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Sampras devastated by injury
Posted: Tuesday August 31, 1999 05:24 PM
By Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated
A player whose long-avowed career goal has to been to eclipse Roy Emerson's mark of 12 Grand Slams singles titles, Sampras was patently devastated by the injury. After hitting bottom at the French Open, Sampras rallied to win Wimbledon, giving him an even dozen Slams. Following two titles on hardcourts this summer, which included wins over rivals Pat Rafter and Andre Agassi, he was salivating at the prospect of breaking Emerson's record next week, making history at the Slam he first won nine years ago. "I couldn't think of a worse time for this to happen, on the Sunday before a major tournament," he said despairingly. "Right now I'm obviously very overwhelmed."
Sampras is certainly no stranger to injuries. As great a champion as he is, the man has never been tennis' answer to Cal Ripken Jr. Already, his status was iffy, on account of a hip-flexor injury he suffered two weeks ago in Indianapolis. And at the U.S. Open alone, he broke down against little-known Peruvian Jaime Yzaga in 1994; he surrendered the contents of his stomach -- if not the match itself -- in a protracted quarterfinal battle against Alex Corretja in 1996; last year, as the No. 1 seed, he was leading Rafter in their semifinal battle when he pulled up lame with a quadriceps injury. Still, this malfunction of inner circuitry hurts worse than any other. "Because of the build-up here and the way I've been playing the past couple months, this one is [more] difficult," he said. "I'm sure these next two weeks will be tough emotionally, because I want to be here."
Sampras' withdrawal will be tough on the tournament as well. The popularity of the women's game might be growing at warp speed, but it was men who cornered the market on anticipatory buzz this week. With two-time defending champ Rafter still nursing a shoulder injury, a Sampras-Agassi blockbuster final seemed inexorable. It had all the making of the epochal moment tennis so sorely needs: The two biggest headliners in the sport. Both resurgent Americans, still keeping the game's torch in their hands. Sampras' record for Slams hanging in the balance. "It would have been awesome," said Agassi, the tournament's new favorite. "But tennis will go on and so will the U.S. Open and we'll try to make it as good as it can be."
Man of few words
Marcelo Rios' five-set win over little-known Martin Damm may not have packed much entertainment value. Not so his press conference. Here's Mr. Congeniality:
Q: Who were your childhood
Q: People you admired when you were growing
Q: What are your hobbies and
Q: What is your greatest sports
Q: Just answer the
Q: What's your favorite
Press official: Interview over.
Buried under Sampras' momentous withdrawal, Tuesday it was announced that the
Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) agreed with the ITF's assertion that an
appeals committee botched Petr Korda's drug case. As a result, Korda,
who's now retired, will be sanctioned as a Class 1 doping offender and forced to
relinquish his ranking points and prize money earned between July 1998 and July
1999. ... Eight players the USTA bestowed with wild cards were in action
Tuesday. Combined, they won one set. ... Tuesday's day attendance was 28,095, a
new single-session record for the Open. The previous record was set Monday with
a paid attendance of 27,809. ... Tennis fans taking the No. 7 train to Flushing
are bombarded by American Express ads featuring tennis stars. Which of the
following cardholders don't belong: Lindsay Davenport, Venus Williams, John
McEnroe or the Jensen brothers? ... No one has listed
"professional tennis player" as an unenviable occupation. But here's
additional fodder: A player who loses in the first round in both singles and
doubles here still takes home $19,000. ... Joe Paterno is today's
celebrity prognosticator: "Pete Sampras. I was wrong about him last year,
but not this year." Guess what, JoePa?. ... Finally, a modest proposal: Any
self-important "fan" whose cell phone beeps in the middle of a U.S.
Open match is required to donate $50 to the New York Junior Tennis
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