— Pete Sampras won a title and made history.
An uncharacteristically emotional Sampras defeated No. 12 seed Patrick Rafter 6-7 (10), 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-2 in a serve-and-volley classic that gave Sampras his seventh Wimbledon title, tying him with Willie Renshaw.
The grass court specialist, who is widely considered the greatest to ever play at Wimbledon, also broke Australian Roy Emerson’s record for the most Grand Slam singles victories with 13.
After hitting a service winner on match point as dusk began to descend at the All England Club, Sampras threw his arms in the air and began to cry. He then climbed into the stands to hug his tearful father and mother, who had never seen him win a Grand Slam title in person. Venus Williams also had joined her family in the stands after winning the women’s title Saturday.
“It meant so much to me,” he said after accepting the winner’s trophy. “My parents are here today. It’s so important to me they could share it with me.
“I love Wimbledon, I love playing here. … This is the best court in the world.”
Rain-Soaked First Set
Sampras won the match in the way he always has: with missile-like serves. His first serves averaged 124 mph and reached a top speed of 133 mph, and he notched 27 aces to Rafter’s 12.
Rafter was unable to break Sampras’ serve, something most opponents have been unable to do at Wimbledon. In seven Wimbledon finals, Sampras has lost his serve only four times in 131 service games.
Rain delayed the first set three times, once postponing the start for an hour and twice disrupting play. The first time the set was stopped for 25 minutes with Rafter leading 4-3. After 10 minutes of play, play was stopped again, this time for two and a half hours with the set tied 4-4.
When play resumed, Rafter — a two-time U.S. Open champion playing in his first Wimbledon final — held on to win after Sampras failed to convert three set points. But that would be Rafter’s sole set win.
After dropping the first set 6-7 (10), Sampras won the second 7-6 (5). The top seed was down 4-1 in the second set tiebreaker but won five straight points to take control 6-4. A forehand volley caught Rafter flat-footed and gave Sampras the win.
Though Sampras had more unforced errors — 79 to Rafter’s 55 in the match — his blistering serve gave him easier wins in the third and fourth sets.
Winning Streak Continues
The victory extended Sampras’ dominance on the hallowed grass of Wimbledon to 53-1 over eight years. His sole loss came in the 1996 quarterfinals to Richard Krajicek.
With the win, Sampras improved to 10-4 lifetime against Rafter and extended his Wimbledon winning streak to 28 straight matches. Bjorn Borg holds the record with a 41-match winning streak at Wimbledon.
Sampras, who did not face any seeded players en route to the final, was the first to do that since 1981 when John McEnroe beat Bjorn Borg in the final.
The rain delays threatened to postpone the conclusion of the match until Monday. The last time a men’s final was pushed back a day was in 1988 when Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker managed only five games on Sunday. Edberg completed a four-set victory Monday.
The day’s other highly anticipated match was the women’s doubles final, which was postponed until Monday due to the delays in the men’s final. The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, will face Julie Halard-Decugis of France and Japan’s Ai Sugiyama.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.