Sampras sets up tilt at Agassi

The United States will dominate Germany's farewell to the tennis big-time when Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras contest this afternoon's final of the ATP World Championships. Agassi, already confirmed as No 1 for the year, swept aside the second-ranked Yevgeny Kafelnikov 6-4 7-6 and Sampras extinguished home hopes by defeating Nicolas Kiefer, who comes from this part of the nation, 6-3 6-3. It is the first all-American final since Sampras beat Jim Courier in 1991.

The United States will dominate Germany's farewell to the tennis big-time when Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras contest this afternoon's final of the ATP World Championships. Agassi, already confirmed as No 1 for the year, swept aside the second-ranked Yevgeny Kafelnikov 6-4 7-6 and Sampras extinguished home hopes by defeating Nicolas Kiefer, who comes from this part of the nation, 6-3 6-3. It is the first all-American final since Sampras beat Jim Courier in 1991.

This weekend marks the finale of Germany's occupation of the pinnacle of tennis. These championships move to Lisbon next year after 10 years in Germany, and three days ago the Grand Slam Cup, also a 10-year fixture in Munich, quietly folded when its sponsors, Compaq, decided they had thrown enough dollars at the sport.

Both the moving of the ATP event from New York to Frankfurt, and then Hanover, and the inauguration of the Munich cash-fest were built on the broad shoulders and pulling power of Boris Becker. This year has seen the final, final exit of Becker, followed by the swifter departure of Steffi Graf. With its two marquee names now retired, Germany also finds itself bereft of its two biggest tournaments.

Agassi's victory extended his domination at this final tournament of the millennium. He has now gone through four matches without conceding a set, including a round-robin win over Sampras, but yesterday survived a surprising stumble in the second set when a 2-0 lead was transformed into a 5-2 deficit before he reassembled his game and ushered Kafelnikov through the exit.

Here was a contest between the world Nos 1 and 2, who had divided their previous eight contests. So there was no reason for the Russian to be overawed, even by the presence in Agassi's courtside box of the new lady in his life, Fraulein Graf, who could show both of them a thing or two about big forehands.

However, something was certainly making Kafelnikov edgy in the early stages. A game plagued all week by double-faults had not recovered from this serious blip, and his opening two service games contained five. A brace of double- faults cost him the opening game and three more could well have seen him trailing 0-3. But he settled down and fought off the crisis, though not in time to save the set, which Agassi took in 32 minutes.

When Agassi immediately broke serve again, it seemed all over. Then came the Russian counter-offensive. "All of a sudden he started serving better and playing better," said Agassi. "I was already kind of committed to letting him beat himself." The outcome of this was a five-game spurt to put Kafelnikov in sight of prolonging the contest into a third set.

But Agassi battled back, sweeping three games and taking it into a tiebreak, where at five points all Kafelnikov missed an inviting chance to move to set point when he scooped an attempted half-volley drop shot into the netting. "The ball bounced a little bit uncorrect," was the Russian's explanation.

That error served instead to provide Agassi with his first match point. It was all he needed as Kafelnikov again found the net.

The German intention to make Hanover's farewell a festival rather than a wake was clear when Kiefer came on court. One fan even encouraged him with a yell of "Boris", but Boris he is not. Kiefer is neither as good as Becker nor idolised in anywhere near the same fashion. Perhaps he could make a start towards increased popularity by taking off that silly, back-to-front baseball cap. Germans are historically in favour of caps, but not worn the wrong way round.

Though the sell-out 13,600 audience were anxious to get behind their man, Kiefer did not offer them much to grasp. Trying to keep Sampras on the back foot, the German overdid his service and perpetrated a stream of double-faults.

Sampras, who arrived here with only one match under his belt in the last three months because of back trouble, was back near his marauding best in this contest. He broke for 2-0 and it could have been 5-1 but, at break point, he soared for one of his speciality slam-dunk smashes and drove it into the bottom of the net, smashing his racket in the process. Undismayed, he took the first set in 37 minutes with three aces in succession and broke crucially in the seventh game of the second. It also broke Kiefer's ambitions of becoming the first German since Becker in 1996 to get to the final, and he subsided in 75 minutes.

Sampras, a four-time winner, has appeared in every one of the ATP's championships over the last decade, the only one to do so. Agassi, by contrast, has won the title once before, in 1990. On form, he will be expecting to do so again, but Sampras is finding his game again, and fast.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Extras
indybest
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee