1994 – 1995, Australian Open

Australian Open, Melbourne
January 17, 1994; 128 Draw (16 seeded) – $2,646,694; Surface – Hard 

I see resemblance in tennis elite at the beginning of 1994 to that what happened ten years later. When the Australian Open 1994 started, there were three players seemingly playing at very similar level (Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Stich). Ten years later we can apply it towards a trio: Federer, Roddick, Ferrero. Both in 1994 and 2004, the Australian Open champions – Sampras and Federer respectively, established their supremacy for many years to come over the toughest challengers… Relatively speaking it was the last good big event for the most successful players at majors of the previous decade – 30-year-old Mats Wilander, and four years older Ivan Lendl, former champions of the tournament, reached the Grand Slam fourth round for the last time in their careers.
All scorelines
First round: Rob Gloster

Jim Courier rallied to avoid a first-round upset at the Australian Open and perhaps took a step toward conquering his biggest opponent – himself. Courier repeatedly battled from behind in a 4 hour, 42 minute slug-fest  with fellow American Bryan Shelton (very long match given the scoreline and the fact Shelton was a serve-and-volleyer), keeping alive his chances of becoming the first non-Australian man to win three straight Melbourne titles. Courier, seeded third, had to win five of the final six games Monday to escape with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-4 victory over Shelton, ranked 99th in the world. For Courier, who was listless in several matches late last year and even showed his lack of interest by reading a book during one changeover (it happened in Frankfurt-Masters ’93), it was a chance to break out of his lethargy. “It’s good, because it was an encouraging sign that I was out there and I kept fighting all the way through,” Courier said. “I could have gone out real easily there, but I didn’t hide, I came out and played.” Courier [3] came to Melbourne having lost his last five matches! Top-seeded Pete Sampras had a much easier time, blasting 23 aces in a 6-4, 6-0, 7-6(5) defeat of Australian Joshua Eagle. Also winning first-round matches were fifth-seeded Goran Ivanisevic, who delighted several hundred flag-waving Croatian fans with a 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 defeat of Alex O’Brien. Courier and Shelton gave an intriguing display of power tennis, with Shelton providing the perfect counter-punch to Courier’s strong serve and forehand. Shelton constantly blocked back Courier’s shots, then moved to the net for winners. Shelton came to the net 153 times, compared to just 33 for Courier, and had 81 winners (52 %). But he also had 90 unforced errors, nearly three times as many as Courier, as he constantly took risks. “I didn’t want to play safe today, that wasn’t my game plan,” said Shelton, who glared at Courier several times after pounding winners. “I was always trying to take it to him.” That strategy got Shelton in position to win the match. He led 3:1 in the final set and had three break points to take a 4:1 lead, but made several costly mistakes that allowed Courier to get back into the match. Courier rallied to win that game and then broke Shelton’s serve. MaliVai Washington, his opponent spraying wayward shots off the court, upset second seed Michael Stich on Tuesday in the first round of the Australian Open. Stich, a semifinalist in Melbourne last year and the No. 2 player in the world, was forced into repeated errors at the net by Washington’s low returns. Washington, an American ranked 26th in the world, defeated the German 7-6(4), 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. He lost his serve only in the third set. “It’s not like he won the match,” Stich said. “I gave it to him.” Three years earlier they met in the first round of the Australian Open too, and Stich won in five sets coming back from a tie-break at two-sets-to-love deficit. Petr Korda’s six-week streak as the hottest tennis player in the world came to a screeching halt at the Australian Open yesterday when he lost to Sweden’s Thomas Enqvist [65] in straight sets in the first round. Korda, who claimed the $1.6 million first prize at last month’s Grand Slam Cup by beating Pete Sampras and Michael Stich on successive days, was beaten 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 by the 19-year-old Enqvist – and the Czech could offer few excuses. “Since I played Pete Sampras in Sydney last Friday, I lost my timing completely,” (Sampras won their semifinal match 2x 6-3) said Korda, the eighth seed. “I have learned in my life that you go very slowly up, but you can go very quickly down. My eyes were very slow. Normally I return much better than I did today, but he really deserved it.” Enqvist reached the Final 16 at the U.S. Open last September, beating Andre Agassi in the first round, but is ranked 54 places below Korda. However, he was by far the more dominating player of the two, serving hard and making the most of Korda’s problems during the two-hour match. “It was equal to beating Agassi,” said Enqvist, a former top junior. “Even if Petr wasn’t playing as he can, it is encouraging to know that I can beat top players.” Only in the third set, which began with four consecutive breaks of serve, did the Swede’s control begin to waver. But he proved irresistible in the final tie-break, taking it 7/2 after winning the last five points in succession. Illness and injury claimed three early victims in the men’s singles on the tournament’s second day, with Sweden’s Christian Bergstrom, German Bernd Karbacher and American Steve Bryan all retiring in mid-match. Bergstrom withdrew in the second set of his match with Daniel Vacek of the Czech Republic suffering from stomach trouble. Karbacher was forced out by a recurrence of a hamstring strain against New Zealander Brett Steven. Bryan was unable to complete a set against Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov because of an eye injury. The Russian, winner of the Australian hardcourt title in Adelaide earlier this month, now plays the top-seed Sampras .

