FOUR-time winner Sampras faces first-time finalist Hewitt for men's U.S. Open championship

Saturday, September 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Pete Sampras bids for a 14th Grand Slam championship Sunday at the U.S. Open against Australian Lleyton Hewitt, who is playing in a major final for the first time.

Both advanced with straight-set victories Saturday. Sampras won his semifinal 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 over Russian Marat Safin, the defending champion who beat him in straight sets in last year's final.

Hewitt, 20, wiped out Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 in the most one-sided semifinal in U.S. Open men's history.

Sampras came into the tournament determined to win it for the fifth time. Whispers suggested the 30-year-old American's career was in decline after going 14 months without a title.

His task was complicated by the draw which put him in the toughest quarter of the tournament. But he beat two-time champion Patrick Rafter in the fourth round, and in the quarterfinals won over Andre Agassi in a classic four-set match, each set ending in a tiebreak.

Sampras raised his game a couple of levels against all three.

``Everything is clicking at the same time,'' he said. ``I've just got to keep it going one more day.''

Now it is on to Hewitt, in very much the same position as Safin was a year ago _ a kid thrust into the championship showdown against the most successful Grand Slam player in history.

``He's a young guy that is a great player who's going to contend for majors for many, many years,'' Sampras said.