1993 Wimbledon: Pete Sampras defeats Jim Courier

My win at Wimbledon in 1993 was really the beginning of my career as a dominant champion

Extract from Sampras‘ autobiography A Champion’s mind:

“I was nervous from the moment I woke up on the day of the final – it was the opposite of how I’d felt before playing Edberg in the 1992 US Open final. I’d slept horribly and, although I didn’t throw up, my stomach was so jumpy I had trouble eating. I was haunted by memories of the 92 US Open. This was my first major final since then, and I experienced something new – the fear of losing. I felt it would be devastating if this chance, too, slipped away. It felt less like I was going to play a tennis match than to stand trial, and I had no idea what the outcome would be. Although I had played a few dozen tournament finals by then, this was a Grand Slam and it was going to be more like my first time.

Tim wanted me to impose my game on Jim – smother him with a serve-and-volley display. Jim used pretty extreme grips and fired his forehand with rifle-like power and accuracy, but if I could keep the ball low and keep him from setting up to unload the way he did on clay, I might keep him off balance. But Tim also knew I was capable of getting down on myself, and even wilting in the heat.

The tension was excruciating. It was the Fourth of July, and hotter than hell. But as soon as Jim and I started the warm-up on Centre Court, everything went away . All the anxiety, nerves and pressure. Thirty six hours of intense pressure just went out of the window. I had this acute realization that I could finally breathe, and it felt great. I’ll never forget that feeling. The weight of my shoes was the only thing that kept me from floating away.

From the start I played well – very well. But it was never easy against Jim, and I had to take care of my serve and look for my opportunities to break him, which didn’t materialize in the first two sets until the tiebreakers. In a way, this was the dangerous aspect of grass-court tennis personified. I dominated with my serve, and backed it with precise volleys.
But solving Jim’s serve was a far tougher assignment. As we arrived at each tiebeaker, I was well awae that an errant shot by me here, or a great or lucky shot by him there, would win him the set.

But even with two sets in hand, the job wasn’t nearly done. In fact, the enormous relief I felt when I won the second set led to a huge letdown on my part. Serving the second game of the third set, I double-faulted on break point and that put a new puff of wind into Jim’s sails. I managed to get the break back, but I was still drained from all the nervous energy I had expended, and although I was still playing hard and playing well, I was starting to feel fatigued.

We battled on serve for five games in the fourth set, and I sensed that I was in trouble. And that’s when my newfound determination kicked in. A yea earlier, I might have wilted in the sun and let the fourth set slip away and then – who knows? I pulled my game together and I broke Jim in the sixth game of the fourth set with another running forehand pass.

Suddenly I had room to breathe, and I was just two gamesfrom the title. Those games went by in a flurry of aces and winning volleys. And when I converted match point, I felt this surge of joy mixed with relief.

I finally understood what it meant to be a worthy Grand Slam champion

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