Flashback: 2000 US Open Final - Marat Safin def. Pete Sampras 6-4 6-3 6-3

Going into the 2000 US Open final, not many believed that Marat Safin had much of a chance against Pete Sampras. He was young, inexperienced, temperamental, while Sampras was gunning for his 14th slam and had won 8 straight slam finals. Safin had defeated Sampras only weeks before in Montreal, and just two ranking places separated the two. But it was still a mismatch.

And that’s why what Safin achieved on the 11th September 2000 was so incredible. Rather than succumbing to the pressure and being flattened by Sampras like so many great champions before him, he rose to the occassion and produced one of, if not the greatest performance of his career. And indeed one of the greatest performances ever. While his serving was exemplary and his groundstrokes were faultless brilliance, what made this performance and the result so stunning was the way in which he dealt with one of the greatest serves in tennis history. It wasn’t the case of him just blocking it back, he didn’t even try to neutralize it. Instead, he stood his ground, faced it head-on, and crushed return after return without any fear or remorse. Regardless of whether it was a first or second serve, 130mph or 100mph, every serve was dealt with in the same, bone-crunching fashion. Sampras later said; “He passed and returned my serve better than anyone I’ve ever played.” And he was damn right.

Safin went on to finish the year with six other titles and a brief stint at number one to accompany his first Grand Slam title. Many felt that the 2000 US Open was Safin’s breakthrough tournament, his coming-out year, and that he would win many, many more Grand Slams. But it didn’t happen. After a slew of injuries, years of indifference and a lack of work ethic, he retired in 2009 with only one additional Grand Slam -- the 2005 Australian Open. He is widely seen as a chronic underachiever, and many believe that had he put more effort into his career he could have become one of Federer’s prime rivals, pipping him to the post in one or two more. And while Safin’s career certainly serves as a reminder that talent can only take you so far in tennis, in the two slams that he did win he produced two of the greatest tennis matches we have ever seen. Can’t argue with that.


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2 Responses to Flashback: 2000 US Open Final - Marat Safin def. Pete Sampras 6-4 6-3 6-3

  1. Brodie says:

    Love it. I remember watching this match on the floor of my living room when I was a wee one. Kind of represents the death of the serve and volley for me. Hugely representative of dudes to come who were just too solid off the ground, and too wicked with spin and angle :)

  2. Tumaini says:

    Yeah, it’s true. And improved racket technology has only helped them. I can’t help but thinking it’s gone to far now though. It was great when it was just Marat and a select few, but now there are now so many knock-offs who serve and do nothing else. And they are just so. freaking. boring.

    Thinking about it, Tiger Tim deserves major props for toughening it out for so long after these changes began to take effect.

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