Both men were sweating profusely, those two titans of the sport, one ranked #1 in the world, the other widely believed to be the greatest of his generation, and they were playing a game with which the rest of us were not familiar. The one was a classic baseline player, the best at returning serve, while the other possessed the best serve the game had ever seen, so their heavyweight battles were full of punches and counterpunches, body blows that came in quick and fast with a dizzying array of shotmaking ability.
It was late night during Australian summer, in early 2000, and the roof was open to the late evening sky, ushering in a slight breeze that still did nothing to cool off the players. Sampras blinked first, losing one service game in the first set that proved to be the difference as Agassi won it 6-4. The second set was a mirror image of the first, however, with Sampras getting the set’s only break to win it 6-3. Agassi had a prime chance to win the third set with a couple of chances on Sampras’ serve but they were not to be, as Sampras took the lead with a dominating tiebreak win.
In the fourth set of that epic match in the making, Sampras looked fresher but could not capitalize, as it went to another tiebreak, this time with Agassi coming out victorious. Then the time had come for a decisive fifth set that seemed destined to be just as dynamic as any set they had previously played. But the Sampras who came out for that fifth set looked tired as he sluggishly thumped around the court. It didn’t look like he had any gas left in the tank while Agassi looked fresh and fit, even 2 1/2 hours into the match. Agassi looked like the man who ran up and down hills just outside of his native Las Vegas to train. He steamrolled Sampras in that final set and raised his hands in victory. Continue reading “Agassi vs. Sampras”