sampras, high anxiety means higher achievement Bad as they might feel about hinr beating up on their guys, Rafter and Emerson,; the good folks of Mount Isa and Blackbutt would recognize greatness and salute him with, "Good on you, Yank!" I Sampras is tennis's major-domo WIMBLEDON Continued from Page Dl 28-year-old Californian, is the antithesis of the Australian bon vivant he shoved out of the archives. And his entrance into history was as restrained and methodical as the man. At his request his parents, Sam and Georgia - who had not seen him play a Grand Slam final since he lost in the 1992 US Open -had flown in from Los Angeles to mark the occasion even though watching him play in person makes them too nervous. "I told myself if I got to the final here or any major with a chance to break the Grand Slam record that I wanted them to be here," said Sampras. "I'm glad they both came." But they are people who have "always kept their distance," according to their son, and this was reflected in their inconspicuous seating arrangements yesterday -in the southeast stands, opposite the highly visible box reserved for players' friends and families. So when Sampras went to share the accomplishment with his parents, it was in contrast to the euphoric skip through the stands Venus Williams had taken the previous day to punctuate her women's singles victory. After Rafter launched a return wide for match point at 8:57 p.m., Sampras bent over and lowered his head, as if overcome by the magnitude of the moment Then, as the camera flashes sparkled in the gloaming, he slowly raised his arms over his head and walked almost aimlessly about He looked up into the VIP box where his coach, Paul Annacone, and fiancee, Bridget Wilson, sat Then he turned, almost as if in a daze, and headed into the stands on the opposite side. "I looked over at my box," he said. "They're all pointing to my parents, that I should go up there. It took me a while to find them." Once he did, a path was cleared for him, and he slowly, methodically, made his way up, step by careful step, just as he had progressed to the top rung of tennis with his Wimbledons and his four US and i ' ' ( i ' . V 1 vl . .J it - " . AP PHOTO Pete Sampras is overcome by emotion as he notches his record-tying seventh Wimbledon title and record-breaking 13th Grand Slam crown. x I two Australian opens. When he reached his folks, he hugged them vigorously and began crying. This intensely private man had shed tears in public only once before -after discovering at the 1995 Australian Open that his beloved coach, Tim Gullikson, had contracted terminal brain cancer. But these were so wonderfully different tears of joy for himself and his family, and of relief that he had overcome a back injury and then tendinitis of his lower left leg to ring up his fourth straight Wimbledon title. "It's very emotional for a number of reasons," he said. "The past week and a half, the fact that my parents are here, obviously the title and how important this tournament is to me, just all kind of hit me in the end when I won." It had seemed as if the end wouldn't come, at least not on this day, and the suspicion was that Emerson was at his tennis school in Gstaad, Switzerland, doing a rain dance to delay Sampras's reign dance. Sampras and Rafter's entrance was deferred for more than an hour. Then, sandwiched around a 26-minute delay, they managed to get in 34 minutes of tennis, during which they battled evenly, to 4-4, deuce. There followed a 2:31 downpour during which Sampras figured he Sampras-Rafter box score Sampras Rafter lst-serve percentage 62 57 Aces 27 12 Double faults VI 8 Unforced errors 79 65 lst-serve winning pet. 89 75 2d-serve winning pet. 56 50 Winners 4() 29 Break points 3-14 0-2 Net approaches 28-49 39-93 Total points 160 138 Time: 2:52. wouldn't take the court again until today and Rafter had his travel plans ruined; he was supposed to catch a 10 p.m. flight to Brisbane, where he's headed for Australian Davis Cup duty. Once they returned to the court, it looked as if the weather signaled Sampras's doom. Each man had said that how he handled the other's serve would determine his fate. Sure enough, neither could break serve through the first two sets. So the tiebreakers became monumental. The first one stretched to 12-10, Rafter's favor, and the two-time US Open champion, who has made an expeditious recovery from October rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder, seemed ready to put the match and Sampras away when he jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the second breaker. "We all choke," said Sampras. "No matter who you are, you just get in the heat of the moment I felt like I was outplaying him the first set I didn't get the break. I was outplaying him a little bit in the second. Comes down to a tiebreaker. Anything can happen. Just roll the dice." They came up "7" for Sampras, who won six of the next seven points -and the set That turned the match for Sampras, who had felt Rafter was about to make him extinct He didn't realize that Rafter wasn't so sure about that "If I felt very confident in being up at two sets to love, I guess I wouldn't have been nervous," said Rafter. "I knew I still had to do some work. Probably made me a little bit tight" And Sampras gradually loosened up. After surviving the set he punched the air and exhorted himself- "Yeah!" - a most uncharacteristic gesture for him. He went on to post the first break of the match at 2-2 in the third and served out the set And Rafter was unable to protect the record of Emerson, his fellow swashbuckling Aussie, as he was broken at 2-2 and 4-2 in the fourth. By now, the two were playing against nature's deadline, with "maybe 10 minutes of light left," according to Sampras. He didn't need them. 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