Tennis: Martin just too strong for Sampras: World No 1 puts the blame for modern-day power game on improved physical attributes after losing without dropping his serve

ONLY five players have defeated Pete Sampras this year, and Todd Martin became the latest yesterday without breaking the world No 1's serve in the final of the Stella Artois Championships. Rumour has it that there was a seven-stroke rally, but it has yet to be confirmed.

Big men with big serves equals small points on fast surfaces. Martin and Sampras were too proficient for the Centre Court lawn at Queen's, and past experience suggests that Wimbledon is unlikely to take much pace out of the power game a week hence.

Martin, ranked eight places lower but standing five inches higher at 6ft 6in, served and returned the better over the 93 minutes to win 7-6, 7-6 and deny Sampras his 50th victory of the year. The 23-year-old from Michigan joins an assorted elite of Sampras stoppers: a Moroccan, Karim Alami (in Qatar); a Dutchman, Jacco Eltingh (in Philadelphia); a German, Michael Stich (in Dusseldorf); and a fellow American, Jim Courier (at the French Open).

The Wimbledon, United States and Australian Open champion had done well to last until Sunday, having survived a match point against Sweden's Jan Apell, ranked No 127, in the semi-finals.

Sun blessed the final, as it did last year, when Stich's straight-sets win against South Africa's Wayne Ferreira failed to inspire the 6,000 spectators. On that occasion, the German simply served too well for his opponent. For the most part yesterday, that applied on both sides of the net. Martin hit 15 aces to Sampras's 14 and served two double faults to four from his rival.

There were only three break points. Two were against Sampras in the second game of the match. He double-faulted to offer a chance at 30-30, only for Martin to direct a return over the baseline. Sampras then hit a backhand wide, but saved himself with a backhand volley.

In the following game, Martin delivered an ace for 40-0 and then saw the points eaten away by Sampras's returns. One of them, a forehand down the line, gave Sampras the chance to break, but Martin produced a winning serve.

Sampras, who had recovered from 2-5 in a second set tie-break against Apell, was allowed no escape on this occasion. He double- faulted for 2-4, and Martin held firm to take first shoot-out, 7-4.

In the second tie-break, Martin attacked Sampras's serve to lead 3- 2 and closed the contest, 7-4, again with a smash on his third match point.

But what about the poor spectators? 'Maybe it's a bit like watching cricket,' Sampras said before taking the point seriously. 'As big as we're serving, our offensive game is almost too good for this surface. It's almost impossible to break serve. In the last five years the speed of the game has pushed up. It's not the most exciting tennis to watch, but that's the surface we're playing on.'

He did not agree that racket technology is responsible. 'I've been using the same racket for six or seven years,' he said. 'I just think the guys are getting stronger and quicker and are serving a lot bigger.' He suggested that ball changes on grass and indoor courts be made after nine and 11 games instead of seven and nine. 'That might slow it up a bit.'

It was Martin's first contest with Sampras on grass, and his first win against him at the fourth attempt. Their last meeting was in the Australian Open final in January. Having added the Queen's title to those he has won in Coral Springs and Memphis, he was in no mood to fret about public stimulation.

'The amount of shots hit may not be as much, but if people understand the ebb and flow of a match then I think they should enjoy it,' he said. 'It was a close match, and the fact that one type of play dominated should not matter as much as the fact that we both played well, and they should appreciate that.'

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links