NEW YORK — The Pete Sampras of old, who tore through a daunting draw at the U.S. Open, merely looked like an old Pete Sampras in Sunday's final against young Lleyton Hewitt.
While Sampras was tentative and lethargic, Hewitt seemed to run down every shot and coolly ripped one winner after another to earn his first Grand Slam title, 7-6 (4), 6-1, 6-1.
The final was Hewitt's first and Sampras' 17th, but the less experienced 20-year-old Australian was much more energetic. After consecutive wins against former champions Pat Rafter, Andre Agassi and Marat Safin, Sampras appeared to have nothing left for his second match in barely 24 hours.
While Hewitt was more relentless than a ball machine, Sampras had just five winners and 38 unforced errors. He won only half the points when he went to the net as Hewitt passed him with increasing ease.
The rout was reminiscent of Sampras' loss to a young Safin in last year's final and is certain to renew talk of his decline, despite the impressive run to the final. Although Sampras, 30, bristles at retirement speculation and says he wants to play at least another five years, it's increasingly evident he can't sustain his former level through a two-week tournament.
This is the first year since 1992 he has failed to win a major championship. He has gone 18 tournaments without a title since 2000 Wimbledon, when he broke the record for men's Grand Slam singles titles with No. 13.
For the second year in a row, he came up one win shy of a record-tying fifth Open men's title.
One thing Sampras can still do is size up an opponent. He has long been among Hewitt's biggest boosters, touting him as a future Grand Slam champ, and now the tenacious golden-haired retriever has made the breakthrough.