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Agassi Slams Sampras in Australian Open Finals

By Andrea Leand
Special to The Washington Post
January 29, 1995

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, JAN. 29 (SUNDAY) -- Andre Agassi claimed the third Grand Slam tennis title of his career today, defeating Pete Sampras in the Australian Open men's singles final, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4.

In a third-set tiebreaker -- what proved to be the match's most critical moment -- the second-seeded Agassi stood tall. He took a 3-0 lead, only to see the top-seeded Sampras tie, move ahead and then gain two set points. But Agassi saved both, and went on win the set as well as the 2-hour 36-minute match that capped his first appearance in the Australian Open.

Agassi survived 28 aces by Sampras and wore him down from the baseline. It was his second straight Grand Slam title, and puts him in position to take over the top ranking.

Sampras, the defending champion, endured two five-set matches and a four-setter coming in, but ran out of gas trying to keep up with Agassi. Sampras's serving power kept him in the match, but it was Agassi's 10th ace that beat him.

Agassi won Wimbledon in 1992 and the U.S. Open last year. Sampras spoke to his coach, Tim Gullikson -- who was discharged from a Chicago hospital Saturday after suffering a dizzy spell earlier in the week at the Australian Open -- just prior to the match and was told to mix up the pace, take control of the points and occasionally come to the net. But Sampras could not summon his tired body and mind to execute the advice. Instead, Agassi, who did not drop a set on his way to the final, looked refreshed and moved and served far better than his opponent.

"I would have liked for it to have come out differently," Sampras said, "but Andre came up with some great returns of serve in the tie-break. He kept up the intensity in the fourth {set} and broke me down. I thought my serve improved a little in the fourth, but Andre takes the ball so early, he never gave me a chance."

Each held serve for the first nine games but an Agassi error and a double fault gave the top seed the first set, 6-4. Agassi immediately came roaring back and broke Sampras in the first game of the second set. Sampras's first-serve percentage dropped to 21 percent and allowed Agassi, the No. 2 seed, to break twice more and take the second set.

In the third set, Sampras picked up his first-serve percentage to 44 percent to hold Agassi even until 6-6. Agassi ran to a 3-0 lead in the tiebreaker but dropped the next five points to give Sampras two set points at 6-4. Sampras missed an easy forehand volley to even it at 6. Agassi then surprised the top seed by coming to the net and hitting two winning volleys to take the tiebreaker at 8-6.

In the fourth, Agassi continued to dominate the points and forced Sampras into 11 errors by moving him all over the court. Sampras failed to intimidate Agassi, who counterpunched with his tremendous return of serve and groundstrokes. In the end, Sampras ran out of steam and lost his serve at 4-4 to give Agassi the break. Agassi capitalized on Sampras's 50 unforced errors in the match to serve out the fourth.

"It was the hottest day of the two weeks, but I felt pretty good," Sampras said. "The two weeks definitely took its toll on me, but that's not an excuse because he just outplayed me. I need to be the big guy making the shots, but Andre took control."

In the mixed doubles final, American Rick Leach and Natasha Zvereva of Belarus upset fifth-seeded Gigi Fernandez and Cyril Suk. Leach and Zvereva, playing together for the first time, triumphed 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (3-7), 6-4.

The victory provided some compensation for Zvereva, 23, who was runner-up in the women's doubles on Friday when she and regular doubles partner Fernandez lost to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Jana Novotna.

Zvereva also made the quarterfinals of the women's singles, losing to eventual champion Mary Pierce.

The win was her 14th Grand Slam doubles title, all but two of them in women's doubles. Her other mixed title was at the 1990 Australian Open with American Jim Pugh.

It was Leach's sixth Grand Slam doubles title and his third at the Australian Open.

He teamed with Pugh to win the Australian Open men's doubles in 1988 and 1989. His others are the 1990 Wimbledon men's and mixed titles and the 1993 U.S. Open men's doubles.

© 1995 The Washington Post Company

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