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

Only 20 sentences dedicated by Andre Agassi to his 2001 Australian Open win in his autobiography Open? The Australian Open, a tournament he “loves some much”…… as much as he loves tennis, or not.

Sure, there’s not much to say about his 6-4 6-2 6-2 routine win over the surprising Arnaud Clément.

Agassi-Clément

Extract from Agassi’s biography:

“In January we fly to Australia. I feel good when we land. I do love this place. I must have been an aborigine in another life. I always feel at home here. I always enjoy walking into Rod Laver Arena, playing under Laver’s name.

I bet Brad that I’m going to win the whole thing. I can feel it. And when I do, he will have to jump the Yarra River.
I batter my way to the semis and face Rafter again. We play three hours of hammer-and-tong tennis, filled with endless I-grunt-you-grunt rallies.
He’s ahead, two sets to one. Then he withers. The Australian heat. We’re both drenched with sweat, but he’s cramping. I win the next two sets.

In the final I face Clément, a grudge match four months after he knocked me out of the US Open. I rarely leave the baseline. I make few mistakes, and those I do make, I put quickly behind me.
Clément is muttering to himself in French, I feel a serene calm. My mother’s son. I beat him in straight sets.

Agassi-Clément

Andre Agassi

It’s my seventh Slam, putting me tenth on the all-time list. I’m tied with McEnroe, Wilander, and others – one ahead of Becker and Edberg.
Wilander and I are the only ones to win three Australian Opens in the Open era. At the moment, however, all I care is seeing Brad do the backstroke in the Yarra, then getting home to Stefanie.”

Steffi Graf and Brad Gilbert

First off, I would like to wish you all an Happy New Year! I wish you all the best for 2011.

And now, a few tennis news:

After Dementieva, Moya, Hrbaty and Dent, Nicolas Kiefer announced his retirement.
A gifted player, Kiefer -like Haas- was expected to be the next Boris Becker, and even though he reached the semifinals at the 2006 Australian Open and the top 4 ranking in 2000, he never was a major threat. Turned pro in 1995, he captured 6 singles titles, the last one ten years ago in Hong Kong, beating Mark Philippoussis in final.
He played for Germany in the Davis Cup and teamed with Rainer Schuettler for a doubles silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics (lost to Gonzalez/Massu).
Honestly, I won’t miss this player but I wish him good luck for his new life.

Speaking of Dementieva, she was named Vice-President of the Russian Tennis Federation, after retiring from playing two months ago.

Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer in the final of the Abu Dhabi exhibition, and Kim Clijsters beat Caroline Wozniacki in Hua Hin, Thailand.
Well, I must say that I don’t get why players can’t stop complaining about the length of the season, and then keep playing those stupid exhibitions. Would it not be better to rest a bit or spend some time with the family?
That being said, here’s a nice pic of Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki .

Tournaments to follow this week:
– the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, Aircel Chennai Open in Chennai, Brisbane International (ATP)
– the Brisbane International and ASB Classic in Hobart (WTA)
You can find the complete 2011 calendar here.

And to begin this new year in style, Tennis Buzz will feature Tennis Buzz Marathon. From Monday til Friday, I will watch and comment a match from the past:
– on Monday: Graf-Hingis, Roland Garros, 1999
– on Tuesday: Laver-Newcombe, Wimbledon, 1969
– on Wednesday: Borg-Nastase, Wimbledon, 1976
– on Thursday: Nadal-Gonzalez, Olympic Games, 2008
– on Friday: Edberg-Courier, US Open, 1991

Have a good tennis week on Tennis Buzz!