"It began the debate over the state of my game" - When Pete Sampras opened up about the worst Slam final defeat of his career

Pete Sampras lost four Grand Slam finals throughout his career
Pete Sampras lost four Grand Slam finals throughout his career

Pete Sampras is among the greatest players in tennis history, winning 14 Major titles in his glittering career. Sampras lost only four Grand Slam finals in his career, and the last of those came at the 2001 US Open.

The American went down 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-1 that day to Lleyton Hewitt, for whom it was a maiden Grand Slam singles title.

Sampras wrote in his book "A Champion's Mind" that the defeat was the worst he ever faced in a Major final. He stated that Hewitt made the most out of the conditions and that the loss started the debate over the state of his game.

"Lleyton took full advantage of the conditions and played a good first set, taking the tiebreaker 7–4. I was beat, out of gas, emotionally as well as physically. It quickly turned into a rout in which I won just two more games the rest of the way. It was my worst loss by far in a major final, and it began the debate over the state of my game," Pete Sampras wrote.

The American added that there were a few experts who thought he was slowing down.

"Some pundits thought I was slowing down. The Pete Sampras they watched in the U.S. Open final against Hewitt looked like a tired, vulnerable tennis player, at a loss for a strategy to employ against his bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, not-yet-twenty-one challenger. It was an accurate assessment, but it was more of a comment on the tournament I’d had than my general physical state," Sampras wrote.

The former World No. 1 also claimed that he did not feel tired because of his age but because he had endured a week where he was up against several tough opponents.

"I didn’t look tired because I was old, or losing focus, or banged up. I looked tired because it had been an ultra-demanding week filled with very tough opponents and a back-to-back semi and final," Pete Sampras wrote.
"I didn’t exactly feel slow out there during the Hewitt match, but I felt like I was having to work awfully hard for the points that I won. I struggled and heaved and tried to dig into my reserves, but there was too little left to call upon," he added.

Sampras reached the US Open final in 2002 as well, where he beat Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, to win the 14th Grand Slam title of his career.

Pete Sampras and Lleyton Hewitt locked horns on nine occasions

Pete Sampras at the 2014 International Premier Tennis League
Pete Sampras at the 2014 International Premier Tennis League

Pete Sampras and Lleyton Hewitt faced each other on nine occasions, with the Aussie leading 5-4 in the head-to-head.

Sampras won the first three meetings against Hewitt before the latter beat him in the final of the Queen's Club Championships in 2000.

The first Grand Slam encounter between the two came in the semifinals of the 2000 US Open, which the American won 7-6(7), 6-4, 7-6(5). However, Hewitt avenged that defeat by beating him in the 2001 US Open final.

The last meeting between the two came in the semifinals of the 2002 Indian Wells Masters, which Hewitt won 6-2, 6-4.

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Edited by Arshit Garg
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