Tennis: Wimbledon '97 - Sparkling Sampras reigns supreme

The Centre Court streaker this year was Pete Sampras. Cedric Pioline barely had a look in. Sampras wrapped up his fourth singles title in 94 minutes, 16 minutes less than it took Martina Hingis to win her first, years ahead of time.

Hingis, 16, went into the record books as the youngest champion of the century. Sampras, 25, continued to home in on a catalogue of legendary figures. In terms of Wimbledon singles titles, Sampras has equalled his hero, Australia's Rod Laver.

The stylish American is one behind Sweden's Bjorn Borg and Wimbledon's own Laurie Doherty, and three behind William Renshaw, of Warwickshire, whose seven successes were achieved during the 1880s.

Sampras has increased his total of Grand Slam singles titles to 10 (only the French Open has eluded him), which is three more than any other active player. He is level with Bill Tilden, a compatriot, one behind Borg and Laver and two short of the Australian Roy Emerson's record of 12.

"It just makes me feel that 12 is so much more realistic, that I can break the record," Sampras said. "To be put in the same sentence as Laver and those guys, you can't have a more flattering comparison.

"To have won 10 major tournaments by the age of 25 is something I never thought would happen, and this is what's going to keep me in the game, I hope, for a lot of years."

Sampras became so excited after his victory yesterday, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, that he was in danger of losing his image as the Steve Davis of tennis. The Californian was already a few strides into a gallop of honour with the trophy when he was tackled, Lions fashion, by the club's chief executive, Chris Gorringe, who reminded him that he had not finished posing for all the photographers.

The spectators, many of whom may have been disappointed that the final had turned out to be the expected exhibition of Sampras's skills rather than a contest, rose to acclaim the American. They also reserved sympathetic cheers for Pioline, who was coaxed into a consolation lap with his runner's- up salver.

It was not that the Frenchman played poorly. His performance yesterday was probably good enough to trouble Michael Stich and Greg Rusedski. But Sampras was several classes above him. He made Pioline look what he was at the start of the tournament, a 100-1 shot.

Unseeded, and with a ranking of No 44, Pioline was allowed one break point, in the eighth game of the third set. Even that was a gift, Sampras double-faulting after steering a forehand volley over the baseline.

"I started thinking about the actual championship at 4-3 in the third when I was serving," Sampras said. "I got a little tentative and tight down to break point, and it was weird. The match was in my hands, and I didn't want to have it slip away."

For Pioline, it was not so much a window of opportunity as a crack in a peep-hole. Tempted with a second serve, he hit a forehand long. Sampras then picked up where he had left off, advancing to 5-3 with a service winner and a forehand volley.

Cold statistics cannot convey the aesthetic majesty Sampras invests in his sport on days like this. But, in simple facts, he diminished his opponent by conceding only 16 points on his serve in the entire match - four in the opening set, three in the second, and nine in the third, when he became profligate.

"I served and volleyed about as well as I've ever served and volleyed in my career," he said, "so I'm really pumped."

His opponent was stumped. Faced with an opponent who opened most of his service games with a service winner or an ace, Pioline not only had problems working out a way to break Sampras, but he also struggled to hold against the American's confident returns.

Deciding, perhaps, that Sampras's backhand represented the weaker wing, the Frenchman's serve was punished so often in feeding it that one can only conclude he must have been terrorised by forehand returns in his seven previous defeats by the American.

Pioline, it must be emphasised, had a wonderful tournament until yesterday, and was not alone in failing to make inroads into the Sampras serve, which retired Boris Becker in the quarter-finals.

The only players who succeeded in breaking the American during the fortnight were Mikael Tillstrom, in the opening round, and Todd Woodbridge, in the semi-finals. In between, Sampras enjoyed an unbroken run of 97 games.

"The only match I struggled in was against [Petr] Korda, when I was two sets up and 5-1 in the tie-breaker," Sampras said. "But every match I played I was pretty much in control. I don't think I've ever played so consistent."

He was asked if history had become a bigger rival than anybody he played against. "I don't like thinking of myself in terms of history," he replied. "I feel that I'm doing quite well for how old I am - 25 is still a pretty young guy - and I feel like I'm still in the middle of my career, and it's not over yet.

"I'm battling against all these guys who are out to beat me, not history - that's something above everyone - and I'm trying to stay on top for as many years as I have. That's the most important thing to me. To have that longevity to stay on top is not easy to do."

And so we adjourn for another year. Same time, same place, same face.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?