Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pioline Puts a Different Accent on Open; Faces Sampras in Finals

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pioline Puts a Different Accent on Open; Faces Sampras in Finals

Article excerpt

For Cedric Pioline the challenge is simple.

Beat No. 1 again. Do it for the second time in a week - against a different No. 1 - and he will be the U.S. Open champion.

Pioline became the first French finalist at the Open in 61 years on Saturday when he defeated unseeded Wally Masur 6-1, 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-2), 6-1.

Then Pete Sampras took advantage of Jim Courier's early elimination by the 15th-seeded Pioline. He claimed the top spot in the rankings and one in Sunday's championship match against Pioline with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Alexander Volkov.

Sampras, who won the Open in 1990 and captured Wimbledon on July 4, held the No. 1 ranking from April 12 before losing it back to Courier on Aug. 23, one week before this tournament began.

Sampras, 22, took it back decisively against Volkov. He opened the match with three consecutive aces, zooming serves of up to 126 mph.

He had 16 aces in the match and converted 95 percent of his first serves.

Volkov, the first Russian ever to reach the semifinals at the Open, was not broken until it counted most, on the final game of the first set.

Sampras began wearing Volkov down after that and by the third game, with shadows settling over the National Tennis Center, he was clearly in charge.

Pioline, of Paris, knows Sampras, from Bradenton, Fla., will be no easy assignment.

"He is going to be tough," said Pioline, 24. "He is playing very well. Good serve, good forehand, good backhand, good volley, good smash, good legs, good mentally."

This led Pioline to a logical conclusion.

"So he is a good player," he said. "We will see tomorrow."

With long distance help from his coach, Henri Dumont, who returned to Paris on business after the first week of the Open, Pioline played up and down tennis against Masur. He was nearly perfect in the first and fourth sets but far from that in the second and third. …

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