November 01, 2000

A Tsar is Born



On September 10, 2000, in a devastating display of poise and power, 20-year-old Marat Safin unseated Pete Sampras to become the first Russian ever to win the US Open and the youngest Grand Slam winner since Sampras took his first Grand Slam title (of 13 to date) at the US Open in 1990. Indeed, the victory put Safin front and center of a new generation of tennis stars; in Russia he was proclaimed “The New Tsar of Russian Tennis.”

When Safin’s last passing shot breezed by Sampras, the 6’4” Russian raised his hand aloft in triumph, smiled a radiant smile and looked up to the sky, as if seeking confirmation from heaven that his victory was not a dream. He kneeled down on the hard green court, kissed the ground, then clambered up into the stands to embrace the handful of supporters who had come to cheer him on.

Safin had been singularly calm and calculating in his straight-set (6:4, 6:3, 6:3) obliteration of Sampras. He made very few forced errors and was in complete command of the court, repeatedly driving passing shots down the line and never letting Sampras get a toe-hold at the net. In short, Safin out Sampras-ed Sampras. No former champion had lost so badly and so quickly at the US Open since Jimmy Connor was routed by Manual Orantes (6:4, 6:3, 6:3) in 1975.


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