Agassi Captures 5th Grand Slam, Serena First
- By Steve Wilstein
- Sep. 14 1999 00:00
NEW YORK -- Andre Agassi never lost his serve or his nerve, even when Todd Martin had him reeling.
Closing out one of the greatest summers in tennis history, Agassi came up with his most spectacular shots in a dominating fifth set Sunday to capture his second U.S. Open.
On Saturday, Serena Williams finished the job that big sister Venus couldn't, beating Martina Hingis 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) to capture the U.S. Open title at age 17 in only her second year as a pro. And for an encore, Venus shared the glory with Serena on Sunday as the Williams sisters defeated American Chanda Rubin and France's Sandrine Testud 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 for the women's doubles championship.
For Agassi, no shot was better, or more crucial, than his lunging return from off the court that broke Martin's serve and spirit early in the fifth set and paved the way to a 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 6-2 victory.
Agassi's fifth Grand Slam title ended a summer run that began with his surprising surge to the French Open championship and continued with his runner-up finish to Pete Sampras at Wimbledon. No man since Ivan Lendl in 1986 had gone to three straight Grand Slam finals in the same year.
No man had fought back to win the U.S. Open from a 2-1 deficit in sets since John Newcombe in 1973, but that's exactly what Agassi had to do in a 3-hour, 23-minute match against an inspired Martin playing some of the finest tennis of his life.
"It was disappointing that somebody had to lose,'' Agassi said. "He played so well, I felt I was hanging by a thread for much of the match. He was executing in ways that were giving me all sorts of problems."
Agassi guaranteed himself the No. 1 ranking after beating Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the semifinals.
On Sunday, the powerfully built Williams, as graceful and quick as a gymnast, put on a spectacular display of mature tennis with an all-court attack to become the first black woman to win a Grand Slam title since Althea Gibson in 1958.
"It's just too exciting to compute right now,'' Williams said. "Of course I said I could win the Open, but to actually do it is one thing and to say it is another.''
Moments later, Williams received a congratulatory phone call from U.S President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea from New Zealand.
Venus Williams had her shots at Hingis, but lost to her at age 17 in the 1997 U.S. Open final and in an exhausting semifinal that left her quivering with cramps Friday.
Serena, who will move up in the rankings from No. 6 to No. 4, proved too much for Hingis to handle in the critical moments that made the difference in a brilliant match filled with feverish baseline rallies, speedy forays to the net and an array of lobs and drop shots.
In winning her first major title and a $750,000 check, Williams showed the kind of athleticism, court sense and resilience under pressure that could make her a champion for years to come.
In capturing the title, Williams beat three of the top four women in the world - Hingis, defending champion Lindsay Davenport and two-time champion Monica Seles.
Williams and Hingis, who had engaged in a war of words during the tournament, shook hands and hugged after the match.
Hingis had one thought on her mind, though.
"I'm definitely looking for revenge next year,'' Hingis said.