Every morning during the U.S. Open, Richard Pagliaro will take a look back at a significant match that took place on that calendar day.
September 5, 2001: Pete Sampras d. Andre Agassi, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5) (Quarterfinals)
Arch rivals reunited to produce a pulsating match in which serve—and spirit—were unbreakable.
As the pair prepared to play the fourth-set tiebreak, more than 20,000 fans erupted in a rousing standing ovation that began about 12:07 a.m. and spanned about a minute—watch it at the three-hour, 27-minute mark of the video above—a spine-tingling crescendo of appreciation for two champions who produced a classic match.
Minutes after that resounding roar, Agassi's forehand fell into the top of the net, and after three hours and 32 minutes of magnificence, Sampras prevailed.
“It was awesome, it really was," said Sampras, who raised his record against his rival to 18-14 in snapping a three-match losing streak to Agassi. "The appreciation the crowd gave us was kind of a chilling moment to have the crowd kind of stand on their feet and just applaud what we're doing out here. It was fun to be a part of it. I thought going into the match 'This could be a classic.' And I think tonight it was."
It was a contrast in styles and personalities, pitting Sampras' serve-and-volley attack against the game's greatest returner in Agassi. The contrast was complete right down to their clothes: Agassi took the court clad in black, while Sampras wore a traditional all-white.
Agassi, who swept a young Roger Federer in the prior round, delivered one of his best serving performances in striking 18 aces and saving all six break points he faced. Sampras slammed 25 aces and saved the three break points he encountered. Sampras extended his streak of holding serve in the tournament to 71 games and raised his record to 17-0 in night matches at the U.S. Open. Agassi had owned a 49-1 record when winning the first set in U.S. Open, but the game's greatest server changed that.