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TENNIS : Sampras Makes Agassi Pay for His Sporting Gesture

From Associated Press

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.”

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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.

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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.


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