As we approach this year's U.S. Open finals, we count down the five best tussles for the title. (Disagree? Comment below.)
1995: (2) Pete Sampras d. (1) Andre Agassi, 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5
The world's top two squared off in a blockbuster match of Grand Slam titans as Australian Open champion Agassi faced Wimbledon winner Sampras, contesting his third Grand Slam final of the year. This second final in their U.S. Open title-match trilogy showcased some of their most memorable exchanges.
Playing near the peak of their powers, the archrivals engaged in one of the most dramatic rallies in U.S. Open history—a 22-shot slugfest on set point of the opener that escalated into stirring running rally. Both men amped up the velocity and intensity of their shots, repelling would-be winners with explosive replies. Relive a dazzling set point at 32:22 of the video above. A jaw-dropping rally concluded with a Sampras backhand winner and clenched fist as the crowd erupted in an roaring ovation.
That one point was the turning point. Sampras sensed an emotional TKO.
"I remember the set point at 5-4—that rally was critical and took a lot of wind out of Andre's sails," Sampras told TENNIS.com. "The buzz around that match was huge. It was a big event, not only for tennis, but for sports. Andre was my biggest rival, [it was] two Americans playing the U.S. Open final, so it was very exciting. Without a doubt, it was one of the biggest matches of my career."
Agassi dominated the North American summer season, commanding the hard courts as if patrolling his back yard. Straddling the baseline and spitting back brilliant returns, Agassi was riding a 26-match winning streak into the final, including a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 triumph over Sampras in the Montreal final weeks earlier.
Sampras' serve is his signature shot and his first delivery was the dominant shot in the match. Facing the world's best returner, the second-seeded Sampras slammed 24 aces, dropped just nine points on first serve, and saved four of six break points.
While Agassi delivered some of his most dazzling moments at the Open, Sampras had his number in New York. The 14-time Grand Slam champion beat Agassi in all three of their U.S. Open finals—in 1990, '95, and his 2002 farewell final—and won all four Flushing Meadows meetings with Agassi, who later conceded the '95 final was an emotionally devastating experience.
"It was a heartbreaker," Agassi said. "I've never felt more lonely on a court or more disappointed in the game."
It was one match, but it had major repercussions on their careers.
"Agassi had dominated the summer and had won four tournaments in a row and 26 consecutive matches leading up to his crucial meeting with Sampras," tennis historian Steve Flink, author of The Greatest Tennis Matches of the Twentieth Century told TENNIS.com. "Sampras had been priming for this showdown and the majors were all that mattered to him. Sampras knew that the entire year had come down to this one moment and he was determined not to waste it. It was one of his classic clutch performances and it carried him on into the next year with conviction. Agassi was shattered by the loss and it essentially ruined him for two years."