Second round: Rob Gloster

They traded blistering groundstrokes for more than three hours, slamming shots all over the court and staggering each other with their power. And after Pete Sampras had barely outlasted Yevgeny Kafelnikov in a dramatic fifth set today to reach the third round of the Australian Open, they marvelled at what they had done. The top-seeded Sampras won 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, 1-6, 9-7 on center court, raising his arms in triumph after the final point. “I mean, I was trying everything – staying back, coming in – and he was coming up with good shots,” Sampras said. “It was a big scare for me, I could easily have lost that match.” Kafelnikov, ranked 60th in the world, kept Sampras on the defensive with powerful forehands and a whip-like two-handed backhand, but was slowed by cramps at the end. He broke Sampras ‘ serve to tie the match 4:4 in the final set, then had to break again to stay in the match at 7:7. But Sampras followed that with his second straight service break, and then had two of his 17 aces while serving out the match. “Of course it hurts, because I was two points away from the greatest victory of my life,” said Kafelnikov, a 19-year-old playing only his second Grand Slam tournament. “I’m going to go have some dinner in an Italian restaurant to forget the match, or else I will go crazy.” As he led 5:4 (30-all) in the decider, he made a backhand error trying to play a winner down the line. ”Peter was running from corner to corner,” Kafelnikov said with a grin. “But finally, on the important points, I made some mistakes.” Sampras felt fortunate to have survived the match, which started in the midday heat and ended in the cool of the evening. ”The guy is good and he’s young, he has some of the best groundies I’ve ever played against, and I was just pretty lucky to get the right points at the right time,” Sampras said. “He just wasn’t letting up. He kept on coming after me.” Jared Palmer lost 6-8 in the 5th set to Stephane Simian, Palmer had won his first round match 8-6 in the 5th (over David Prinosil). No. 3 Jim Courier, seeking his third straight Australian Open title, advanced with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Marcos Ondruska. Other men’s seeds to reach the third round were No. 5 Goran Ivanisevic, No. 10 Magnus Gustafsson, No. 11 Marc Rosset, No. 13 Wayne Ferreira and No. 15 Ivan Lendl, a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 winner over fellow American Richey Reneberg. Frenchman Henri Leconte passed out during the fourth set of his match (he was losing 6-1, 6-7, 4-6, 2-4)  because of heat exhaustion and was taken to a hospital for observation for two hours. The tournament doctor said Leconte seemed fine an hour after the match, which he defaulted to Martin Damm of the Czech Republic.

Third round: Rob Gloster

The first game took 10 minutes. The first set lasted 58 minutes. By the time Jim Courier won the tedious match, fans were huddled under blankets on a summer’s night at the Australian Open. The third-seeded Courier out-slugged Sweden’s Nicklas Kulti 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(1) Friday in a match that lasted 2 hours, 41 minutes, but seemed longer. The baseliners traded jabs until one got sloppy, or into position for a winner. “We were just grinding, grinding, grinding all the time until someone hit a good shot and forced a mistake,” Courier said. The match was characterized by long rallies that anesthetized the shivering fans on a 54 degree night. The seventh game of the match lasted 21 minutes and 28 points. It included 11 deuces. Courier, who was serving, finally won it to go up 5:2. Top-seeded Pete Sampras joined Courier in the fourth round with a 7-5, 6-1, 1-6, 6-1 victory over Stephane Simian [77] of France. Simian advanced to the last 32 at majors four times, twice he was beaten at this stage by Samprasin four sets winning the 3rd set (previously at the US Open 1991). His next opponent will be 15th-seeded Ivan Lendl, who defeated Paul Haarhuis 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4. Sampras, who beat Lendl in the final of the New South Wales Open at Sydney last Sunday (7-6 6-4), is attempting to become only the third man to win Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open in succession. No. 10 Magnus Gustafsson dropped only six games while winning his third-round match and No. 13 Wayne Ferreira also won, but No. 11 Marc Rosset was upset 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 by Grant Stafford and No. 14 Karel Novacek was ousted 6-1, 7-5, 7-5 by Lars Jonsson. Sixth-seeded Thomas Muster also advanced to the fourth round, defeating Guillaume Raoux, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. Muster has not dropped a set in the tournament, and has lost his serve only once in three matches. No. 5 Goran Ivanisevic rallied to defeat Aaron Krickstein, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4, turning the match around after breaking his racket when he slammed it to the court late in the second set. “Every time I break a racket I cool down,” said Ivanisevic, who had 20 aces. “It’s a little expensive.” On Saturday, Mats Wilander made it seem like 1988 all over again. He was back on center court, grinding his way through a five-set victory. His backhand shots skimmed over the net, his lobs floated softly in for winners. The Swede, ranked 322nd in the world and trying to come back from two years of self-imposed tennis exile, rallied from two sets down to defeat Alexander Mronz and set up a fourth-round match against MaliVai Washington. Wilander outlasted Mronz, 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3, in a match that took 4 hours, 18 minutes. “It’s fun to play a match like this, because I was trying to play the way I used to and trying to keep the ball high above the net and making the other guy run a little and grind him down,” he said. “It doesn’t happen often anymore, but it’s still possible against certain players.” Wilander, 29, won the Australian Open three times during the 1980s. In 1988, he was the world’s top player, winning the Australian, French and U.S. Opens. He returned to tennis last April, but had not gotten past the second round of any tournament until this week. The most promising young Australian player, 21-year-old Patrick Rafter [54] suffered a sensational defeat being eliminated by  Xavier Daufresne [125] of Belgium 7-5, 2-6, 1-6, 4-6. For the 25-year-old Daufresne, who’d been a player mainly drifting between Challengers and Satellites, it was just second (and last) Grand Slam tournament, he finished his career on the following year. “I know 25 is late for a breakthrough and my coach and myself both said 1994 is the now-or-never year,” Daufresne said after beating Rafter. In his only previous Grand Slam appearance, Daufresne made the second round of the 1992 French Open. “In all my matches here… it’s been the other man who was the favorite,” he said. “I’ve been the underdog and I like that.” Before Rafter, he had defeated in Melbourne other young guys, who later became the notable players: Thomas Johansson [424, qualifier, Grand Slam debut] and Thomas Enqvist [65]. 

Fourth round: Press-Telegram

The top-seeded Pete Sampras served 19 aces in a 7-6(5), 6-2, 7-6(4) fourth-round victory over 15th-seeded Ivan Lendl, who had 14 aces. Sampras then paid tribute to the player who helped him develop his physical and mental toughness. When he was 17, Sampras went to Lendl’s home in Connecticut to train with the man then ranked No. 2 in the world. “Ivan will go down as one of the greatest of all time,” said Sampras, who rallied from a 4:1 deficit in the final set. “I used to be in awe of him.” ‘No. 5 Goran Ivanisevic also advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(3) defeat of Grant Stafford. MaliVai Washington reached his first Grand Slam tournament quarterfinal by outlasting Mats Wilander in five sets today at the Australian Open. Washington overcame early sloppiness and rallied to win 6-7(7), 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-1 in a center-court battle of attrition that lasted exactly four hours. “I think I was up and down throughout the match,” Washington said. “There were times, especially in the two tiebreakers, where I was making a lot of errors. It’s satisfying to be able to grind through a match like that.” The unseeded American waved to friends in the stands and twice punched his fist into the air after a Wilander backhand shot sailed wide on match point. “He started to go wide and for forehand cross-courts, and it was taking its toll on me,” said Wilander, who won the Australian Open three times during the 1980s and is making a comeback from two years of self-imposed tennis exile. “I feel I had the opportunity to win the match, but I just couldn’t pull it off. There were a couple of points I choked on.” Washington’s quarterfinal opponent will be Todd Martin, whose game nearly wilted in the 102-degree (38 Celsius) afternoon heat. By the time Washington defeated Wilander, the evening temperature had fallen to 66 degrees (18 Celsius). Martin’s feet were burning, his nose was bleeding, and – with his opponent leading by a set and winning 5:2* in the 2nd set – he knew his time was running out. “I knew if I lost that set I’d probably be done,” said Martin, who fought back to win the set in a tiebreaker and defeat Xavier Daufresne in four sets. “I didn’t feel very good at the time and I knew I wouldn’t feel very good in a fifth set.” Martin, covering his head and legs with iced towels during changeovers, beat Daufresne 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-3 in a match that lasted 3 hours, 24 minutes. No. 4 Stefan Edberg also advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Swedish compatriot Lars Jonsson. It is the 10th straight year Edberg has reached the Australian Open quarters. Edberg’s next opponent will be No. 6 Thomas Muster, who rubbed ice on his face during changeovers while defeating No. 12 Alexander Volkov 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. Muster and Volkov met also at the US Open 1993, and the unorthodox Russian took it after a 5-set thriller.

Quarterfinals: Associated Press

While Pete Sampras struggled in the heat and Todd Martin battled the wind, fellow American Jim Courier strolled to a quick victory today at the Australian Open on a sweltering, windswept day. All advanced to the semifinals, but Courier seemed the freshest at the end of his straight-set victory over Goran Ivanisevic. Sweden’s Stefan Edberg later joined the three Americans in the semifinals. Courier, seeded third, overcame two set points in the opening set and then rolled to a 7-6(7), 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 5 Ivanisevic. Courier used sharp ground-strokes to repeatedly pass the Croatian at the net. “I wouldn’t say that I want to play in 100-degree weather every day, but I think if I had to do it I would be able to cope with it better than some,” said Courier, a native of Florida who often practices in California. The victory set up a semifinal meeting with top-seeded Sampras, who overcame a lethargic start and 17 double faults to defeat Magnus Gustafsson of Sweden, 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) in a center-court match that seemed like it was being played in a wind tunnel. The air temperature was 100 degrees and the baking center-court surface registered 126 degrees during the Sampras-Gustafsson match. Combined with winds that reached 36 mph, it made for a less than classic meeting. “We both had a hard time controlling the ball. It was not the best of tennis. I just hung in there,” Sampras said. “It’s like a sauna. You really can’t breathe. It’s more of a stamina match than a tennis match sometimes.” Gustafsson, a clay-court specialist achieved a career-best result then, in Paris he never advanced beyond fourth round, where he played just twice. A few minutes after Sampras won, No. 9 Martin completed a 6-2, 7-6(4), 7-6(5) victory over American compatriot MaliVai Washington on windswept Court 1, where serving became an adventure and plastic beer cups rattled around the mostly empty seats. Martin said the gusts made it seem like he was facing a knuckleball. “The breeze made the tennis a little under par,” Martin said. “It killed my serve, and that’s really one of my biggest weapons. We both had a lot of trouble from the ground just keeping the ball in play.” Washington, playing his first Grand Slam quarterfinal, double-faulted twice in the second-set tiebreaker and once more in the third-set tiebreaker. “I thought I had problems with everything today, not just my forehand – my serve, my backhand and my volleys, too,” Washington said. “I think the whole match was a shocker, to tell you the truth.” Martin will play No. 4 Stefan Edberg, who needed just 96 minutes to defeat No. 6 Thomas Muster of Austria, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in a match interrupted for 30 minutes by a rainstorm that forced officials to close the roof over center court. Courier needed just over two hours to finish off Ivanisevic. Sampras needed 2:50 to win his match, while Martin spent exactly three hours in the sun.

