Dazzling Hewitt graduates to the rank of champion

US Open: Young Australian cruises to first Grand Slam title as jaded-looking Sampras capitulates in straight sets
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The Independent Online

Lleyton Hewitt won his first Grand Slam singles title in dazzling style at the United States Open here last night, reducing the great Pete Sampras to a the role of weary former champion scuffling in vain to add to his record 13 major singles championships.

The 20-year-old Australian's victory, 7-6, 6-1, 6-1, after an hour and 54 minutes, was as emphatic as Marat Safin's triumph against Sampras in last year's final, the difference being that the Russian blew Sampras away with an awesome display of power, whereas Hewitt, the No 4 seed, comprehensively outplayed the Californian with speed of thought, pace of movement, and breathtaking execution of ground-strokes.

It is only the second time that Sampras, the No 10 seed here and 10 years older than Hewitt, has been defeated in straight sets in a Grand Slam final, the first being against Safin last year. Sampras has now failed to win a title since defeating Pat Rafter, at Wimbledon last year. Sampras's course to yesterday's final included victories against Rafter, Andre Agassi – in a classic – and Safin. But last night he congratulated Hewitt and said: "The kid is so quick, it's unbelievable. As an old man, I wish I had some of those legs."

Hewitt, who lost the opening set of last year's semi-final on a tie-break (7-9), was determined to deny the Californian an early lead this time. The Australian began by ending Sampras's run of 87 service games without being broken, stretching back to his second-round match against Andre Sa, of Brazil. Although Sampras had cause to question a call on his second serve when double-faulting at 30-0, nerves seemed to play a part in the remaining points of the game.

Hewitt passed with a backhand return for 30-40. Sampras whisked the opporuntiy away with a service winner, but then netted a routine half-volley to offer the Australian a second chance. Sampras again missed a first serve, and Hewitt pounced with a forehand pass down the line.

Those expecting Hewitt to settle into a rhythm after this early success were surprised when he double-faulted twice in losing his opening service game to love. Both players were troubled by the windy conditions. Sampras had to save a break point before holding for 3-2 and Hewitt salvaged one before levelling at 3-3. In the next game, Sampras became the first to hold serve to love.

Hewitt, serving at 4-5 to stay in the set, was troubled only once, by a crisp backhand return on the third point. Sampras served a second love game to lead, 6-5. Hewitt responded with his first love game, hitting two aces en route to the tie-break.

Although Hewitt won the opening three points of the shoot-out, he served his fourth double-fault as Sampras leveled to 3-3. Sampras put a forehand wide on the next point and was passed by a backhand return for 3-5. Hewitt, serving at 6-4, lured Sampras into netting a forehand. Sampras then hit a backhand volley over the baseline on the first set point, after 47 minutes, enabling Hewitt to secure the set, 7-4.

Hewitt continued to attack his opponent's serve in the second set, forcing him to save two break points in the second game and breaking for 3-1 as Sampras persisted in serving to his backhand. Hewitt passed Sampras twice with backhand returns and hit a third on the break point, which Sampras netted with a low, backhand volley.

Sampras, continuing to be tormented by Hewitt's returns to the feet, was broken for 1-5, double-faulting to offer the third break point and missing a backhand volley after Hewitt returned a second serve. Hewitt served out the set, hitting his seventh ace for 40-30, and the seeing Sampras hit a backhand return wide. The set lasted 34 minutes, and Sampras won only three points off Hewitt's serve.

The American may come to see Hewitt stepping in and hitting those crushing backhands in his nightmares. Yet another return broke Sampras's serve in the opening game of the third set as he sped towards the net, believing he had served well enough to deserve a chance to volley.

Sampras, having been broken in his previous three service games, managed to hold for 1-2. He then pressurised Hewitt for 15-30, only for the Australian to win the next three points to hold for 3-1 and then break again for 4-1. Sampras double-faulted to 30-40 and Hewitt punished a second serve, this time passing with a cross-court forehand after the American hit a backhand volley approach.

Hewitt recovered from 0-30 to hold for 5-1, and Sampras, serving to stay in the contest, saved the first match point after double-faulting to 30-40, but was given no chance as Hewitt unleashed an winning shot on the second match point – a backhand cross-court drive.

Championship results from the $15.8 million US Open at the USTA National Tennis Centre in Flushing Meadows (seedings in parentheses):

Men's Singles Championship

(4) Lleyton Hewitt (Aus) beat (10) Pete Sampras (US) 7–6(4) 6–1 6–1

Women's Singles Championship

(4) Venus Williams (US) beat (10) Serena Williams (US) 6–2 6–4.

Men's doubles Championship

(14) Wayne Black/Kevin Ullyett (Zim) beat (2) Donald Johnson/Jared Palmer (US) 7–6(9) 2–6 6–3

Women's doubles Championship

(1) Lisa Raymond (US)/Rennae Stubbs (Aus) beat (4) Kimberly Po-Messerli (US)/Nathalie Tauziat (Fra) 6–2 5–7 7–5

Mixed doubles Championship

(1) Rennae Stubbs/Todd Woodbridge (Aus) beat (2) Lisa Raymond (US)/Leander Paes (Ind) 6–4 5–7 11–9 Champions tiebreak

Boys, Singles, Championship

(1) Gilles Muller (Lux) beat (2) Wang Yeu-Tzuoo (Tai) 7–6(5) 6–2

Doubles, Championship

(7) Tomas Berdych (Cze)/Stephane Bohli (Swi) beat Brendan Evans/Brett Joelson (US) 6–4 6–4

Girls, Singles, Championship

(10) Marion Bartoli (Fra) beat (9) Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus) 4–6 6–3 6–4

Doubles, Championship

(8) Galina Fokina/Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus) beat (3) Jelena Jankovic (Yug)/Matea Mezak (Cro) 7–5 6–3

Women's Senior Doubles Championship

Ros Fairbank (SA)/Wendy Turnbull (Aus) beat Mima Jausovec (Jug)/Kathy May–Fritz (US) 7–5 6–3

Senior Mixed Doubles Championship

Wendy Turnbull (Aus)/Hank Pfister beat Patty Fendick–McCain/Paul McNamee (Aus) 7–5 4–6 7–6(10)

Men's Senior Doubles Championship

Jim Grabb/Richey Reneberg (US) beat Scott Davis/David Pate (US) 6–3 6–2

Masters Doubles, Men 45, Championship

Mansour Bahrami (Iran)/Gene Mayer (US) beat Peter Fleming/Sandy Mayer (US) 7–5 6–3

Super Senior, Championship

Jaime Fillol (Chile)/Tom Gorman (US) beat Ilie Nastase (Rom) and Tom Okker (Neth) 4–6 6–1 10–2 Champions tiebreak