Tennis: Sampras barely breaks sweat

What was by his own admission the toughest major tournament of his career ended in little more than a gentle work-out for Pete Sampras when he won the Australian Open final here - his ninth Grand Slam title - with a crushing straight-sets victory against Spain's Carlos Moya.

The 25-year-old world No 1 outclassed the unseeded Moya in every department, taking the match 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 before punching the air in triumph and beaming his first smile to the crowd after two tense weeks. "This is the toughest major I think I've won," Sampras said after lifting his second Australian Open trophy. "I played really, really well."

Sampras, who played five sets in the most severe heat of the tournament to survive the fourth round, wasted no time against Moya on another hot day on Centre Court. Both men started strongly, serving aces in their opening service games, but the top seed Sampras broke the nervous Spaniard's serve in the fourth game of the match and never looked back.

Moya could not produce the kind of all-round court game which earned him wins over the defending champion, Boris Becker, and the world No 2, Michael Chang, on his way to the final.

Sampras, dominant at the net and baseline, ran Moya around the court like a ball boy before ending the match in 87 minutes. Even Moya's usual lethal serve deserted him. "He is No 1 and he showed it today," said Moya, who leapt to nine in the world rankings from 25 with his first Grand Slam final. "In a final he's almost unbeatable."

Sampras played in searing heat topping 50 degrees on court. Medical experts warned players' lives were being put in danger, and officials later closed the Centre Court stadium's roof to shut out the sun.

Sampras's victory takes him a step higher on the podium of tennis greats. In the post-1968 Open era of tennis, only Sweden's Bjorn Borg has won more Grand Slam men's singles titles, with 11 wins from 16 finals. Sampras has won nine out of 11.

He said he was not consumed by "the numbers" of tennis and that his mind turned at important moments to his coach and mentor, Tim Gullikson, rather than history books. Gullikson died of a brain tumour last year.

"I thought about it when I woke up today before the match, and I'm sure he's looking down very happy that I fought through some tough matches," he said. "He will always be in my mind."

Sampras now takes aim at the French Open, the next Grand Slam event and the only title missing from the self-effacing American's trophy cabinet.

Britain won the boys doubles, with the second-seeded David Sherwood and James Trotman defeating the unseeded South African pair, Jaco van der Westhuizen and Wesley Whitehouse, 7-6, 6-3 in the final.

Hingis in perspective, page 20

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