MUNICH, DEC. 16 -- An impressive Pete Sampras used a Midas touch to dominate Brad Gilbert in the Grand Slam Cup final, winning in straight sets and earning $2 million, the largest prize in tennis history.
"Anything I would hit would turn to gold," said Sampras, the U.S. Open champion, who mixed strong serving with a potent backhand to win, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, in 1 hour 43 minutes before 8,000 spectators in Olympic Hall.
Sampras's performance punctuated the entrance the 19-year-old made in the tennis world by winning the Open in August, and demonstrated his potential to challenge for the sport's top ranking.
"I've bought some bad stock in my time, but I'd like to buy some stock in him," said Gilbert. "His stock is going to be rising."
Sampras entered the tournament ranked fifth in the world. He was the fourth seed here.
Gilbert, who played an exhausting, five-set, almost four-hour match Saturday against David Wheaton, and a three-set, 2-hour 41-minute battle Friday against Aaron Krickstein, showed signs of wear and never seriously threatened Sampras. Gilbert reached break point in the first game of the match, but never managed to do so again.
Sampras's serve put constant pressure on Gilbert, who likened it to facing hard-throwing baseball pitchers such as Nolan Ryan or Dwight Gooden. "If he pitches a fastball and you guess curve, you look foolish," Gilbert said.
Sampras finished with 10 aces in the third set and 16 for the match; Gilbert had 10 aces. "There was a point where I felt like I was in a zone, especially in the third set when I aced him six or seven times in a row," Sampras said.
Sampras, who announced plans after the match to donate $250,000 of his winnings to the research against cerebral palsy, a disease from which two of his aunts died, appeared to be unfazed by the prize money.
"I can't let all this money and publicity and notoriety get to my head," said Sampras, who showed progressively better form in defeating Andrei Cherkasov, Goran Ivanisevic and Michael Chang on his way to capturing the cup.
Gilbert won $1 million, almost double his previous earnings for the year. However, he and Wheaton are both out $5,000 after their altercation in Friday's semifinal match, in which they nearly came to blows after a disputed line call.
The inaugural $6 million Grand Slam Cup invited the 16 players, and alternates, with the top records in the four 1990 Grand Slam tournaments: the Australian, French and U.S. opens and Wimbledon. Several top players, including Becker and John McEnroe, refused to come and the tournament has been criticized as an attempt by the International Tennis Federation to upstage the ATP Tour World Championship, held in Frankfurt last month.
At a news conference before the match, Grand Slam officials called the tournament a success despite a number of empty seats in Olympic Hall, and they reiterated promises to continue holding the event.
They said that no decision had been made on whether to punish Andre Agassi, who pulled out from the tournament, then announced he would play, and then pulled out again claiming injury. Officials said they will look into reports Agassi faked the injury.
Gilbert, originally an alternate at the tournament, was able to play only because of Agassi's withdrawal. "I'll probably send him a Christmas card," said Gilbert.