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: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific