- The Washington Times - Friday, September 6, 2002

NEW YORK Boris Becker said it best.

Sitting in on the broadcast booth during last night's cross-generational showdown between Pete Sampras and Andy Roddick, the German great was asked if he had any advice for the young American.

"Get the [heck] out of the stadium," Becker said with a laugh.

In an emphatic victory for old age, guile and assorted hair restoration products, Sampras swamped Roddick with stunning ease, notching a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 U.S. Open quarterfinal victory at Arthur Ashe stadium.

With the win, Sampras advances to his third consecutive Open semifinal, where he will face No. 24 seed Sjeng Schalken, a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2) quarterfinal winner over No. 28 seed Fernando Gonzalez.

"This is what I play for," said Sampras, a four-time Open champion. "My form has gotten better as the tournament has gone on. My confidence is there. I've got my serve going. I'm putting pressure on guys. I've got some energy out there."

At 20, Roddick is younger, swifter and livelier than the 31-year-old Sampras; tellingly, he has more hair. But Sampras owns 13 Grand Slam titles to Roddick's zero, and from start to finish he blitzed his would-be successor.

Deft volleys. Sharp backhands. Untouchable serves. The trademark running forehand. Everything Sampras looked new again, as if preserved in amber.

The old master belted 13 aces, hit 43 winners and broke the shell-shocked Roddick four times. He even won two-thirds of his second serve, a ludicrous proposition for a player who lost to journeyman George Bastl at Wimbledon just two months ago.

"I believe that I still have it," Sampras said. "I've had moments of struggling with the confidence this year, but I know I can get it back pretty quickly."

The carnage commenced on Roddick's first service game, when Sampras put away a triple break point with a backhand volley down the line. From there, he attacked the net at every opportunity, pressuring Roddick's so-so backhand.

Serving for the first set, Sampras fired a second-serve winner down the center line; on match point, he tapped a soft drop-volley just out of Roddick's reach.

"He played well," Roddick said. "He played a lot better than I did. I don't think any of the players doubt that he's capable of great tennis still. He always backs it up."

For his part, Roddick looked utterly out of sorts. Hampered by a bruised left toe, his footwork was tentative; frustrated by Sampras' play, he spent an ample amount of time sniping at chair umpire Tony Nimmons, punctuating one exchange with a snide "you're the greatest."

Facing a break point at 4-2 in the second set, Roddick dumped an errant shot into the net. His spiky 'do topping a look of total exasperation, he tossed his racket to the ground in disgust.

"It's a learning experience," said Roddick, who lost to eventual champion Lleyton Hewitt in last year's quarterfinals. "I watched what I should be doing on big points. I'm trying to soak it up. I think I'll have my moment here someday."

While the afternoon quarterfinal between Schalken and Gonzalez enjoyed less hype than Sampras-Roddick, the match itself was far more compelling, a hard-fought clash of contrasting styles.

An ultra-fit Dutchman who nearly upset Hewitt in this year's Wimbledon quarterfinals, Schalken plays a steady, unerring game. Even his service motion rigid posture, a miniscule knee bend, feet that barely leave the ground drips with understated consistency.

Gonzalez, on the other hand, has risen this season from No. 135 in the world to the top 30 on the strength of his teutonic, crackling strokes. For the 22-year-old Chilean, high-risk tennis isn't the term; it's more like zero-sum.

(Really: For the match, Gonzalez tallied 12 aces, 12 double faults, 73 winners and 73 unforced errors. And no, we're not making that up).

"Sometimes [Gonzalez] was hitting winners, then all of the sudden he hits one ball in the stands, then he hits three winners again," Schalken said. "That was very tough."

As such, the match came down to a simple question: Who would crack first? In the first and fourth sets, it was Gonzalez's daring that captured a pair of tiebreakers; in the second and third, Schalken who lost a single break on the afternoon held serve while breaking Gonzalez.

The fifth was more of the same. Gonzalez unleashed a 130-mph blur during his first service game, his fastest serve of the match. With Schalken on serve, he crushed an untouchable runaround forehand winner; on the very next point, Gonzalez hit the exact same shot into the tape.

For his part, Schalken stuck to his strategy, mixing up his shots, dominating on serve the Dutchman won 94 of his 125 first serve points and forcing Gonzalez to hit winners.

"I [knew] that if I get in the point every time, then he will start to feel the pressure," Schalken said.

In the fifth set tiebreaker, Gonzalez finally unraveled. Down 1-0, he mis-hit four straight balls a double fault, a return long, a forehand into the net and a wild forehand that went 30 feet in the air en route to a 6-0 deficit.

"If I'm going to lose a match, I'm gonna lose it like today," Gonzalez said. "Trying to win, go, go for it."

On match point at 6-2, Gonzalez cranked another forehand long. Schalken raised his arms in triumph, ecstatic to reach the first Grand Slam semifinal of his career.

"I didn't expect this, to be in the semis," Schalken said. "I never thought I would have the game to beat those power players. It feels very good that I actually am [able] with my steady, consistent play to get to such a high level."


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