Andre Agassi's astounding revival during the past month, included winning the French Open, regaining the No. 1 ranking and surging to the Wimbledon final.
Then he ran into Pete Sampras.
Agassi's bid to become the first player since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win the French Open and Wimbledon back to back crumbled Sunday under a grass-court onslaught from his greatest rival.
The best returner in tennis, Agassi failed to break serve once as Sampras overwhelmed him 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 for his sixth Wimbledon title and 12th Grand Slam championship.
"He played some impeccable tennis at the most important times," Agassi said, "and I didn't come up with better stuff than he did."
Agassi virtually lost the match in the seventh game of the first set, when he was unable to convert after earning three break points on Sampras' serve at love-40.
It wasn't that Agassi squandered his chance; Sampras simply responded with some of the biggest serves of the match.
"He came out with four big bombs and basically an unreturnable second serve," Agassi said.
Agassi didn't see a break point the rest of the match.
Sampras, meanwhile, broke for the first time in the next game and never looked back.
"The next thing you know," Agassi said, "I'm down a break and the set is over, and six minutes later, I was down 6-3, 1-0 with a break. That's how Pete plays. You've got to weather his storm, and when you weather his storm, that's when he's vulnerable. But his storm was too strong today."
| 'To beat Andre on the Fourth of July is pretty sweet,' Pete Sampras said. 'It's greafor American tennis.' (AP)|
Agassi took Sampras to 30-all on his serve several times, but that was about as close as he could get to a break.
"If he didn't hit an ace on the first serve, he was hitting his second serve 109, 111, sometimes 119 or 122 mph," Agassi said. "I mean, he hit one serve the whole match that was 100 mph. He's taking chances out there, and people think he's walking on water until he starts missing a few of those. But he didn't. So he walked on water today."
Men's tennis needs the rivalry between Sampras and Agassi, polar opposites in lifestyles and playing styles.
The two hadn't played much in recent years as Agassi, lacking motivation and perhaps distracted by his marriage to Brooke Shields, tumbled all the way down to No. 141 in the rankings.
But Agassi, who split from Shields in April, has made a remarkable comeback. By winning the French Open, he became only the fifth man in history to win all four Grand Slams. And by reaching the Wimbledon final, he supplanted Sampras as No. 1.
Agassi has almost single-handedly revived interest in men's tennis, which has suffered from a shortage of compelling personalities.
"The fact I have accomplished what I've accomplished up until this day makes me feel better," he said. "Every time you're on the court, you've got to prove that you're No. 1, and today on Centre Court at Wimbledon, I was not No. 1."
In the past, Agassi has tended to fade from view after a big loss. But this time, he said he's ready to challenge Sampras again for supremacy.
"Now is a great time," he said. "Certainly, all the anticipation is built, including mine. I want another shot at him. And I want another shot at him this summer. I want another shot at him in the finals of the U.S. Open."
Agassi suggested that Sampras will be under more pressure the next time.
"It's interesting how he's going to respond," Agassi said. "He hasn't played that great all year and then he comes back to Wimbledon and wins it. Every player knew that he was capable of it, and many of us were actually expecting it.
"But how he responds from here will be a question. ... I plan on doing my part. I have no anticipation of slowing down on any level. This has motivated me to get better."
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