Pete Sampras won his ninth grand-slam title on Australia Day here Sunday
(January 26). He overwhelmed Carlos Moya, the 20-year-old
Spaniard, as convincingly as Martina Hingis had disposed of
Mary Pierce the day before, and celebrated what he
considered the "toughest" victory of his outstanding career.
So masterly was he, so much more assured than the man from
Majorca, that it made for an immensely disappointing final.
was no sign of the Moya who beat Michael Chang so pleasingly
in the semi-final, no indication of the thrilling
had made to this championship. He suffered the sort of
defeat that can make some players go away feeling they can
aspire to play at this level, so it will be interesting to
see how well, and how swiftly, he rediscovers his best form.
"I played really well today," Sampras said. "With the heat
and the heavy balls used here, this was the toughest
have ever played, but I came through and played really,
really well. I knew it was going to be a tough two weeks if
I was to win,
and my game just got better as the tournament went on.
"I wanted to set the tone of the match today. I did not want
to play many long rallies. I knew that if I served well it
going to be hard for him to break me. The plan was to keep
the ball away from his forehand, and to come in to the net,
as I have
been doing for the past couple of weeks.
"To beat the guys I have played here, in conditions that did
not favor me, I have surprised myself a little bit. I have
in conditions I experienced here in the fourth-round match
(a five-setter against Dominik Hrbaty), and I peaked at the
Moya's plan, to get Sampras scurrying hither and thither
around the court, to tire him out, had its foundation in
Instead it was Moya who was charging about, as Sampras took
immediate control of a match that lasted only an hour and 20
minutes. Where Moya was smashing winners inside the lines
against Chang, here he hit them long and wide. He never got
Sampras took the first set 6-2 in 22 minutes, without a
tremor of self-doubt, and the next two each by 6-3 to win
Australian Open, and start the year in fine style. He craves
a first French title, to put alongside his many
he remains the player all others must beat.
Sampras admitted that he does not spend his social hours
counting his honors, but he is looking forward to winning a
grand-slam titles. "I feel I have a lot of good years left
in me. To win the French title would be something, and I
will be doing all
I can this year to do it."
This was a fine win for the world No.1, who showed true
champion quality in playing two five-setters this week, and
enough left over to trounce Moya.
"There is always a bad match during a tournament like this,"
he said, "and mine was in the fourth round." That was when
Hrbaty, the unseeded Slovakian, was 4-2 and 40-15 up in the
final set before Sampras gathered himself for one last
His ninth grand-slam success moved him ahead of Fred Perry,
Ken Rosewall, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl. He still stands
behind Bill Tilden (ten), Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver (11) and
Roy Emerson (12). Moya, in all probability, will never reach
heights. He was a disappointed young man in defeat but the
knowledge that he was vanquished by one of the game's great
players may provide some consolation.
Because he wins so regularly, in a manner seen as "cold,"
and because he lacks the color of other players, Sampras has
struggled to achieve wider recognition in the world of
sport. Success brings its own palliative and, if anybody
should ever doubt
it, Sampras can always tell them: look in the book.