Semifinals: Rob Gloster

Todd Martin undermined Stefan Edberg‘s serve-and-volley game Friday, winning three tiebreakers to set up an all-American final at the Australian Open. Martin, seeded ninth and playing in his first Grand Slam semifinal, defeated the fourth-seeded Swede 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(7), 7-6(4) in 3 hours 50 minutes. Edberg, whose right knee was treated early in the match, was overwhelmed at times by the power of Martin’s backhand returns. “Today I think I believed in myself a little bit more and I did what I had to do,” said Martin, whose best previous Grand Slam performance was the quarterfinals at last summer’s Wimbledon. Martin missed several passing shots by inches in the first set, when Edberg used lobs to strand the American at the net. But those passing shots began hitting during the second set. Martin led the second set 5:3, but lost three straight games before capturing the 12th game and the tiebreaker. Edberg saved three set points in the third-set tiebreaker, including one easy putaway at the net that Martin slammed way long. But Martin prevailed on his fourth set point, passing Edberg with a forehand shot and punching the air in triumph. Martin also won the fourth set in a tiebreaker, though it took four match points to finish off Edberg. On the final point, he slammed an ace down the middle, then hit a ball high into the stands and raised his arms in triumph. Until then, the 23-year-old from Lansing, Mich., never varied from his mild-mannered ways. He apologized after almost hitting a ballboy with a shot, and lifted his finger to his mouth to quiet a spectator who yelled happily after an Edberg double fault. Though the ninth-seeded Martin converted only four of his 17 break points against Edberg, he was at his best in the tiebreakers. Edberg hadn’t any set point in three tie-break sets, as well as three years earlier when he lost in similar fashion to Michael Stich their Wimbledon semifinal (6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-7).  “I returned really well, especially in streaks,” said Martin. “That’s sometimes the best way to do it.” Martin, whose best previous Grand Slam performance before this was the quarterfinals at last summer’s Wimbledon, got stronger as the match went along. Martin en route to the final played eight tie-breakers (record 7-1).
Pete Sampras never lost his serve as he out-slugged Jim Courier in the Australian Open semifinals today and moved into an all-American final against Todd Martin. The top-seeded Sampras ended Courier’s two-year reign as Australian Open champion with a surgically precise 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory in which he lost only 20 points in 15 service games. He did not face a break point until midway through the final set (when it happened he had won 20 straight points on serve!). Sampras pinned down Courier with powerful serves and followed them up with easy winners at the net. He was so dominant that he virtually negated one of Courier’s main weapons – Courier had just four forehand winners in the match. “That’s one of the better matches I’ve played so far in my career,” Sampras said. “Everything really clicked today. I couldn’t play any better.” Courier’s first defeat in Melbourne after 18-match winning streak. Sampras is trying to become the third man ever to win Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open consecutively. The last time it was accomplished was by Roy Emerson in 1964-65. Before that, Don Budge did it in 1937-38.

Final: Matthew Rudy

Pete Sampras brushed aside six first-set break points Sunday and beat Todd Martin 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-4 to win his first Australian Open title (fourth major, 23 titles overall at the time). In winning his third consecutive Grand Slam title, Sampras spoiled Martin’s debut in a major final. At 3:3 in the first set, the ninth-seeded Martin had Sampras down 40/0, but the world’s No. 1 player answered with three huge first serves – including one clocked at 122 miles per hour. At 5-all Martin had another two break points – Sampras responded with a service and volley winners. “The first set was definitely the key,” said Sampras, who won last year’s Wimbledon and U.S. Open. “If he would have won it, the match could have been entirely different.” After taking the first set tiebreak, Sampras put constant pressure on Martin’s serve, breaking the 23-year-old from Lansing, Mich., twice in each of the last two sets (on both sets Sampras had a double break advantage, he had a game point to lead 5:1 in the 2nd set, and led 5:1 ‘deuce’ in the 3rd set). Martin came back with single breaks of his own in each set, but was unable to counter Sampras’ clutch serving. “He was just too good,” said Martin, whose ranking will likely improve from No. 13 to No. 9. “He really deserves everything he’s achieving.” Sampras’ plan was to play a conservative, high-percentage game and let Martin make the mistakes. “I respected his returns and passes, so I stayed back. I just wanted to out-rally him,” Sampras said. “I felt I could compete with him from the baseline.” The heat, oppressive during the week, wasn’t a factor for the final. In mostly cloudy conditions, the temperature hovered around 70. Both Sampras and Martin had played in 115-degree heat earlier in the week. Martin needed to return and pass as well as he did against Stefan Edberg in the semifinals, when he hit 93 winners. He showed flashes of his semifinal form, but could not dictate the tempo of the point with any regularity. Despite the result, Martin felt he proved some things during his two-week stay in Melbourne. “I knew I could do these things,” he said. “I think I convinced some other people, like the press and fans, about my tennis. I hope I can relive some of this again and get to another final.” He did it, but had to wait another five years (US Open ’99). Sampras is the first man to win the Australian Open after winning the previous year’s Wimbledon and U.S. Open. He has now won three of the four Grand Slams at least once in his career. He has yet to win the French Open, and said he considers red clay his toughest challenge. “The next one is going to be the toughest,” Sampras said. “I think I need a couple more years to develop my game for clay.” He never developed well enough though… Stats of the final

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Australian Open, Melbourne
January 16, 1995; 128 Draw (16 seeds) – $2,649,210; Surface – Hard

Tournament remembered for Andre Agassi’s first appearance on a big stage without long hair and what’s more important – his first visit in Melbourne, concluded with an impressive triumph based on a game-style more aggressive and efficient than ever, also Pete Sampras’ emotional breakdown during a match against Jim Courier, when ‘Pistol Pete’ started wheeping at the beginning of the final set concerned about the health of his coach, and former player Tim Gullikson.
All scorelines
First round: Steve Wilstein

He’s a kid with teen-age acne and the body of a god, thunderous serves and lightning-bolt volleys, a million dollars in the bank and millions more to be made. Mark Philippoussis [274] is called the Golden Greek in this city of Greeks, and now the rest of the tennis world knows why. The future of the game may be his for the taking. Stefan Edberg has seen all the big hitters of the past decade, felt the power of the young Boris Becker and the mature Pete Sampras, yet no one he’s faced has edberg_ao95slugged with more raw power from all over the court than this 18-year-old with a Greek name and Australian accent. “He is as powerful as you are going to get,” Edberg said after drawing on all his experience to survive their match, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) 7-5, Monday night at the Australian Open. “He was hitting the ball so hard, I couldn’t even react to some of the shots. It’s lucky they didn’t go through my stomach at some stages.” When Edberg wasn’t ducking or leaping away from shots to his head and body, he spent much of his first match watching balls whiz past him at incredible speeds. Philippoussis hit 10 aces, twice as many as Edberg, and had 52 winners to Edberg’s 38. “I was just being blown away,” Edberg said of the first set. “I was getting blown away a little bit in the second set until I sort of found my way back, hit some good returns and started serving a lot better.” Philippoussis, a wild-card entrant has played one Grand Slam match, winning just four games in the first round of the Australian Open ’94. But there was no shame in falling to the No. 6 Edberg, a two-time Australian Open champion playing in his 47th consecutive Grand Slam tournament a few days before his 29th birthday. “I’m extremely proud of my performance,” Philippoussis said. “That was probably one of the best matches I’ve ever played.” It was all the better coming in his hometown, which boasts the largest Greek population in the world outside Greece.  Ten months afterwards, Philippoussis destroyed Edberg 6-2, 6-0 in Tokyo!  Rain suspended all outdoor matches early Tuesday, but the roof was closed over the stadium to allow Patrick Rafter to complete a 6-3, 1-6, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-hour-7-minute tussle over Jakob Hlasek. Defending champion Pete Sampras won his first-round match on Monday, beating Gianluca Pozzi of Italy 6-3, 6-2, 6-0. Besides the top-seeded Sampras, two other Americans with Grand Slam credentials, fifth-seeded Michael Chang, and ninth-seeded, two-time champion Jim Courier of Miami breezed into the second round. Courier, for whom tennis has turned sweet again after a sour 1994 in which he fell from third to 13th in the ranking, crushed David Rikl, 6-4, 6-0, 7-6(2). ”I’m trying to get back up the mountain,” said Courier, who ended a 17-month title drought in Adelaide two weeks ago. Chang eliminated the first of the 27 Australians entered in Melbourne with a 6-2, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Paul Kilderry, the wild card. “I’m here to defend my title; anything less is simply not good enough,” said the 24-year-old Sampras, for whom title defense has become habitual. Last year he was rewarded on six of seven defense attempts. “Trying to defend a title is something I’ve gotten used to,” he said. “Nobody remembers who comes in second.” Mats Wilander, who won the last of his three Australian Open titles in 1988, was dispatched by Jacco Eltingh of the Netherlands, in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-4. Local favorite Pat Cash, the player who was runner-up to Wilander in 1988, failed to survive his Court 1 encounter with Alex O’Brien, losing, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, to the four-time All-American from Stanford. Boris Becker fell victim once more to the McEnroe conspiracy at the Australian Open, a long-distance and nearly annual intrigue designed to torment the former champion. This time it was Patrick McEnroe who knocked out the No. 3 Becker in the first round Tuesday night, slicing, dicing and icing him 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4) for his biggest win over a seeded player in a Grand Slam event. Three years ago, John McEnroe did the job, beating Becker in the third round here, also in straight sets. The year before that, Patrick gave Becker fits, taking the first set and leading in the second before losing in four sets in the semifinals. The McEnroe brothers spoke last week after Patrick won the first singles title of his career in Sydney. Asked what advice he got from his big brother, Patrick joked, “He said, ‘Serve wide, come in, hit a drop volley winner.'” Actually, that would have been John’s style. Patrick’s way of playing is to stay back, curl backhands at impossible angles, keep the ball alive and let his opponent make mistakes, which is what happened, with Becker spraying 57 unforced errors to Patrick’s 28. “If he played as well as he could, obviously he was going to beat me,” said Patrick, who is ranked No. 65. “But I knew if he mcenroepatrick_ao95was a little bit off, the way I’ve been playing, I had a chance.” Becker didn’t know what happened to him, and he was more than a little bit off all night. He was sometimes 10 feet (3 meters) off the court, trying to blast shots from the baseline instead of taking charge at the net. He got suckered into playing McEnroe’s game and looked bewildered by it. “I seemed to have no timing, no rhythm, especially on my forehand,” Becker said. “And I played against an opponent who won a tournament last week, who was still flying high on his emotions with his first-ever win. He played a great match. He didn’t miss many balls. The opportunities he got, he took.” Andre Agassi‘s first appearance at the Australian Open today was more of an artistic success than a sartorial one. With a purple bandana tightly wrapped around his closely cropped head, and checkered shorts and baggy striped shirt clashing, Agassi would have been defaulted out of any fashion show. But at the National Tennis Center, where it really mattered, Agassi played like a million bucks, even if he didn’t look it. Qualifier Grant Stafford was poorer for the experience, losing to the U.S. Open winner 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in 90 minutes. “Being down here is a reflection of my commitment and sacrifices that I feel need to be made in order to maximize whatever years I may have,” Agassi said. “In the past, it interfered with my priorities, which was to keep a very balanced lifestyle between my professional and my personal life.” Agassi did his best on court. He hit a forehand winner that hit the baseline for his first point, and three points later a service ace gave him the game. He broke Stafford in the next game to go up 3:0 within 10 minutes. His only problem came in the 2nd set when he was down a service break after four games (1:3). But backed by a cheering crowd, Agassi broke Stafford in the next game to even the set at 3:3. “I felt they were right there behind me, which was a nice feeling,” he said. “For as controlled as the match went, I think they stayed pretty excited.” The first two men’s seeds fell on second day, along with steady rain that delayed play on outside courts for about four hours. Germany’s Carl-Uwe Steeb beat fourth-seeded Goran Ivanisevic 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-3 and 12th-seeded Marc Rosset of Switzerland lost to Andrea Gaudenzi of Italy in four sets. “I didn’t know what I was doing out there today,” said Ivanisevic.

