Sampras slams Pioline Wins Open title in straight sets

September 13, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- The buzz that surrounds the men's final at the U.S. Open often resembles that of a heavyweight fight, starting when the players walk through the tunnel onto the court at Louis Armstrong Stadium and building through the match.

There was no buzz at the National Tennis Center yesterday.

No drama at Flushing Meadow.

In winning his second Open title in the past four years and his second Grand Slam title in the past two months, Pete Sampras showed why, as of today, he again will be ranked No. 1 in the world.

In three almost routine sets and a little more than two hours, the Open's second seed beat an overmatched 15th seed, Cedric Pioline of France, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3. It was similar to the way Sampras dispatched Andre Agassi three years ago to win his first Open title.

It's a been a great year, the Wimbledon victory was really big for me and now I have won the two biggest tournaments in the world," said Sampras, 22, who became the first American male since John McEnroe in 1984 to win both in the same year. "But there is a lot of competition out there and, hopefully, I can keep this ranking all the way through the end of this year."

There was little competition for Sampras at this year's Open -- he dropped only two sets in his seven matches -- and almost none yesterday. From the moment Pioline won the opening toss and chose to serve first, to his eighth double fault on Sampras' second championship point to end the match, the 24-year-old Frenchman played like someone in his first Grand Slam final.

And Sampras, playing in his third straight Open final and his third Grand Slam final this year, seemed to thrive on his opponent's big-match inexperience. After Pioline was broken in the first service game, Sampras' first serve was measured at 127 mph and his fifth at 128.

Asked whether he was trying to send a message to Pioline, or whether he was just fired up coming out, Sampras said: "I think it was both. The wind was really in one direction. I wanted in the first set of the match to smoke them by him even if I miss,kind of send a message that I am going to hit it pretty hard."

Mission accomplished for Sampras became mission impossible for Pioline, who might have set an unofficial Open final record for flubbing returns into the stands or popping them straight into the air. He even hit a side-court spectator in the head with a serve. He wound up with nearly twice as many unforced errors as Sampras (45-23).

"I didn't play so good, but certainly Pete played too good for me," said Pioline, who has yet to win a tournament as a pro.

Sampras might not have played as well as he did in his quarterfinal victory over nemesis Michael Chang, but he didn't need to against Pioline. Sampras faced only three break points, and was broken twice, but they both came after Pioline was already behind in the set.

"When I got out to an early break in the second [set] and he broke me straight back, I let him back in the match by some careless errors," said Sampras. "In a three-out-of-five-set match, you cannot play well every game. There were some times, when the crowd got behind him a little bit, he started playing a bit better. But I managed the big points really well."

Not only with big serves -- he had a modest 12 aces, giving him 93 for the tournament to go along with numerous service winners -- but with screeching backhands from the baseline and tantalizing touch volleys at the net. Sampras proved that he is more than the one-dimensional player who served 100 aces in his first Open title.

But the great serve still defines Sampras, because it enables him do other things.

"I think when I am serving well, I can really take more chances on his serve," said Sampras. "If I am hitting two or three aces a game, I can be a little bit more carefree and loose on his service games. My ground-stroke game has really improved the last couple of years and due to my clay-court success, everything else is working well."

Sampras will regain the No. 1 ranking he lost to Courier last month, and considering that Courier lost in the fourth round here to Pioline, probably will not relinquish it for the remainder of the year. But Sampras said that he will take winning a Grand Slam -- as well as the $535,000 first prize and silverware -- over a top ranking any time.

"I think winning a Grand Slam is more important than anything," he said. "I know I became No. 1 by winning [Saturday], but if I lost today, I wouldn't have been happy. But you know it feels good to get it back, that is important in my mind."

There was little consolation for Pioline, who despite making the final will have to prove that he isn't a one-shot wonder.

The moment he saw the first serve by Sampras whiz by his face, Pioline had an idea what was to come.

"You feel like you try something and you have no chance," he said.

* Helena Sukova, the women's singles runner-up and a mixed doubles winner with Todd Woodbridge, teamed with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario yesterday to win the women's doubles over Amanda Coetzer and Ines Gorrochatequi, 6-4, 6-2.

SAMPRAS vs. PIOLINE

Statistic .. .. .. Pioline .. .. Sampras

First serve pct. .. .. 49 .. .. .. 49

Aces .. .. .. .. .. .. 6 .. .. .. 12

Double faults .. .. .. 8 .. .. .. 4

First-serve win pct. .. 68 .. .. .. 85

Second-serve win pct. .. 42 .. .. .. 61

Winners.. .. .. .. .. .. 21 .. .. .. 22

Unforced errors .. .. .. 45 .. .. .. 23

Break-pt. convers. .. .. 2-3 .. .. 6-11

Net approaches .. .. .. 26-35 .. .. 31-39

Total points won .. .. 75 .. .. .. .. 97

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