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  Saturday, 7 September, 2002, 17:38 GMT 18:38 UK
Sampras storms into final
Pete Sampras punches the air in triumph
Sampras salutes the New York cowd after his win
Pete Sampras battled past Sjeng Schalken in three tough sets on Saturday to secure a place in the US Open final for the eighth time in his career.

The American, who was written off by most at the start of the tournament, came through 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 and will face a familiar in foe in Sunday's final in the shape of Andre Agassi.

"Even though it's been a struggle and I've lost confidence throughout the year, at certain times I never questioned that I could be back here," said Sampras.


He was just serving so good that I couldn't get them on my racket - I couldn't touch the ball
Sjeng Schalken

"As long as I believe in myself and I believe I can still do it, I got a chance tomorrow."

He was made to work hard for his victory and needed two tie-breaks before Schalken's resistance finally broke.

The Dutchman dropped serve in the fourth game of the third set as Sampras continued to dominate from the net.

And the former world number one duly closed out the match with another break as his volleying overwhelmed Schalken.

It could have been very different for the Dutchman who coped admirably in the face of aggressive tactics from Sampras in the first set.

Schalken was forced to save three break points in his opening service game and then came back from 0-4 down in the tiebreak to engineer a set point.

But Sampras sent a fiercely patriotic crowd into a frenzy when he delivered a 117mph second serve to level the tiebreak and then forced Schalken to hit long on his first set point.

Sjeng Schalken scratches his head in disbelief
Schalken had no answer to his opponent's play
The second set followed a similar pattern, Sampras holding serve with consumate ease and pressurising Schalken on his own delivery.

Again Schalken held firm and again he had his chance to take the set on a tiebreak.

However, Sampras, who has played inspirational tennis since beating Tommy Haas in the fourth round, stepped up a gear and charged the net before dispatching a simple volley to secure a two-set lead.

A disheartened Schalken finally allowed Sampras to take control when the 17th seed secured the first break of the match at 2-1 in the final set.

Sampras endured a few moments of anxiety when at 4-2 he delivered three double faults in the same game but Schalken could not take advantage and his challenge was over.

And having reached the final in under two and half hours, Sampras ensured that he will have plenty of rest before facing an even tougher propesct in either Agassi or Hewitt.

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USA's Pete Sampras
"I still believe I'm the one to beat"
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