Lleyton Hewitt came from behind to beat seven–time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras in the semifinal and then Tim Henman in straight set tiebreaks to win the $800,000 Stella Artois grass court title for the second year in a row today.
After Saturday's play had been washed out by rain, both semifinals and the final were played on Sunday at Queen's Club and the third seeded Australian wound up with the trophy once more to become a big threat at Wimbledon which starts June 25.
He downed Sampras 3–6, 6–3, 6–2 on court one in a rematch of last year's final and then switched to centre court to beat Henman 7–6 (3), 7–6 (3). Henman had beaten 1992 titlist Wayne Ferreira 5–7, 6–4, 6–2 in the other semifinal.
Although Hewitt dominated the opening set of the final, there were no breaks of serve. But a double–fault in the tiebreak handed the Australian four set points at 6–2 and he took the second to take the set.
Having saved seven break points in the match, it was Henman who broke first for a 5–4 lead but Hewitt broke back immediately and the second set also went to a tiebreak.
Henman netted a forehand to hand Hewitt three match points and the Australian gained the title for the second year in a row when the fourth seeded Britain fired a forehand long.
On a cool, overcast and windy day, Sampras won the first set of the semifinal before Hewitt fought back,
"The breeze was my problem today," said Sampras, a seven–time Wimbledon champion and hot favorite to make it eight when the grass court Grand Slam tournament starts June 25. "I had a hard time with my volleys and the ball toss but also Lleyton was playing very well."
Sampras began with an ace, but soon struggled with his returns to allow Hewitt to break him in the fifth game. Sampras broke back to win four games in a row to a 6–3 first set lead.
The turning point was halfway through the second set, after Sampras had questioned the umpire after his first serve was overruled. Soon after Hewitt broke Sampras to love to break at 5–3 and served out the set.
Hewitt gained more confidence in the third, breaking Sampras in the first game. The American's frustration began to show when he hit the ball out of the court after netting his first serve in the third game. Hewitt broke again to lead 4–1 and dominated the baseline rallies. Sampras won his next service game, but Hewitt served the final game to love.
"I thought I was playing well. I was playing aggressively and, all of a sudden in the middle of the second, set I put in a couple of loose points. He had a couple of good returns and he just went on a great roll," Sampras said.
"I just dropped off the touch and that can happen on grass when you can get careless a little bit, but I have to give Lleyton some credit. He came up with some great returns and passed very well and even his serve picked up. The guy moves unbelievably well on this stuff."
Sampras said the loss would not affect his Wimbledon preparations.
"I don't consider it a setback," he said. "All things considered it was a productive week. It would have been nice go into Wimbledon having won a tournament, but I've got a few matches under my belt. I feel pretty good. It wasn't meant to be today."
Sampras admitted feeling down after his second round defeat at the French Open earlier this month, the only Grand Slam he's yet to win. But he said motivation for Wimbledon was not a problem.
"If you can't get motivated for Wimbledon – that's our Super Bowl – you shouldn't be playing," he said. "I feel a lot more relaxed coming in this year than last year so that could help. I still feel I'm at that level I was at last year and the years before. Getting older on grass is good because you have that experience."Reuse content