Tennis: Sampras era sealed in rare style

The brilliant Pete Sampras won his fourth ATP Tour Championship yesterday with an overwhelming victory against Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

John Roberts, in Hannover, witnessed an uncomfortable afternoon for the Russian.

Having dismissed his round-robin defeat by Tim Henman, Friday's sub of the day, as an "exhibition", Yevgeny Kafelnikov might have used the same term for Pete Sampras' masterly performance in yesterday's ATP Tour Championship final. The Russian could do little more than gawp in admiration as the defending champion swept past him in 88 minutes, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

Kafelnikov was not alone in being awe-struck, and the post-match presentations appropriately included a tribute to the sport's sometimes unappreciated leading man. Along with the trophy and a cheque for $700,000 [pounds 425,000], Sampras received the ultimate accolade from 100 current and past players, tournament directors and the media. He was voted No 1 player in the 25 years since the formation of the Association of Tennis Professionals.

On days like yesterday, Sampras' breathtaking tennis transcends ancillary consideration such as a personality devoid of inclinations to smash rackets and verbally abuse umpires, line judges and anybody else who might be handy to blame for anything and everything that might go wrong.

Not that much went wrong for Sampras yesterday, at least after a bizarre opening five games in which both players' serve was up for grabs. "From the middle of the first set, pretty much to the end of the match, everything just clicked," Sampras said. "It's an unbelievable feeling when everything just comes together and you feel like anything you try out there is going to work. It's so much fun, it really is."

It was not such fun to be on Kafelnikov's side of the net. "I wanted to go off the court after the first set because I knew it was going to get worse for me," said the 23-year-old from the Black Sea resort of Sochi. "I couldn't stand on the same level as him."

Kafelnikov broke in the opening game, triggering a sequence in which both men were broken twice. From that point, Sampras' game soared and Kafelnikov's sank. The American conceded only eight points in his last 10 service games and hit a total of 16 aces. Kafelnikov faced break points in nine of his 12 service games and was broken seven times.

"I wanted this one," Sampras said after taking the title for a fourth time. "Even though I lost my first match [against Carlos Moya] I felt I was still in it, that I just needed my game to click. I know deep down that when my game clicks I feel like at times I'm unbeatable."

Sampras took the first set after 33 minutes, making the decisive break for 5-3. He was returning Kafelnikov's serve with such confidence by this time that the Russian became flustered on the key points. Having been broken for 1-2 in the second set, he double-faulted twice in slumping to 1-4.

Two sets ahead after 59 minutes, Sampras broke again at the start of the third set, and the capacity crowd of 15,000 were moved to cheer virtually every point that went Kafelnikov's way. There were moments when even the netcord played a part in Sampras' tour de force, though even the odd touch of fortune was born of an adventurous spirit. "I play my best when I don't think," he said. "It's all reaction. It's all instinct. I just went out and did it."

Today, Sampras goes into his 200th week as the world No 1 and equals Jimmy Connors' record of ending the year at the top for five consecutive years. If he needed a vote of confidence, it was delivered on the ballot slips of his peers.

"It's very flattering to have the respect from people in tennis," the champion said. "That's not the main reason I play this game, for the attention, but it makes you feel like you're making some sort of impact on the game." His impact yesterday was profound.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'