All-American men's final packs powerful 1-2 punch Sampras, Courier seek first title


WIMBLEDON, England -- It is out with the old and in with the new this Fourth of July on Wimbledon's Centre Court.

The past champions have been dispatched, and in their places stand two Americans, Pete Sampras and Jim Courier, the top two players in the world.

Each is seeking to fulfill a childhood dream and win his first Wimbledon title. And each brings a big heart and big serve to the task.

The only question is, will this matchup be a Yankee Doodle Dandy or Boredom on the Fourth of July?

The serve is the key to Wimbledon glory. And if each man is at the top of his service game, sending only rockets through the air, those who like to see tennis played with style rather than muscle could be in for a remake of The Big Sleep.

"A lot of times it's going to be self-defense on a surface like this," said Courier. "If Pete serves a high percentage of first serves, it's going to be very difficult for me."

Sampras' serve-and-volley game would seem to have the advantage over Courier's preference for the baseline.

But as Boris Becker said after losing to Sampras in three sets Friday, both men will find the final of Wimbledon different from anything they have experienced.

"Neither of them has won here," Becker said. "So first they have to fight their own nervousness. Add to that the normal bit of increased nervous feeling between a semifinal and a final, and it is even more difficult."

Sampras has only one Grand Slam victory, the 1990 U.S. Open. But he is the No. 1 player in the world and the top seed here.

Sampras also has a 7-2 record against Courier, which should give him greater confidence, especially on a grass court that is supposed to be better suited to Sampras' game.

When Sampras first played here, in 1989, former Wimbledon champion Fred Perry said, "There is a future Wimbledon champion, if I've ever seen one."

Now Sampras, 21, has made the final even though two weeks ago he wasn't sure he could play at all. His serving shoulder was in pain. And even if he could play, there was no guarantee the shoulder would survive the rigors of a two-week tournament.

But aside from a brief period during his quarterfinal match with Andre Agassi, there has been little evidence of a shoulder problem.

In fact, after Sampras demolished Becker in the semifinals, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-4, Becker said: "The only problem I think Pete has is that he doesn't know the difference between a first and second serve. He hits them both so hard."

Yesterday, Sampras got the usual therapy treatments and today he will take several pain-killing and anti-inflammatory drugs before the match. But Sampras said the shoulder is no longer bothering him.

Courier's progress here has been one of the most surprising features of the tournament. Following the lead of Agassi, and Bjorn Borg before him, Courier is further proof that a baseliner can win on grass.

Friday, the No. 3 seed systematically undermined Stefan Edberg's serve-and-volley game, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. Today Courier will attempt to do the same thing against Sampras, his former doubles partner.

"The way I look at it, is that it is just a bonus for me to be here," said Courier, 22. "So far, the weather has played to my advantage. The court is hard as a rock and the balls are bouncing higher, the way I like."

Courier also says it will be tough for Sampras to maintain his form through a five-set match.

"I would hope that I get some chances at some stage," Courier said. "When I do, I hope to be able to capitalize on them. But his serve is very, very big, and his second serve is very big, too, so there will never be any time for me to breathe and relax. I'll have to be intense the whole match."

And Sampras will have to match that intensity as he tries to maintain his consistency.

"Both my first and second serves have to be effective," Sampras said. "But I think this match will all come down to my return of serve. If I'm returning well, that kind of carries my serve-and-volley game to another level."


(Seeds in parentheses)


Round.. .. .. .. ..Opponent.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .Score

First.. .. .. ..Neil Borwick...6-7 (12-10), 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3

Second.. .. .. .Jamie Morgan.. .. .. .. .6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4

Third.. .. .. ..Byron Black.. .. .. .. .. .. ..6-4, 6-1, 6-1

Fourth.. .. ... Andrew Foster.. .. .. .. 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (8-6)

Quarterfinals...Andre Agassi.. ..(8) 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4

Semifinals .. ..Boris Becker.. .. ...(4) 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-4


First.. .. .. ..Gianluca Pozzi.. .. .. .. .. ..6-0, 7-5, 6-4

Second.. .. .. .Ronald Agenor.. .. .. .. 7-5, 6-1, 7-6 (7-1)

Third.. .. .. .Jason Stoltenberg.. 6-4, 7-6 (11-9), 3-6, 6-4

Fourth.. .. .. .Wayne Ferreira .13) 4-6, 7-6 (10-8), 7-5, 6-4

Quarterfinals.. ..Todd Martin.. .. .. ...6-2, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3

Semifinals.. .. .Stefan Edberg.. .. ..(2) 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4

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