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U.S. OPEN : Pioline No Match for Sampras' Serve : Men's final: American has 12 aces in dominating Frenchman and wins second consecutive major title.

September 13, 1993|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — The U.S. Open, tennis' two-week walk on the wild side, was more like a pleasant stroll through the park for Pete Sampras, the one player whose serve no one could tame.

You could get windburn from a Sampras serve. At the U.S. Open, you also got Sampras as a re-Pete champion Sunday, when the 22-year-old knocked 12 aces past Cedric Pioline to bag his third Grand Slam title, his second U.S. Open trophy and his second major championship in a row.

Sampras scored a 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 decision over the 24-year-old Frenchman in a final that may have failed as far as drama goes, but nevertheless went a long way toward cementing Sampras' reputation as the best player in tennis in 1993.

"I mean, it has been a great year," he said. "The Wimbledon victory (in July) was really big for me and now I have won the two biggest tournaments in the world."

In a 2-hour 4-minute march through the final, Sampras broke Pioline's serve six times in a match that will not go down as one of Pioline's finest.

Pioline hit six balls into the stands, one of them a breathtaking serve that careened off the frame of his racket and struck a spectator in the head.

The fan, Slobodan Damiyano, a 43-year-old former World Cup goalie from Yugoslavia, was not injured. He said later the ball was "as fast as I ever got hit in my head."

For Sampras, the match was over nearly as fast.

Sampras won 29 of 34 points on his first serve and stuck to a basic strategy of letting Pioline try to get a racket on his serves and then waiting patiently in a baseline game until Pioline hit a bad shot.

Pioline did so frequently. He had 45 unforced errors and 21 winners.

Said Pioline: "I miss a couple of shots."

Sampras didn't miss many, which was typical of his play throughout the tournament. In seven matches, Sampras lost only two sets--to Daniel Vacek in the first round and Michael Chang in the quarterfinals.

Sampras finished the tournament with 83 aces, which more than anything else earned him the winner's check of $535,000, to put him over $9 million in his career.

As 19,721 watched, Sampras won the first set in 38 minutes, securing the only edge he needed when Pioline double-faulted, then knocked an easy backhand volley long for a service break in the first game.

Actually, the double faults turned out to be Pioline's specialty. He had eight of them, four occurring on break point and each one critical.

At 3-3 in the second set, Pioline hit a double fault long to give Sampras a break for 4-3, an advantage that held up when he closed out the set as Pioline netted a forehand.

Now safely holding a two-set lead, Sampras broke Pioline to start the second set when Pioline double-faulted on break point, but seemed to lose his attention a little and was broken back.

Sampras served two aces for 4-2, held for 5-3, then watched Pioline serve to try to stay in the match. Sampras quickly held a match point, but Pioline saved it with his best shot of the day--a backhand stab volley for a winner.

It was only prolonging the inevitable. Pioline mis-hit a backhand that flew long for another match point, then double-faulted to end it, the ball clipping the tape and skipping beyond the service line.

Sampras raised both arms in triumph, shook Pioline's hand, then acknowledged the cheers by raising his arms again.

It was something of a subdued celebration for Sampras, but one entirely in keeping with his low-key demeanor.

Sampras said there isn't one thing he can do to make himself or tennis more exciting. Well, maybe there is one thing, he said.

"Maybe shave my chest hair?" Sampras said, referring to the furor over Andre Agassi at Wimbledon.

There were no close shaves for Sampras for two weeks. He even avoided getting sick like he did last year, when he became ill during his semifinal victory over Jim Courier and played listlessly in losing to Stefan Edberg in the final.

Sampras said he simply changed his eating habits.

"I didn't eat at Flushing Meadow all two weeks," he said. "What I was doing was getting good New York deli sandwiches and eating turkey sandwiches for two weeks straight."

This seemed like sound strategy, especially in light of all the complaints by the players about the quality of food in the lounge.

Pioline clearly had no chance with the diet Sampras was feeding him.

"You feel like you try and you have no chance," Pioline said. "His serve is very hard to play, so it's difficult."

Actually, it was impossible. For two weeks, everybody who played him felt the same way.

U.S. Open Notes

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Helena Sukova won the women's doubles title with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Amanda Coetzer and Ines Gorrochategui. Sukova, who lost to Steffi Graf in the women's final, was asked if the victory made up for losing to Graf in the women's singles final the day before. "What was yesterday," Sukova said. . . . Pete Sampras said the comment he made on CBS after the match just slipped out. Tony Trabert noted that Sampras' sister and mother were taking a cruise through the Greek islands and probably weren't watching the match. Sampras commented: "I'm working my ass off in New York and they're (on a cruise)."

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