New court plays to Sampras' strengths
Posted: Monday January 17, 2000 02:57 PM
Pete Sampras should have an advantage on hardcourt surfaces in Melbourne that are as fast as grass courts. AP
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- In three sets without a single
baseline rally, Pete Sampras pranced on the hard, hyper-fast
Australian Open center court as if he were back on the grass he
loves at Wimbledon.
For those who like power tennis, it was as beautiful as it was
brutal. For those who prefer a bit of finesse and touch, it was
Sampras began his pursuit of a record 13th Grand Slam title
Monday with a 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Australian Wayne Arthurs
in a match that featured the best and worst of high-speed tennis.
They served, they volleyed, then they served and volleyed again.
Except for the few passing shots on returns, and the 25 aces and 11
double faults between them, that was it.
Australian Open officials wanted a faster surface this year to
give an advantage to Patrick Rafter and Mark Philippoussis, so they
gave the go-ahead for a paint job that quickened the rubberized
Rebound Ace courts to the speed of grass -- or glass.
Sampras, who said he has never played on such a fast outdoor
hard court, certainly wasn't complaining.
"I'm not going to be rallying too much this next week or so,"
said Sampras, who won six of his 12 major titles on the fast
Wimbledon centre court. "I'm going to be coming in on both serves
and being aggressive. It's a little bit too quick to stay back. I'm
treating the match like tonight like I was playing on grass."
The surface would have been perfect for the net-charging Rafter,
Sampras said, and his absence because of a shoulder injury removes
a major threat.
"Some players like it, some players don't," Sampras said of
the courts. "It's obviously in the mind, but I'm sure a lot of
players are complaining. I think they can probably slow it down for
next year because it's a touch too quick. But there is nothing we
can do about it now."
Andrei Medvedev likened the court to an ice rink, but Andre
Agassi seemed happy with it. Though a baseliner, Agassi has the
reflexes to handle the speed.
"There's no question it is going to be good for his game,"
Sampras said. "It's going to help out his serve, and he returns so
well. He is very tough to beat here. Some of the Spaniards are
going to struggle, but because Andre hits the ball so early and so
flat, he'll be fine."
Sampras cranked up his hardest serve on the first point of the
match against Arthurs, sending an intimidating 130 mph message.
Sampras loves to instill a little fear in his opponent right from
the start, so he invariably drills his opening serve straight up
the middle with all the power he can muster. It hardly matters that
his opponents know it's coming. Especially on a surface like this.
Arthurs, a left-hander whose own menacing serve carried him to
the fourth round at Wimbledon last year before Agassi beat him in
four sets, simply didn't have the volleying prowess that Sampras
possesses. That and an 8-3 disadvantage in double faults made the
difference in a match where not one groundstroke was struck.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Copyright © 2000|
An AOL Time Warner Company.
All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.