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  Saturday, 7 September, 2002, 06:56 GMT 07:56 UK
Old guard seek final hurrah
Pete Sampras
Sampras is high on confidence

The Flushing Meadows crowd will on Saturday be treated to a semi-final line-up only the most dedicated patriot would have predicted.

That Andre Agassi would have reached the last four was always a possibility, but probably only one man predicted Pete Sampras would join him - and that was the 13-times Grand Slam champion himself.

Sampras now has a very real opportunity to upset all the odds and clinch one final Major against his oldest and most resilient foe.

The 31-year-old faces Dutchman Sjeng Schalken in the first match of "Super Saturday" at the US Open, with the American favourite to move through to his third consecutive final.

Lleyton Hewitt
Hewitt will be out to spoil the party

After a scrappy match against Greg Rusedski, an inspired Sampras has suddenly rediscovered his touch and his confidence has soared with it.

And now his claims that he has one Slam left in him no longer ring hollow.

His opponent, playing in his first Grand Slam semi-final, has little to lose and that could be Schalken's most dangerous weapon.

The unassuming Dutchman proved against Lleyton Hewitt at Wimbledon that his clinical all-round game can be a frightening proposition.

But having soundly beaten young hopeful Andy Roddick in the quarters, there is a growing feeling that Sampras is riding a wave of sentimentalism that could take him all the way to his 14th Grand Slam.

Hard task

And what chance Sampras meeting Agassi for their 34th encounter?

The 32-year-old has by far the hardest task against the world number one, top seed and defending champion.

Hewitt's progress through the draw has been relatively untroubled and the Australian has prevailed in the pair's last three meetings.

But Agassi's form, given an indifferent summer, has been outstanding and if he can maintain it, it could be enough to see him through against Hewitt.

That could set up an unlikely final between the two elder statesmen of men's tennis, and after last year's breathtaking quarter-final meeting between the pair, it would be a mouth-watering prospect.

But a note of caution for fans clamouring for one last final between the legendary pair.

There is nothing Lleyton Hewitt likes better than upsetting a party, and the fiery Aussie is unlikely to give up his crown without one hell of a fight.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Iain Carter
"Schalken has never won against Sampras"
Dutchman Sjeng Schalken
"I will be tough on court"
All the news from Flushing Meadows

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Iain Carter in NYC

Background

Official website
Links to more US Open stories are at the foot of the page.


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