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The BBC's Iain Carter
"It's two serve-volleyers"
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Audio
Sampras v Rafter: The route to the final
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Sunday, 9 July, 2000, 08:30 GMT 09:30 UK
Sampras on the verge of history
Pete Sampras
Sampras is chasing title number seven
Pete Sampras can re-write the history books by claiming his seventh men's singles crown at Wimbledon on Sunday (1400 BST).

Victory over Australian Pat Rafter would take the American past Roy Emerson's landmark of 12 Grand Slams.

It would also bring Sampras level with William Renshaw.

The Brit won seven men's singles titles at the All England Club back in the 1880s.

Adversity

But whoever lifts the trophy on Centre Court, it will be a triumph over adversity.

Both players have had to cope with more than just the person on the other side of the net en route to the final.

Sampras has been dogged by tendinitis in his left shin while Rafter is only weeks into a comeback following a serious shoulder injury.


Roy Emerson
Emerson won 12 Grand Slams
Sampras has vowed to play through the pain barrier again on Sunday while Rafter admits he takes each match as it comes.

"It's been a long road back," said Rafter. "I'm taking it week by week, just grateful for being out there.

"I've done a lot of work on the shoulder and I'm hoping to get a bit more out of it than what the doctor might have expected."

Expectations

The pony-tailed Australian admits he has exceeded his expectations by reaching the final.

Before the tournament started, he would have been happy with a place in the fourth round.

On the other hand, everyone expected Sampras to be make the final Sunday, although there were one or two doubts when he pulled up lame during his second-round clash with Karol Kucera.


Sampras factfile
Age: 28
Height: 6ft 1in
Grand Slams: 12
Fastest serve: 133mph
Aces: 94
Route to final: bt J Vanek 6-4 6-4 6-2, K Kucera 7-6 3-6 6-3 6-4, J Gimelstob 2-6 6-4 6-2 6-2, J Bjorkman 6-3 6-2 7-5, J-M Gambill 6-4 6-7 6-4 6-4, V Voltchkov 7-6 6-2 6-4

But even a less than fully fit Sampras has proved too hard to stop.

And worryingly for his rivals who perhaps thought his powers were on the wane, the six-times Wimbledon champion reckons there is still plenty of gas in the tank.

"As long as I have my right arm, on grass I'm still a threat," said the 28-year-old American.

"I think you can play at a high level till your early 30s.

"Look at what (Jimmy) Connors did. He's a rare athlete but he played at a high level until he was 33, won the US Open at that point.

"I feel as long as I'm playing the game I'll always be in contention, especially here.

"I feel like I can possibly win here at 30 and beyond.

Mental

"You can definitely look at Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. They played until they were 36.


Rafter factfile
Age: 27
Height: 6ft 1in
Grand Slams: 2
Fastest serve: 124mph
Aces: 75
Route to final: bt J Delgado 6-3 7-6 6-1, T Woodbridge 6-3 6-3 6-4, R Schuttler 6-2 7-6 6-3, T Johansson 6-3 6-4 6-7 6-1, A Popp 6-3 6-2 7-6, A Agassi 7-5 4-6 7-5 4-6 6-3

"Tennis is a different sport but it can be done. It's more of a mental battle."

That is what makes Sampras such a force, his ability to focus on tennis to the exclusion of everything else.

It is why the shin injury has not derailed his hopes of winning a record-breaking seventh men's singles title.

Rafter will be a much tougher proposition than his other opponents, though.

The 12th seed's agility and speed around the court will provide the ultimate test.

Andre Agassi found him too hot to handle, losing their epic semi-final in five sets.

Proud

Rafter, 27, will be roared on by his proud parents when he takes on Sampras.

They are taking a 20-hour flight from Queensland to London so they can be courtside when their son attempts to add another Grand Slam to his two US Open titles.

"It will take them a while," said Rafter. "They'll get in a 7am on Sunday morning."

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See also:

07 Jul 00 |  Wimbledon2000
Rafter knocks out Agassi in epic semi
07 Jul 00 |  Wimbledon2000
Sampras cruises into final
07 Jul 00 |  The BBC Team
Lloyd: Rafter-Agassi was a classic
06 Jul 00 |  The BBC Team
No all-American final?
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