TENNIS : Sampras Makes Agassi Pay for His Sporting Gesture
Pete Sampras can credit his latest tournament title to aces and Andre Agassi’s sportsmanship.
The top-ranked Sampras delivered seven aces in his final two service games and defeated Agassi, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3, in Sunday’s final of the Lipton Championships.
The start of the match was delayed an hour because Sampras had a stomach ailment. Agassi agreed to the delay, even though the rules permitted him to win in a walkover when Sampras was unable to take the court at the scheduled time.
“If I can’t beat the best player in the world, I don’t deserve the trophy,” Agassi said. “And I certainly don’t deserve it if I can’t beat him when he’s sick.”
Agassi’s decision to decline the walkover cost him $114,000, the difference between first- and second-place prize money.
Sampras, who earned $242,000 and his fourth title this year, said he appreciated Agassi’s gesture.
“He showed me a lot of class, and it’s something I’ll never forget,” Sampras said.
Sampras awoke Sunday feeling sick and blamed a pasta dinner. He received intravenous fluids for 90 minutes before taking the court on an empty stomach.
“I’m as surprised as everyone in this room that I won,” he said during a postmatch news conference.
Agassi was surprised, too. He saw Sampras before the match.
“He looked a lot worse then than he did in the third set,” Agassi said.
Instead of fading during the 2-hour 14-minute match in warm, humid weather, Sampras finished strong. He delivered three aces to hold serve for a 5-2 lead in the third set, then fired four aces in the final game.
Sampras became the first player to win two consecutive Lipton championships in men’s singles. He improved his record to 23-2 this year, the best start of his career.