— The big story at Wimbledon on Saturday was Venus Williams winning her first Grand Slam title. The buzz today is whether Pete Sampras can win a men’s record 13th.
Top-seeded Sampras is playing No. 12 seed Patrick Rafter in the men’s Wimbledon final today. The 28-year-old Sampras will attempt to win his 13th Grand Slam title, which would break the men’s record he shares now with Australian Roy Emerson.
Sampras has said it would be sweet to break that record at Wimbledon, where he has literally held court this decade. The American grass court specialist has a 52-1 record there and won titles in 1993-95 and 1997-99. He stands to equal Willie Renshaw’s record of seven Wimbledon titles if he can defeat Rafter.
But Rafter, a serve-and-volley specialist like Sampras, has other plans.
Rafter Eyes First Wimbledon Title
Rebounding from shoulder surgery nine months ago, Rafter pushed aside thoughts of retirement and won a tournament in the Netherlands last month, a grass court test before Wimbledon.
Sampras, the owner of 62 career singles titles, holds a 9-4 career record against Rafter, but the Australian has won three of their last four meetings. Rafter also is coming off an emotional high after beating No. 2 Andre Agassi in a five-set thriller Friday in the semifinal.
If Rafter, 27, wins today’s final, he would become the first player ever to beat both Agassi and Sampras in a Grand Slam tournament. His parents are flying to England from Brisbane, Australia, in hopes of watching him do just that.
Still, Rafter knows he has a tough road ahead.
“You don’t want to play Pete at any time,” Rafter said, “but especially not at Wimbledon.”
Sampras: The Historical Fave
The 28-year-old Sampras, who is struggling with tendinitis above his left ankle, beat Belarus qualifier Vladimir Votchkov in straight sets Friday to earn a return date to the final.
He has yet to play a seeded player in the tournament and will face his toughest opponent in Rafter, a two-time U.S. Open champion in search of his first triumph at the All England Club.
But if history is any indication, Sampras could very well be receiving the winner’s cup this afternoon. His one loss in 53 career matches at Wimbledon came at the hands of Richard Krajicek, who beat him in three sets in the 1996 quarterfinal.
In Wimbledon finals, Sampras is 6-0, beating Agassi, Boris Becker, Jim Courier, Cedric Pioline and Goran Ivanisevic twice.
Now he confronts Rafter — and history.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.