Tennis: Wimbledon '94: Sampras has title in his sights: Defending champion will confront big-serving Ivanisevic in tomorrow's final

TOMORROW'S men's singles final could be reminiscent of the joke about the fastest gun in the West. Asked to demonstrate the draw, the cowboy appears not to move before saying: 'Want to see it again?'

Pete Sampras, the defending champion, and Goran Ivanisevic, his fourth-seeded challenger, are prime examples of the serve-dominated modern game, so the outcome will be decided by who catches sight of the ball in time to make a return. Not the most edifying spectacle, perhaps, but emphatically Route One to glory on the grass.

'The first one to serve 40 aces wins,' old boom-boom Boris Becker, a three-times champion, said wryly after being blown of the Centre Court by Ivanisevic (21 aces yesterday) 6-2, 7-6, 6-4.

It is not only the aces thundered down - 100 by Sampras, 139 by his opponent in six matches apiece so far - but also the volume of unreturnable deliveries that makes them unplayable on their day.

Sampras cracked 13 aces past his American compatriot, Todd Martin, in the opening semi-final and was aced the same number of times. Moreover, the champion dropped his first set of the tournament before winning a metronomic contest 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

'Pistol Pete' fretted about his first serves (a handsome 70 per cent in the fourth set, but as low as 29 per cent in the third). 'I didn't serve well the entire match, but I did serve well on the big points,' he said, adding that he expected the final to be 'pretty much the same match as today, it's going to come down to a couple of points'.

A couple of points cost Ivanisevic the title two years ago in that marvellous final against Andre Agassi, who temporarily muted the power- game debate by edging to victory from the baseline with a magazine- full of returns and an array of groundstrokes.

The Croat had defeated Sampras in the semi-finals 6-7, 7-6, 6-4,

6-2, though it must be mentioned that the American, at the time, was far less assured on grass - and other surfaces, come to that.

It was the year when Ivanisevic creased the brow of every administrator in the men's game by hurtling down more than 1,000 aces, a record 206 at Wimbledon, 37 of them in the final.

In the interim, Sampras has taken impressive strides towards fulfilling his potential, coming within two matches of winning a fourth consecutive Grand Slam title at the French Open less than a month ago. Ivanisevic, by contrast, has remained the man with everything except the temperament to win major honours, though he has given every indication of changing this during the current campaign.

In common with Sampras, he has dropped a solitary set (against Alexander Volkov in the quarter- finals). Moreover, his rackets are still intact, and so far he has managed to curb his tongue.

The Becker match was a splendid example of how effective Ivanisevic can be. As he said afterwards: 'If I play like this in the final, I've got every chance of winning it.'

Becker would not argue. The German's best chance of forcing a way into the opening set was destroyed on break point at 4-2, when Ivanisevic sent down an ace timed at 124mph. When the Croat was not belting serves, he was out-punching Becker with volleys and stretching to hit astonishing groundstrokes to the lines and into corners.

The second set was evenly balanced, Becker occasionally treating us to glimpses of the athleticism that made him the youngest, and only unseeded, champion in 1985.

He also had the first opportunity to win the tie-break, at 6-5, but again suffered the frustration of another Ivanisevic ace. The Croat followed this with a service winner to create a set point for himself at 7-6, Becker promptly missing with a backhand volley in response to a service return.

Early in the third set, Becker began to dispute line calls and generally looked ill at ease. To his credit, however, the German did display the lighter side of his nature, bowing to his opponent after an ace, and patting his heart in mock relief after watching a gentle shot bounce wide without being judged to be in.

Once Becker had been broken for 1-2, Ivanisevic pouncing on his second serve with a magnificent backhand drive across the court, the result was not in doubt, and the match was completed in an hour and 54 minutes.

'If you look over the last six or seven years,' Becker said, 'I have lost to the champion, so the odds are pretty much in his favour.'

After a week of non-stop controversy concerning the German's alleged gamesmanship, Becker must have been pleased with the support he received from the crowd, though the wistful wave he gave before departing the scene made one wonder if his days as a champion are past.

Sampras took control of the match against Martin after saving three break points in the eighth game, two of them with aces and the other with a service winner. He finished the set with an ace, then broke in the fifth game of the second set, serving it out with a couple of aces.

Martin capitalised on a comparative slump in the Sampras service department to take the third set, raising the prospect of another of those endurance tests which had been his speciality in previous rounds.

Sampras swiftly disabused him of the notion, and though he had to save four break points in the concluding game - two with aces, another with an unreturnable serve - one match point was sufficient to take him to the final after two hours and 34 minutes.

Martin, who disputed line calls and argued with the umpire far more than is customary, was slow attending his interview, which prompted a rumour that he was ill. The only sickness proved to be one of disappointment. 'It was nothing to do with anything,' he said. 'I just needed a little extra time.'

It was one of those days when nobody could expect that. And tomorrow? According to Sampras: 'It depends who wakes up and feels better.'

Navratilova's finale,

Wimbledon results, page 23

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Recruitment Genius: Estimator

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a major supplier of buil...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Engineer with SQL skills

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Opilio Recruitment: Product Owner

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas