At the turn of the millennium, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras were still the main force of American men’s tennis, although they certainly needed some fresh blood to keep their domination. As we all know, that never happened, but there was one name who could compete with the world’s best players in the following decade, world no.
1 and 2003 US Open champion Andy Roddick. In 1999, the 17-year-old Roddick won Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, conquered the Australian Open and the US Open in 2000 and finished his junior career with another title at the Crandon Park in December.
Earlier that season, Andy made his Masters 1000 debut in Miami, losing in the second round to Andre Agassi and almost making the top-100 a year later after winning three Challenger titles, heading to Crandon Park with some big goals in 2001.
Equipped with a booming serve and steady groundstrokes, Andy scored easy wins against Harel Levy and a former world no. 1 Marcelo Rios to set up the mouth-watering third-round encounter against the defending champion Pete Sampras.
The legend came to Miami after losing the Indian Wells final to Andre Agassi, seeking his first title since Wimbledon last year. It wasn’t to happen in Miami either, as he lost to the youngster 7-6, 6-3 in an hour and 18 minutes, completely outplayed by his opponent in every element outside the serving department.
Roddick was by far the better player from the baseline, taming his groundstrokes nicely and keeping the pressure on Pete with an excellent performance on the return that gave him two breaks of serve. Sampras won half of the points with service winners alone, but that wasn’t enough to topple Andy, who did just about everything right outside that lone break he suffered immediately after breaking Sampras in the first set.
Pete struggled to find the first serve in the opening set, but once he got it in the second, it was already too late, as Andy had a set and a break lead that he safely carried home. Roddick served at 72%, blasted 26 service winners and dropped only 13 points behind his initial shot to give Sampras one break chance.
On the other hand, Pete had 27 unreturned serves. Still, he had nothing to back up good serving and defend his games more efficiently, hitting 12 winners from the field (only two from his forehand) while Andy counted to 19, six of those with his backhand that worked like a charm on that day, especially on the return.
Sampras sprayed 16 unforced errors, missing equally from both wings, while Roddick stayed on just eight, controlling his shots’ pace to avoid easy mistakes and mount the pressure on the other side of the net. The older American made more forced errors (10-5) and five double faults compared to Andy’s four, which couldn’t make the difference.
In 2001, Andy Roddick took down Pete Sampras in straight sets in Miami.
Overall, Roddick had 45 winners and only 17 mistakes, while Sampras stood on a 39-31 ratio, decent but not enough to take at least a set. As was expected from two giant serves, it was a fast and fluid match with 40% of all the points finished with a service winner and almost 85% that landed in the shortest range up to four strokes!
Only three exchanges lasted over eight shots, and just 17 had between five and eight strokes. Almost nothing could separate them there (11-9 for Roddick), and Andy distanced himself from Pete in those shortest exchanges up to four shots, dominating 65-47 to earn the first top-5 win of his young career.
We already said they had an almost identical number of service winners. Roddick made such a huge gap in those quick points besides that, dominating with the first groundstroke after the initial shot and firing no less than eight return winners!
Sampras kicked off the action with three service winners, and Roddick hit three of his own in game two, which was extremely important for his confidence in the encounter’s early stage. Andy earned a break in game three after a return winner and three errors from Pete, who put himself in a tough position after just a few minutes, considering how well Roddick served.
The older American got robbed in the fourth game’s opening point but managed to hang in and break back despite two game points for Roddick, hitting a backhand winner for a break chance and converting it after Roddick’s weak volley to level the score at 2-2.
Pete struggled to find the first serve but fired four winners in game five and moved 30-0 ahead on the return in the next one after Andy’s two double faults. Nonetheless, Roddick won the next four points to overcome the deficit and keep his serve intact, reaching four deuces in the next game without creating a break chance.
Pete needed seven winners to make a hold, six directly from his serve, but Andy was there to fight for every point, prolonging the game with three return winners and only missing those break opportunities. The youngster held in game eight for 4-4 and missed an easy backhand that could have given him a break chance in the next one before Sampras moved 5-4 ahead with his 15th service winner.
From 30-15 down in the tenth game, Roddick hit three winners to stay in touch, and they both hit three winners in games 11 and 12 to set up a tie break. Pete opened it with a double fault and missed a smash in the fourth point to find himself 4-0 down, allowing Andy to take the breaker 7-1 after a forehand error.
Carried by this momentum, the youngster held with four winners at the start of the second set and made the crucial move in game two when he broke Pete for a 2-0 lead. Sampras had only two service winners, which wasn’t enough after an unstable performance from the baseline, allowing Roddick to steal his serve with two winners from the court and one directly from the return and move in front when Pete missed a volley at the net.
Andy confirmed the break with three service winners in game three, and Sampras got his name on the scoreboard with four unreturned serves a few minutes later, reducing the deficit to 3-1 and trying to pull the break back.
Firing from all cylinders, Roddick gained a 4-1 lead with four winners, and the servers were on a roll in the next couple of games, leaving Andy serving for the victory at 5-3. Sampras won two points in five return games and couldn’t do anything in that last one, allowing Andy to celebrate his biggest triumph with the second straight hold at love.