Saturday, August 14, 1999

Sampras-Agassi: love-love


They bring out best in each other

BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

agassi
Andre Agassi hits a return in his win against Gustavo Kuerten.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        MASON — The glitz-and-glamour match of the Great American Insurance ATP Championship takes place at 2 p.m. today in a semifinal on Center Court.

        Pete Sampras. Andre Agassi.

        The People's Choice.

        They have met 25 times. But this will be the first time in Cincinnati. They each have won two titles here.

        The top-ranked and top-seeded Sampras has won 20 consecutive matches — the third-longest winning streak of his illustrious career. He has not lost since the French Open late in May.

THE SKINNY
  Sampras vs. Agassi, 2 p.m.
  • Series: Sampras leads 15-10.
  • Last meeting: Sampras won 7-6, 7-6 two weeks ago in Los Angeles.
  • Fun fact: Sampras leads 4-2 in Grand Slam meetings; they have never faced each other here.
        Agassi, ranked third and seeded third, has won 23 of his last 26 matches, with two of those losses coming to Sampras. He has advanced at least to the semifinals of his last five ATP Tour events.

        Two great players playing great.

        “You walk out and you warm up with him, and it is just a little bit different than playing another player that I have played throughout my career,” Sampras said.

        They will go down in history as two of the best.

        Agassi is one of five men to win all four Grand Slam events in his career. Sampras' 12 Grand Slam titles ties the all-time record.

sampras
Pete Sampras serves a shot to Richard Karjicek.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        Together they own 100 career titles, including five in 1999. They are a combined 53-14 in Cincinnati.

        “When we are both playing well, it is fun tennis to play and fun tennis to watch, I am sure,” Sampras said.

        There is a great deal of mutual respect. Agassi and Sampras believe they bring out the best in each other.

        Their rivalry was born in 1989 in Rome. Agassi won 6-2, 6-1.

        Sampras leads the series 15-10, with a 7-5 edge on hard courts. He has won the last two meetings — both this year. The first time was in the Wimbledon final, and it was all Sampras, playing his best in a 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 victory. They met two weeks ago in Los Angeles, and it was a different story with the same result; Sampras won 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-1).

        “You get to a certain level with certain players where it is not even about what you do,” Agassi said. “It is about just how well you do it. With Pete, it is that way.

        “We both know what we count on in big situations. It's a question of who is going to do it better. I am certainly motivated to get the better of him tomorrow.”

        Agassi advanced with a 6-2, 7-6 (12-10) victory over sixth seed Gustavo Kuerten in Friday's quarterfinals. Three of Agassi's last four sets have gone to tiebreakers.

        Sampras broke a four-match losing streak to No.7 seed Richard Krajicek in another quarterfinal, winning 6-4, 6-2. He had to win tiebreakers earlier in the tournament against Rainer Schuttler and Jan Siemerink.

        Neither Sampras nor Agassi has dropped a set this week.

        Sampras: “I have to be playing at my best and firing on all cylinders and really need to be on top of my game to beat him. If I am not, then it is going to be a long day.”

        Agassi: “Pete is one of the guys that actually makes it easier to be focused, because you really have no choice. ... Against him, I always feel mentally ready.”

        Agassi talked of Sampras in reverential tones Friday. When asked what makes Sampras so good, Agassi started with:

        “Are you serious? How many years have you been watching him?”

        He continued, talking about Sampras' potent serve, his ability to rally from the baseline or come to the net. And much more.

        “He can take on a lot of faces out there, and you never know which one he is going to bring to which big point,” Agassi said.

        “... Pete doesn't go out there and chip away at you. He waits for his opportunities, and then he strikes with conviction. He has a game that lends for periods of genius.”



Sports Stories
World's top 4 in ATP semis
- Sampras-Agassi: love-love
Rafter, Kafelnikov playing their best
Sampras breaks Krajicek's hold over him
Chang a winner despite loss
Kuerten: 'It wasn't my day'
Top ranking up for grabs this weekend
ATP sees return of the Woodies
Friday's ATP results
Today's ATP schedule