Agassi Defeats Sampras For Indian Wells Title

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Heading into his 30th match against Pete Sampras,Andre Agassi called it a memory waiting to happen.

Their Masters Series final was memorable for him, forgettable for Sampras.

Agassi, his accurate groundstrokes far more efficient than Sampras’ serve-and-volley game, took a 7-6 (5), 7-5, 6-1 victory for his first title in 13 trips to Indian Wells.

After more than a decade of being half of one of tennis’ finest rivalries, Agassi still relishes the chance to play Sampras. Of course, beating him makes it even better.

“It’s incredible. I’ve been on the other end of it so many times with Pete. It’s more enjoyable at this stage of my career to play against him and actually to play well and win a big match,” said Agassi, at 30, one year older than Sampras.

“I feel proud of the way I played this week, and especially today. It feels wonderful.”

Sampras had beaten Agassi in the 1995 final for the second of his two titles at the desert event.

Sampras said his rival is at least as good as ever.

“He’s playing great, not missing much. He’s pretty much at a level like he was a number of years ago when he was No. 1 in the world,” said Sampras, who still holds a 17-13 overall edge in their matches, including an 8-6 mark in finals.

“You look at his game five years ago to today, it’s the same game. Maybe he’s even in a little bit better shape. He’s always been a great player in my mind,” Sampras said.

The two first played on the pro tour as teen-agers, with Agassi taking that 1989 match 6-2, 6-1 on a clay court in Rome.

He now has won three of the last four matches, including a five-set victory in the 2000 Australian Open, their last previous meeting.

Spraying shots long and wide much of the match, Sampras made 49 unforced errors, 39 more than Agassi.

Sampras’ normally dominant serve also was ineffective — he double-faulted 11 times, wasting his 14-4 edge in aces.

Many of Sampras’ problems were, of course, caused by the pressure of returning Agassi’s hard, well-placed groundstrokes, and also by Agassi’s ability to scramble and return volleys.

After neither broke service in the first set, Agassi won the final two points of the tiebreaker when Sampras hit a forehand out, then Agassi hit a backhand passing shot down the line to win the set.

Both continued to hold serve through the first 11 games of the second set, but Agassi broke Sampras in the 12th. He won the first point when Sampras volleyed a backhand into the net to end their brisk half-court rally, then finished the set off with a forehand return down the right line.

After that, Agassi took command. He broke Sampras in the second game of the third set, and again in the sixth. Agassi then served out, closing the match with a service winner.

Agassi won $400,000, Sampras $211,000.

Fans occasionally shouted “Come on, Pete!” and “Andre! Andre!” and cheered after good rallies. That was in sharp contrast to a day earlier, when Serena Williams was booed before, during and after her 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory against Kim Clijsters in the women’s final.

The fans’ jeers were the fallout of Venus Williams‘ last-minute withdrawal from Thursday night’s semifinal against her sister. Venus said she pulled out because of tendinitis in her right knee, and a trainer with the women’s tour said Venus was unable to play.