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Drop shots

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2002


MAYBE NOT DONE YET: Maybe a trip to New York is what Pete Sampras needs to revive his sagging career.

MAYBE NOT DONE YET: Maybe a trip to New York is what Pete Sampras needs to revive his sagging career.

In 13 U.S. Open appearances, Sampras has four titles (the last in 1996) and finished second three times. Twelve years after becoming the youngest champion in Open history, the 31-year-old's best days appear to have passed. But that's what folks thought last year before he became the first to beat three former Open champions on his way to the final, in which he lost to Lleyton Hewitt.

"I think there's a lot of life left in him," ESPN commentator Cliff Drysdale said. "I don't see any indication from him that he's ready to pack it up. He's already sort of written this year off, I think, in his own mind, with the exception of the Open. I can't write off anybody who has played the last two U.S. Open finals."

Sampras, ranked No. 17, has won a record 13 Grand Slam titles but is 20-16 this year.

KING AND QUEEN OF NYC: Since the Open era began in 1968, Jimmy Connors with five (1974, '76, '78, '82, '83) and Chris Evert with six (1975-78, '80, '82) have won the most Open titles.

PICK A SURFACE, ANY SURFACE: In the 1970s the Open was contended on grass and clay at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills. The event was moved to the hard-court surface of the USTA National Tennis Center, its current site, in 1978.

LASTING TRIBUTE: Five years ago today, the USTA dedicated Arthur Ashe Stadium with a ceremony featuring Arthur Ashe's widow, Jeanne Moutassamy Ashe, Whitney Houston and 38 former champions. Ashe died in 1993 at 49 of pneumonia, a complication of AIDS. He was the only black man to win Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open. He fought discrimination as a player and spent the final year of his life trying to broaden public awareness of AIDS.

MUST SEE: The Open's official Web site(www.usopen.org) has a video library that includes clips from championship matches involving Ashe, Connors, Evert, Steffi Graf, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe and Sampras.

ODDS AND ENDS: Hewitt can become the first man to win consecutive Opens since Patrick Rafter (1997-98). Venus Williams attempts to win her third consecutive title, something not achieved since Evert won four straight in the late '70s. ... Right-handers have won 95 men's titles, and left-handers have won 24. For the women, right-handers hold a 106-7 championship lead.

-- Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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