More than 11 years after her celebrated and hyped professional debut as a 14-year-old, Jennifer Capriati finally moves to the n°1 ranking for the first time.
Capriati, the reigning Australian and French Open champion and the only woman to reach the semifinals of all four Grand Slams during the year, ends Martina Hingis‘ 73-week hold of the top ranking.

When I look back on my career, I am very proud of the two Grand Slams I won this year and, obviously, getting to n°1.

I am also proud to be able to come back from everything that has happened in my life and just to enjoy tennis and play this well. This shows eveybody that it’s never too late to realize your talent, or your dream. If you think positive and believe in yourself, good things are going to come.

Venus defeats Serena Williams, 2001 US Open

The Williams sisters drag women’s tennis into prime time, September 8 2001

Excerpts of The 100 greatest days in New York sports by Stuart Miller

You gotta admit, Richard Williams was right. For all his loudmouth trash talk, his daughters were indeed the best in women’s tennis and the best thing for women’s tennis too.

They might not have made a lot of friends, but they were good and compelling. Everybody wanted to see what they’d wear, what they’d do and how they’d win.
Serena won the US Open at 17 in 1999, Venus won it at 20 in 2000. In 2001 they met in finals – the first time two sisters had met in a major final since the Watson gals (Maud and Lilian) at Wimbledon in 1884; and thanks to their riveting personalities and powerful playing, the first time women’s tennis was deemed to have players ready for prime time. After years squeezed between the men’s tennis, the women’s final got its own show under the stars.

The Harlem Gospel Choir performed, a Marine Guard unfurled a court-sized flag. Grucci provided fireworks, and Diana Ross sang ‘God Bless America’.
Then came the tennis, which, though historic, was mostly boring. The five prior intra-Williams matches had been pretty awful too. This match was better, but both sisters still played nervously, not because of the pomp and circumstance, which they both relished, but because facing each other meant one sister would go home ad the loser.
Venus was, if not more serene, less erratic, making 19 unforced errors to her younger sister’s 36 in a humdrum 6-2 6-4 win.

Before Hollywood, fashion, and injuries began distracting them, the Williams sisters staged an encore in 2002. That time Serena won. But both nights the big winner was women’s tennis.

One year after his defeat against Marat Safin, Pete Sampras was once again in final of the US Open, against an other young gun: Lleyton Hewitt.

Lleyton Hewitt - Pete Sampras

Pete Sampras ran out of steam against the 20 year Australian. In a match that recalled the 2000 final, he was thoroughly outclassed by Hewitt 7-6 (4), 6-1, 6-1.

From Sampras‘ autobiography ” A champion’s mind”:

“It had been a draining second week for me. After beating Rafter and winning that epic four-setter over Andre, I handled Marat Safin with relative ease.
I had to play Hewitt in the final barely twenty- four hours after finishing my semi, and by that point my brain was already slightly fried and my legs were feeling a little heavy. For a veteran, that twenty-four-hour turnaround at the Open is one of the toughest assignments in tennis, mentally as well as physically.”

“Hewitt was just twenty, and he still had peach fuzz on his face. With his long hair and clear blue eyes, he looked like a teenage surfing or skateboarding champ, and he played with a healthy disdain for etiquette, forever punctuating his better shots with gut-wrenching screams of “Come awwwwwwwn”. A year earlier, I had barely managed to containHewitt in the US Open semis, winning two of my three sets in tie-breakers.”

He was now a year older, a year wiser, a year hungrier – and a year stronger.

Lleyton Hewitt - Pete Sampras

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From Sampras‘ autobiography ” A champion’s mind”:

“We had a tremendous crowd for our big quarterfinal in Flushing Meadows. Word must have gone out all over Wall Street, the Upper East Side, and Central Park West that this was potential classic, for all the scenemakers, movers and shakers, and celebrities were out. The best thing was that you could feel this respect and appreciation for tennis in the air. It wasn’t the usual noisy New York crowd, being semiattentive. Everyone seemed riveted and there were moments when you could have heard a pin drop.”

Andre and I gave them their money’s worth – this was a battle pitting the best serve-and-volleyer against the best returner and passer.
It was different from our final of 1995, because I attacked more – in fact, I attacked relentlessly. I think I served and volleyed on every single service point I played for more than three hours. “

Andre Agassi

Pete Sampras - Andre Agassi

Pete Sampras - Andre Agassi

“That match also represented the longest period of time over which Andre and I both played really well at the same time. We each had our little lulls and hiccups, but nobody lost serve for more than three hours. I had chances to break Andre in the first set, but I blew it. I lost the first tiebreaker, but I came back to win the next three. It was a blunt and sometimes brutal battle that was decided most of all by execution and mental focus, rather than strategy or the way our strokes matched up.”

Pete Sampras

Pete Sampras

“In a way, that high point of our rivalry was also a microcosm of our decade-long battle. I held a six-win edge in our rivalry (20-14), although if Andre had not taken significant breaks from the game we might have played fifty times.
I performed a little better in the majors holding a 6-3 edge. He won all our clashes at the Australian and French Open; I won all the ones we played at Wimbledon and the US Open. We met in five major finals, and I won on every occasion but one, the Australian Open of 1995. We had a few epics.”

Pete Sampras - Andre Agassi

In the long run, I was just a little better at those giant moments, just like I was on that sultry New York night when Andre and I played our masterpiece.

This was the moment when the Wimbledon baton was passed from me to him

Roger Federer - Pete Sampras

Roger Federer - Pete Sampras

From Sampras‘ autobiography ” A champion’s mind”:

” I got a great draw at Wimbledon. I had, in successive matches, Francisco Clavet, a clay courter, Barry Cowan, a British long shot in through a wild card, and Sargis Sargsian. Beating those guys brought me up against a young Swiss guy I’d already heard good things about, Roger Federer.
From what I’d been told, he was very talented, but he ran a little hot and cold. I expected to win, but very early in the match I realized that I was up against a kid with a complete game and talent to burn.”
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