Second round: Steve Wilstein

Pete Sampras and Jim Courier, who owned the Australian Open for the past three years, played yesterday as if they got the message: don’t let down. Sampras, the defending champion and top seed, and Courier, who won the Grand Slam tournament in 1992 and 1993, steamrolled through straight-set victories and into the third round. Sampras and Courier took heed, Sampras beating Slovakian qualifier Jan Kroslak, 6-2, 6-0, 6-1, in 76 minutes, and Courier taking just four minutes longer to beat Italy’s Cristiano Caratti 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 . “Everyone can lose to anybody if the other guy is playing really well,” said Courier, who watched the Becker-McEnroe match. “Patrick just played a great match, so that was a tough draw for the first round.” Serenaded by fans singing “Happy Birthday” when he stepped on court today, Stefan Edberg did what he’s always done on his birthday at the Australian Open – win. Edberg, twice a champion in Australia, turned 29 with a 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-4 victory over Romania’s Adrian Voinea, a qualifier nine years his junior.  “I had to work very hard because he’s a young and upcoming guy,” Edberg said after playing in 96-degree heat (35 Celsius). “He’s another one who could be a very good player. They’re young and hungry. I’m old and hungry.” Edberg, who has never lost on his birthday, is convinced he’s still capable of winning another Grand Slam title. He’s won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open twice each. “I believe I still can do it, if I’m playing well and I get a little luck with the draw,” Edberg said. “That’s very important to believe that, because if you don’t believe it, you can’t do it.” Aaron Krickstein, once one of those players whose future seemed golden before injuries took their toll, is still capable of pulling off an upset. The 27-year-old knocked off No. 11 Wayne Ferreira, 6-3, 6-7(8), 7-6(4), 6-3. Ferreira had an astonishing 100 unforced errors, believed to be the most by anyone in four sets since records have been kept. “I don’t think I’d make 100 in a tournament if I went all the way,” Krickstein said. ”I’ve put in the work and I’m in as good a shape as anyone in the tournament. I try to use that to my advantage when you have days like today. ‘When you’re physically fit, then you can go out in the agassi_ao95latter stages of a match, think about what’s going on and still try to play your best tennis, and not worry too much about whether you’re tired.” Patrick McEnroe, who upset No. 3 Boris Becker in the first round, beat Jeremy Bates 6-3, 7-5, 6-3. “It was the first really hot day, and a lot of the guys were struggling a bit,” McEnroe said of his spectator-jammed Court 6 match at the National Tennis Center. “I felt the sun just beating on me.” Andre Agassi, fast becoming a crowd favorite in his first Australian Open, routed French qualifier Jerome Golmard 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 today to advance to the third round. Agassi, who will play Canada’s Greg Rusedski on Saturday, was greeted by one sign that said “C’mon, Andre, c’mon,” which harkened to the “C’mon, Aussie, c’mon,” slogan and song common at cricket and rugby matches. Up 3:0 in the final set, Agassi blasted a 125 mph serve that just missed long. He lifted the sleeve of his multi-colored striped shirt over his right bicep and flexed it Popeye-like to the amused spectators. “What a great reception!” said Agassi, seeded second behind Pete Sampras. “I’m having the best time here. I’d love to win every Grand Slam that I can, and I’d love to win here.” Eighth-seeded Todd Martin of the United States advanced along with No. 10 Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia and No. 14 Thomas Muster of Austria, while No. 16 Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands was eliminated. Martin beat Jean-Philippe Fleurian of France 6-4, 6-2, 6-3, Kafelnikov defeated Kenneth Carlsen of Denmark 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 and Muster beat Thierry Guardiola of France 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-2. South Africa’s Marcos Ondruska upset Krajicek 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-3.

