NEW YORK – Pete Sampras bids for a 14th Grand Slam championship Sunday at the U.S. Open against Australian Lleyton Hewitt, who is playing in a major final for the first time.
Both advanced with straight-set victories Saturday. Sampras won his semifinal 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 over Russian Marat Safin, the defending champion who beat him in straight sets in last year's final.
Hewitt, 20, wiped out Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 in the most one-sided semifinal in U.S. Open men's history.
Sampras came into the tournament determined to win it for the fifth time. Whispers suggested the 30-year-old American's career was in decline after going 14 months without a title.
His task was complicated by the draw which put him in the toughest quarter of the tournament. But he beat two-time champion Patrick Rafter in the fourth round, and in the quarterfinals won over Andre Agassi in a classic four-set match, each set ending in a tiebreak.
Sampras raised his game a couple of levels against all three.
"Everything is clicking at the same time," he said. "I've just got to keep it going one more day."
Now it is on to Hewitt, in very much the same position as Safin was a year ago — a kid thrust into the championship showdown against the most successful Grand Slam player in history.
"He's a young guy that is a great player who's going to contend for majors for many, many years," Sampras said.