The last time Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi met up at a Grand Slam event, Sampras was executing a near-perfect game to defeat Agassi and win Wimbledon, his 12th Slam title. Since then, little has changed.
With the U.S. Open beginning in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., today, Sampras is fresh off a 24-match winning streak, a string that likely would have been longer had he not pulled out of a match with a hip flexor injury two weeks ago. He has since healed and will be going for Slam title No. 13, a feat no one has ever accomplished. Agassi is still playing in the excellent form that won him the French Open title in June and got him to that Wimbledon final in July, although he has yet to beat Sampras this summer. He will be going for a little revenge and Grand Slam title No. 5.
"I couldn't be more confident going into the Open," said Agassi, who won the Legg Mason Tennis Classic this month. The title moved Agassi to the No. 2 ranking, ensuring him a spot on the opposite side of the draw from Sampras. "If I do play Pete in the final, I just have to bring my best game and convert on the few opportunities I get."
On the women's side, defending champion Lindsay Davenport will try to fend off Venus Williams, who was dominating in a warm-up tournament in Connecticut last week, beating both Davenport and Monica Seles in straight sets. Teen sensations Alexandra Stevenson and Jelena Dokic, who both made splashes at Wimbledon, will be trying to prove themselves further at Flushing Meadows, while top-ranked Martina Hingis will try to re-establish herself after a disastrous Wimbledon, where she lost in the first round.
Williams said she feels she is in good shape for the tournament, although when the draw came out Thursday she had only one concern: the placement of her sister Serena, who is in the other bracket.
"I have no idea who I'm playing in the first round -- I just looked at the draw and spotted where I was at and where Serena was at and other than that I had no other interest," she said at the time. "I don't want to play her unless it's in the final."
Williams will in fact face a qualifier in the first round, giving her one of the easiest early matches. Hingis drew 85th-ranked Czech Kveta Hrdlickova, while Davenport will face her doubles partner, fellow American Corina Morariu.
Agassi also has a smooth start, opening against 104th-ranked Swede Nicklas Kulti, but Sampras and defending champion Patrick Rafter will face much tougher opponents. Sampras plays big-hitting Russian phenom Marat Safin; Rafter plays 24th-ranked Frenchman Cedric Pioline.
U.S. Open at a Glance
Where: USTA National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
When: Today through Sept. 12.
TV: USA, 11 a.m., 7:30 p.m.
Defending champions: Patrick Rafter, Lindsay Davenport.
Top seeds: Pete Sampras, Martina Hingis.
Today's featured matches: Men -- Andre Agassi (2), United States, vs. Nicklas Kulti, Sweden; Yevgeny Kafelnikov (3), Russia, vs. Alberto Martin, Spain; Carlos Moya (8), Spain, vs. Dominik Hrbaty, Slovakia; Marcelo Rios (10), Chile, vs. Martin Damm, Czech Republic; Paul Goldstein, United States, vs. Scott Draper, Australia. Women -- Martina Hingis (1), Switzerland, vs. Kveta Hrdlickova, Czech Republic; Venus Williams (3), United States, vs. Tatiana Poutchek, Belarus; Irina Spirlea, Romania, vs. Amanda Coetzer (6), South Africa; Wang Shi-Ting, Taiwan, vs. Jana Novotna (8), Czech Republic; Jelena Dokic, Australia, vs. Arantxa Sanchez-Vicaro (10), Spain.