Third round: Robin Finn

Karel Novacek, avenging a loss to Michael Stich in the U.S. Open semifinals, played the match of his life Friday to knock the German out of the third round of the Australian Open. “He played perfect tennis today,” a stunned Stich said after falling 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 in 99 minutes. Novacek not only played perfectly, he got the luck he needed to beat the No. 7 seed and former Wimbledon novacek_ao95champion. The luck was obvious when Novacek’s forehand hit the net cord and the ball trickled over to break Stich to 5:4 in the 3rd set and let Novacek serve for the match. The quality of Novacek’s performance showed when he put the match away with one last service winner at match point. “I definitely wanted to play a different game than I did at the U.S. Open,” said the 28th-ranked, 29-year-old journeyman from the Czech Republic. He stayed back more and tried to beat Stich from the baseline in New York. This time, Novacek charged and charged – and charged some more: “It’s not that unusual for me to play serve and volley, but I wanted to do something different. It was perfect. My consistency through the match paid off.” They played the match indoors as the roof of the stadium was closed during the morning rain. Stich fumed futilely about the roof closure. “The conditions changed 100 percent,” Stich said. “It’s a totally different ballgame. It’s supposed to be an outdoor tournament and that is what it should be.” No. 5 Michael Chang stopped Martin Damm 6-3, 7-5, 6-3, No. 9 Jim Courier defeated Mark Woodforde winning each set ‘6-3’ and No. 13 Andrei Medvedev beat Stefano Pescosolido in similar fashion, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Tim Gullikson, the coach of top-ranked Pete Sampras, was rushed to a local hospital today after he collapsed in the locker room. Gullikson had just finished warming up Sampras, the Australian Open’s defending champion, who went on to win his third-round tennis match. Gullikson had been on medication for a congenital heart condition after suffering strokes in Sweden and Germany, where tests in December revealed a valve problem. Sampras defeated Lars Jonsson, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, as the 43-year-old Gullikson underwent a series of tests at a private clinic in Melbourne. “I just had to block it out and try not to think about it,” said Sampras, who left to visit his coach immediately after his match. “I realize he’s in good hands.” There was no immediate word on Gullikson’s condition, though Sampras said, “He’s O.K.” Andre Agassi, in his pirate’s bandana and skateboarder’s skivvies, complained about the chill on the stadium court today but did not let it stop him from knocking Canada’s Greg Rusedski from contention at the Australian Open. Agassi largely ignored the 103d-ranked Rusedski’s cannon serve, the swiftest of the event, except when using it to fuel his equally turbo-charged returns, in a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 victory. “A year ago I gave up on the idea that a big serve was what I needed; my game doesn’t revolve around that,” said Agassi, who, ever aware of the power of the televised image, pinned a “Get Well” message for Tim Gullikson, the ailing coach of the top-ranked and defending tournament champion Pete Sampras, to his racquet bag. Agassi said he had reconciled himself to the notion that his presence at the year’s first Grand Slam event is important to his reputation. “Professionally, this is where I need to be,” said Agassi, who had not previously been willing to make a certain sacrifice for the tournament. “Not only do you not have an off season, but you spend your holidays worrying about eating too much turkey.” Agassi smacked 10 aces, but it was one serve that didn’t count that brought oohs and ahhs from the crowd and a smile from Agassi. He was leading 4:0 in the 3rd set and had just served his ninth ace, which registered 191 on the courtside radar display. That’s kilometers, not miles, and it translates to 119 mph – about 10 mph faster than his usual serves. On the next one, 202 lit up on the display – 126 mph – but it was a tad long and didn’t count. He pointed his racket at the 202, flexed his right bicep like a muscleman, and beamed to the crowd. “Two-oh-two counted as far as I was concerned,” said Agassi, who recalled once hitting a serve at 132 mph in Key Biscayne, Fla. “I don’t know what that is in kilometers, but that (202) was the fastest I’ve ever seen in kilometers.” While the second-seeded Agassi, an Australian Open neophyte, reached the fourth round for the first time here, 45th-ranked Aaron Krickstein got there for the fifth time. Krickstein, the eighth American man to reach the round of 16, had already eliminated 11th-seeded Wayne Ferreira, and today’s victim was 19th-ranked Petr Korda, who made 74 unforced errors in losing, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(1). “He doesn’t have much eltingh_ao95margin for error on his shots,” added Krickstein, who has dropped six consecutive matches to his next opponent, the sixth-seeded Stefan Edberg of Sweden. Edberg defeated Hendrik Dreekmann, 7-6(8), 6-2, 6-3. Also today, the 14th-seeded Thomas Muster, a semifinalist here in 1989, was a third-round upset victim of 24th-ranked Jacco Eltingh of the Netherlands, 6-3, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 just under 2 hours. “Clowns don’t play tennis; it’s just somebody pushing the ball in and running forward and hoping somebody misses or you catch the ball,” said Muster, who prefers the baseline attrition to Eltingh’s improvisation. After Eltingh was finished attacking the net, he attacked Muster’s sportsmanship. “On the courts he has a certain kind of attitude which is not really well respected by the other players; when you hear him saying things about others and the way they play, it doesn’t show a lot of sportsmanship,” said Eltingh, who also defended his match strategy. “Why would I stay on the baseline and play his strength. He likes to run me around for at least four hours if it’s up to him, so I’m going to play another way where I make him upset and I can win.” If Thursday was an oven here, then Friday was a drizzly, wind-whipped sauna. The tournament was presented by yet another complication – a retractable stadium roof – to its puzzling array of playing conditions. Those who played indoors on the only covered stadium court in the Grand Slam quartet complained that they wanted to be outdoors. Those who played outdoors fretted over their battles with a shifting and shifty breeze that occasionally made off with their shots.

