New York: From the moment an unshaven Pete Sampras stepped out of the tunnel onto an electric Arthur Ashe Stadium court, he appeared to be soaking up every moment of the US Open final experience. Storing it in his memory bank, as if it might be his last.
And having defied the odds, age, fatigue and an army of critics to claim an unprecedented 14th Grand Slam singles title with a win over Andre Agassi, the 31-year-old hinted on Sunday that his most unlikely victory could well be the storybook ending to a brilliant career.
“I’m going to have to weigh it up over the next couple of months to see where I’m at,” Sampras said. “I still want to play, I love to play. But to beat a rival like Andre in a major tournament, at the US Open, a storybook ending, it might be a nice way to stop.
“But I still want to compete. I’ll see where my heart is at and my mind. I feel like all the hard work has paid off. All the adversity this year, I got through it and that means more to me than anything.
Commentators wondered if it was the last time that Sampras experienced the thrill of victory. “I want to stop on my terms,” insisted the player. “That’s one thing I promised myself, even though I was struggling this year and hearing this and that.
“I deserve to stop on my own terms, I’ve done too much in the game to hear the negative things and start believing it because I was at the point where I was starting to believe it. But I still felt like I had one more moment, maybe a couple more and it happened today.”
Before arriving at Flushing Meadow, Sampras had gone on record saying he had one remaining goal — to go out on top by winning one more major. It has also been reported that Sampras has been driven by a desire to allow his actress wife Bridgette Wilson witness his greatness from the stands. “I wanted to share the moment with my sister and my wife, they’re the reason I’m here,” said Sampras. “There were moments when I was struggling to continue and my wife really supported me and kept me positive and upbeat.
“That support was huge. It just showed that I met the right woman. I met the woman of my dreams and now we’re going to have a child and that’s what life is all about.”
“I just got off to a rough start,” Agassi said. “I was having a hard time getting on it (serve) and getting off the mark and making any sort of impact at all. I think he sensed that and I was allowing him to play pretty loose in his return games.