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Sampras Wins First Title Of '99

Eight days before he defends his Wimbledon championship, Pete Sampras won his first title of 1999 by beating Tim Henman 6-7 (7-1), 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) on Sunday at Queen's Club.

Sampras, who reclaims his No. 1 ranking on Monday, is honing his grass-court game in a bid for a sixth Wimbledon crown in seven years.

"My year has not been that great, a little bit up and down," he said. "It's nice to be back on the grass and, hopefully I can do it again this year."

This was the second time Sampras has won the Queen's Club title. He outlasted Australia's Lleyton Hewitt in Saturday's semifinal.

"This week was a struggle," he said. "I got through yesterday at 7-6 in the third and today 7-6 in the third. Tim was very close to beating me today and I feel a little bit fortunate. He was a point away from beating me."

Earlier in the day, Henman needed just 11 minutes to close a semifinal against Sargis Sargsian. Play had been suspended overnight with Henman leading 3-2 in the second set. He went on to win 6-1, 6-3.

Sampras, seeded second, won $85,000 for the title. Henman, seeded third and the hometown favorite, earned $50,000 in a match in which he failed on the seven break points he held.

In the final set, Henman had several chances to take control. Leading 2-1, he was unable to convert three break points. He missed another opportunity at 3-2 when Sampras served and volleyed his way out of trouble.

With the score 4-4 in the third-set tiebreaker, Henman was unable to put a volley away and Sampras delivered a backhand lob winner to lead 5-4 with two serves to come.

A crosscourt forehand by Henman hit the tape and came back, leaving Sampras with match point. He won the match with a forehand volley winner.

In the first set, Henman survived two set points at 5-4 and surged through the tiebreaker with the loss of just one point.

But Sampras raised his game in the second set, breaking serve to lead 2-1. He dropped just two points on serve in the next three games, then faced break point as he served to even the match at one set apiece.

Henman missed his chance by sending a backhand wide and Sampras went on to take the set 6-4.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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