Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sampras, Graf Repeat as U.S. Open Champions

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sampras, Graf Repeat as U.S. Open Champions

Article excerpt

Staggered and sick one match, tight and worried the next, Pete Sampras put on an impeccable show of force and grace in the final Sunday night to claim his fourth U.S. Open championship.

From his first 125 mph service winner to his last at 117 mph, Sampras defended his title by blowing away Michael Chang 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) in two hours - a half-hour less than the rain delay after Steffi Graf's 7-5, 6-4 victory over Monica Seles for her fifth women's title and the championship of the sixth successive Grand Slam she has appeared in.

Sampras secured his No. 1 ranking and salvaged a tortured year by dominating Chang in every aspect of the match, even winning long rallies to prove that he could beat Chang at his own game. To see Sampras sprinting so lightly, moving so quickly and hammering shots so hard for his eighth Grand Slam title, no one who hadn't heard of his problems a few days earlier would believe he could have been so close to defeat in the quarterfinals. Yet the grit Sampras exhibited in beating Alex Corretja in the quarters, even after vomiting and wobbling wearily on court in their fifth-set tie-breaker, showed up in his unflinching attack against Chang. The slip of concentration, the bit of a choke that sent Sampras into a fourth set against Goran Ivanisevic in the semis, helped him in this match by steeling him against any letdown. Sampras put together all his skills - his awesome, accurate serves, his penetrating groundstrokes, his stinging volleys and leaping overheads - to fashion a victory as artful as it was overwhelming. "Pete played some great tennis today," Chang said. Sampras, who measures his year by his Grand Slam victories, would have considered 1996 a failure if he let this match get away. He fell early in the Australian Open, the semis of the French and the quarters of Wimbledon. More significant than any of that, he had suffered emotionally the whole year as his coach and friend, Tim Gullikson, lay dying of brain cancer and passed away in May. "It's been very emotional," Sampras said. Sampras played near perfect tennis in the first set, starting with that 125 mph service winner on the first point. …

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