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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sampras Proves Untouchable Again




LONDON -- Pete Sampras rewrote tennis history in the Wimbledon dusk Sunday, winning his seventh singles crown and a record 13th Grand Slam title 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 against Australia's Pat Rafter.


With the clock at 8.57 p.m. local time and light failing fast on Center Court, a thunderous serve from Sampras on matchpoint forced Rafter to return into the net, etching the American's name into the record books.


Sampras had shared the 30-year-old record of 12 Grand Slam titles with Australia's Roy Emerson since winning Wimbledon last year. Now he stands alone, and this record could last a lifetime.


The quiet American broke down, wiping tears from his eyes, as the Center Court exploded in celebration.


"This is one of my best moments," he said after a match, which lasted almost six hours after being twice interrupted by rain. "I'm still spinning, it's amazing."


"I love Wimbledon, and I love the people here. ? This court is the best in the world." His seventh title f in eight years f equals a 19th-century record set by Britain's William Renshaw.


The 28-year-old clambered into the stands to hug his parents Georgia and Sam who were witnessing, for the first time, their son winning a Grand Slam title.


"It means so much to me that my parents were here today," said Sampras.


The top seed showed just why he has won 53 of his last 54 matches at the All England Club, coming back from a set and 4-1 down in the second set tiebreak to power past Rafter.


"The way the match was going I felt like I had let it slip away," he said. "From serving at 4-1 down in the second tiebreak I went from feeling like I was going to lose the match to feeling like I would win the match in about two minutes."


Rafter, twice U.S. Open champion, knew he had blown a big chance. "I had my opportunities early on, but when you play a great champion like Pete, you've got to take them."


Having looked all but beaten in the second-set tiebreak, and with many in the crowd writing him off, Sampras roared back and displayed the fighting qualities that have seen him dominate the sport for the past decade.


The rain-affected match finally got underway one hour late and spanned almost six hours.


Going into the match, Sampras led 12th seed Rafter 9-4 in previous matches, but the Australian had won three of their last four and the only Grand Slam match they played f the 1998 U.S. Open semifinal.


Nothing could separate the pair in their first grasscourt clash and, after two interruptions for rain, the opening set entered a tiebreak.


Sampras missed a set-point at 6-5 when he miscued a passing shot, and Rafter earned a set-point of his own at 7-6 with an ace.


Sampras saved it with an ace and used another one to reach his second set point. He failed to convert that one, too, and Rafter eventually converted on his fourth set-point when Sampras double-faulted to lose the tiebreak 12-10.


The second set followed a similar pattern, and two early breaks in the tiebreak saw Rafter lead it 4-1.


But a forehand volley into the net, a Rafter double fault and simple cross-court forehand dumped into the net handed the momentum straight back to Sampras and he snatched it, punching a forehand volley away to level matters 7-5 in the tiebreak.


Rafter's serve was losing its edge, and Sampras grabbed the first break of the match after two hours 12 minutes of play.


A Rafter forehand volley into the net gave Sampras a 3-2 lead, and the frustrated Australian smashed his racquet down in fury. With his nose in front at last, Sampras didn't put a foot wrong and served out to love 6-4.


Rafter sensed he had missed his chance and allowed himself to be broken again in the fifth and seventh games of the fourth set as Sampras reached out for his place in history.


Three missed backhands handed him three championship points and he took it on his first.


"This is my home away from home," he said. "I have grown to love this place. ? I will always come back here even when I am finished with this game.


"I'll come back and sit in the Royal Box to watch some others sweat it out."