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  Friday, 14 February, 2003, 14:58 GMT
Super Sampras silences critics
Pete Sampras holds the trophy aloft as Andre Agassi looks on
Sampras' win over Agassi brought the crowd to their feet
Pete Sampras (US) bt Andre Agassi (US)
6-3 6-4 5-7 6-4

Pete Sampras clinched his fifth US Open men's singles title to hit back at the doubters who claimed his career was coming to an end.

The American defeated old foe and compatriot Andre Agassi in four thrilling sets, much to the delight of the New York crowd.

"I guess I'm back," said an emotional Sampras after the win.

"I played so well today - Andre brings out the best in me every time and I think I deserved to win today because I just seemed to get into the zone."

Sampras looked to be heading for a straight-sets victory at Flushing Meadows after winning the first two sets comfortably.

But Agassi, who beat defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in the semi-finals, turned the match around by winning the third.

Sampras then rediscovered his best form to claim his 14th Grand Slam singles crown.

"I've had a great couple of weeks," said Agassi.

"But unfortunately Pete was a little too good today."

After a tight opening spell in which both players held serve with ease, Sampras suddenly found an extra gear at 4-3 in the first set and began producing some crunching forehands.

Agassi had no reply and the player who had been so commanding in his defeat of world number one Lleyton Hewitt a day earlier, looked decidedly ill at ease after Sampras broke and served out the set.

Anadre Agassi hugs Pete Sampras at the net after the latter's victory
Agassi was gracious in defeat

Sampras' serve, so often the key to the rest of his game, was supreme, and Agassi looked to be on his way to an embarrassing defeat when the 17th seed broke again in the opening game of the second set.

And when Agassi found himself 2-5 down, the crowd, who had been cheering both players in equal measures, threw their weight behind the Las Vegan in the hope of seeing a longer match.

Agassi recovered one break but it was a brief respite for the 32-year-old and Sampras duly took a two-set lead.

Sampras continued to apply the pressure in the third set but Agassi proved himself equal to the task and did well to hold off a rampant opponent.

And midway through the set, Agassi began to find the range on his returns and Sampras suddenly looked all of his 31 years.

The 17th seed held off his opponent until 5-6 but the pressure finally told in an incredible game which had the crowd enthralled.

Agassi forced a series of deuces and Sampras' resistance was finally broken when he made a rare volley error on Agassi's second set point.

Classic encounter

With Sampras apparently exhausted, Agassi turned up the heat on his returns and what was now the classic encounter it promised to be looked set to go the distance.

The sixth seed had two break points at 2-2 and on the second saw a simple backhand clip the tape and fall on his side of the net.

Sampras staved off that danger with some brave typically brave serving and a further crisis point at 4-4 when he delivered two double faults in the same game.

And the multiple Grand Slam winner showed his incredible mettle by taking advantage of his opponent's disappointment and breaking in the very next game.

A return deep to Agassi's feet did the damage and Sampras made no mistake in serving out the match.

Agassi's last throw of the dice was a stunning forehand winner but a trademark angled volley from Sampras left the 32-year-old looking to the sky in disbelief as he celebrated his first title in over two years.

BBC tennis correspondent Iain Carter
"Sampras had an extra gear"
Pete Sampras
"I played as well as I could"
Andre Agassi
"I have lots of respect for Pete"
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