Sampras no match for Hewitt in Open

Monday, September 10, 2001

NEW YORK -- With one shot, Pete Sampras' remarkable resurgence at the U.S. Open began to unravel.

The four-time champion sent an easy volley long to lose the opening set, then trudged to his chair, sat down and slammed his racket into his bag, as if done for the day.

He kept playing, but barely. The Pete Sampras of old, who for nearly two weeks tore through a daunting draw, merely looked like an old Pete Sampras in Sunday's final against young Australian Lleyton Hewitt.

While Sampras was tentative and lethargic, Hewitt seemed to run down every shot and coolly ripped one winner after another to earn his first Grand Slam title, 7-6 (4), 6-1, 6-1.

"The kid is so quick it's unbelievable," the 30-year-old Sampras said. "I wish I had some of those legs for this old guy. I lost to a great champion. You're going to see this Lleyton Hewitt guy for the next 10 years like you saw me."

The final was Hewitt's first and Sampras' 17th, but the less experienced 20-year-old Australian was much more energetic. After consecutive wins against former champions Pat Rafter, Andre Agassi and Marat Safin, Sampras appeared to have nothing left for his second match in barely 24 hours.

While Hewitt was more relentless than a ball machine, Sampras had just five groundstroke winners and 38 unforced errors. He won only half the points when he went to the net as Hewitt passed him with increasing ease.

The rout was reminiscent of Sampras' loss to young Safin in last year's final and is certain to renew talk of his decline, despite the impressive run to the final.

Hewitt is the youngest Open men's champion since Sampras won his first major title 11 years ago at age 19.

The No. 4-seeded Hewitt earned $850,000, and the victory may give his reputation a much-needed boost Down Under. He hasn't been widely beloved by sports-mad Australians because his brash, pugnacious style runs counter to their preferred image of the laid-back, gracious sportsman.

His latest outburst was a tirade during a match last week, when his made ill-advised, perhaps racially tinged comments made headlines. But he moved beyond the furor, made no other verbal missteps and returned the focus to his tennis, which has been terrific. He won five-setters against young Americans James Blake and Andy Roddick en route to the final.

"It wasn't a good situation to put myself into during a Grand Slam tournament. It's going to be one of the toughest things I had to block out during a tennis event. I didn't mean anything bad by it at all," he said.

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