Fourth round: AP

kafelnikov_ao95Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the youngest and perhaps the last of a generation of promising Russian tennis players, beat Todd Martin in straight sets today to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. Playing from the baseline with nearly flawless precision, Kafelnikov capitalized on Martin’s 50 unforced errors to win 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 and get to the quarters of a Grand Slam event for the first time. “He’s solid as a rock,” said Martin, the No. 8 seed who lost in the final here a year ago to Pete Sampras, “The guy is already a great player, and everybody I know thinks he’s going to be even better.” Kafelnikov, 20, played on the Davis Cup team that went to the first final for Russia last month, where it lost to Sweden. But Kafelnikov is not optimistic about the future of the game in his country’s weakened sports system. “Russian tennis is struggling right now,” said Kafelnikov. “We don’t have any big coaches or good facilities. The coaches are all going overseas. I don’t see anybody (coming up) for the next five years because, basically, I’m the last one.” He was wrong, the next generation became even more successful than the one consisted of Alexander Volkov, Andrei Cherkasov, Andrei Chesnokov, Andrei Olhovskiy & Kafelnikov (all born in the years 1966-74) – the new generation: Marat Safin, Nikolay Davydenko, Mikhail Youzhny, Dmitry Tursunov, Igor Andreev (all born in the years 1980-83). Kafelnikov, seeded No. 10, lost 9-7 in the fifth set against Sampras in the second round at the Australian last year, and that close match gave him the confidence that he could beat the best players. Patrick McEnroe, a first-round victor over Boris Becker, fell in five grueling sets in the midday heat to Jacco Eltingh, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(7), 5-7, 6-4. Eltingh [24] served 34 aces in the 3 1/2-hour match, 29 more than McEnroe. The Dutchman was two points away from winning the match in three and four sets, finally won in five breaking in the last game. “On the courts he has a certain kind of attitude that is not really well respected by the other players; when you hear him say things about others and the way they play, it doesn’t show a lot of sportsmanship,” said Eltingh, who also defended his match strategy. Friends and rivals, Pete Sampras and Jim Courier set up an Australian Open quarterfinal match-up Tuesday in distinctly different manners. Sampras struggled to beat Magnus Larsson of Sweden 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 in 3:07 hrs on Sunday. Courier won, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, against Karel Novacek of the Czech Republic. A third American, No. 5 Michael Chang, advanced with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Frenchman Olivier Delaitre, while Andrei Medvedev of Ukraine beat American David Wheaton, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(5), 10-8 in 3 hours, 29 minutes – the only match of the tournament that required 5-all in the decider. Wheaton had a break point leading 3:1 in the decider, but made an error following Medvedev’s poor approach-shot. Later on the American led 5:3* to lose two games quickly. The Ukrainian converted his first match point with a forehand passing-shot. Sampras, who played again today without the courtside support of his hospitalized coach, Tim Gullikson, last accomplished a comeback of this magnitude (two-sets-to-love deficit) at the 1991 French Open, where his victim was Thomas Muster. But today, under pristine conditions with the stadium’s convertible roof wide open beneath a summery sky, Sampras had to contend with the 15th-seeded Larsson, the same backcourt spoiler who defeated him in the final of the Grand Slam Cup at Munich in December. Larsson, who fired 19 aces to Sampras’s 18 and who dictated play in the early going with his baseline passing shots and powerful forehand drive, said he couldn’t keep up his barrage long enough to dissuade Sampras. “I can’t play any better than I did,” said Larsson, now 1-5 against Sampras, “and I don’t think I would have lost to anyone other than the top player today.” With seven seeded male players already out of contention before this round of 16 began, Sampras appeared to be the next candidate for upset. His shots had no sting, he moved a step slow, and Larsson, by contrast, hit every line he aimed at. But the defending champion’s attitude changed from one of discouragement to determination in the 3rd set, where he escaped from a straight sets defeat being two points away in the 10th game [at 15/30 Sampras delivered a service winner & BH volley winner, then at ‘deuce’ made a smash replying on Larsson’s weak lob], and pressured Larsson into consecutive forehand errors and went up by 6:5 in the set. After erasing a break point with a service winner in the next game, Sampras held serve to trim Larsson’s lead to a manageable two-sets-to-one, and the break he earned against Larsson in the 7th game of the 4th set was all he needed to level the contest at two sets apiece. Sampras, who hadn’t dropped a set until today, closed out the fourth set with an ace. He completed the switch of momentum by breaking the Swede in the 3rd game of the final set, and used another ace to take a 3:1* lead. Sampras made 45 krickstein_ao95unforced errors in the match, most of them concentrated in the two opening sets, but Larsson’s 50 unforced errors, and 11 wasted break-point opportunities, took their toll in the latter stages of the match when, due to Sampras’s resilience, there was no margin for error. Playing with “magic” rackets dusted off from his top 10 days, Aaron Krickstein rallied to beat two-time champion Stefan Edberg in the fourth round of the Australian Open yesterday. Krickstein, who last appeared in a Grand Slam quarterfinal in the 1990 U.S. Open, beat Edberg, 6-7(6), 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-4. Krickstein played with the same rackets he used to beat the Swede in 1989 – when he was ranked as high as eighth – during an indoor tournament in Tokyo. “I actually picked up some old rackets that I beat him with in 1989,” Krickstein said. “I brought them down because I played my best tennis in those years and they got kind of old and they stopped making the rackets. I was kind of fooling around with different rackets the last four years. But I figured I don’t have much time left, so even though the rackets are pretty old, I thought I’d give them a shot.” Krickstein has won 25 of 32 five-set matches in his career (.781) and it’s the first time that he has fought back from being two sets down since the 1992 French Open, but the ninth time in his career. “It was my match but somehow he came back,” said Edberg, who failed to make the quarterfinals for the first time since 1984. “He came up with the right shots. I quite like to play Aaron, he plays the same, he counter-punches and I know pretty much what’s going to happen.” It was Krickstein’s third 5-set win over Edberg, every time it happened after a tight match as Edberg was really close to victory. This time the Swede had more chances than in their two previous five-setters: he wasted a seemingly decisive 5:2* lead in the 4th set. Krickstein led 4:1* in the 5th set, afterwards saved a double mini-match point at 4-all! Each player won 188 points in 3 hours 44 minutes under the dazzling sun.  Andre Agassi played one of those rare matches when he could barely miss a shot. He made only one unforced error in the first set, two in the second, and none in the third, never yielding on serve and winning, 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 to reach the quarterfinals in 86 minutes. If there was any doubt that Agassi is in the form he showed when winning the U.S. Open last September, it was dispelled in the second set when he chased down a lob and flicked back a line drive over his head that a stunned Rafter volleyed into the net to fall behind 2:1*. “I was actually going to go between the legs,” Agassi said, “but then I realized there’s no way that he’s going to stay back at the baseline. I knew he was coming in, so I figured I’d kind of make it look like I was going agassi_rafter_ao95to go through my legs but then get it under his feet. It worked well.” By the time Agassi finished off Rafter this time, giving up only six points in the final set and crunching one return after another against the Australian’s big serves, it was obvious that an earlier exhibition loss had been meaningless (two weeks earlier Rafter won in Adelaide 6-3, 6-2). Still, the fans cheered wildly to the end, even when Rafter served at match point. “That was amazing. That’s what we live for, that sort of atmosphere,” Rafter said. “It was fantastic.” The crowd, Agassi said, was as pumped up from start to finish as nearly any he’d ever seen. “Really,” he said, “the only thing that I’ve experienced that tops this is at a few Davis Cup matches, and also Jimmy Connors at the U.S. Open.”

Quarterfinals: Julie Cart

chang_ao95Michael Chang, the men’s fifth seed, followed by beating Andrei Medvedev, 7-6(7), 7-5, 6-3 to gain his first Grand Slam semifinal since the U.S. Open 1992 and only his second since he won the French Open in 1989. Medvedev fell hard, injuring his left wrist lunging for a pass by Chang in the tiebreaker. Medvedev, a right-hander who hits two-fisted backhands, received courtside treatment several times… The match was a Titanic struggle, the first time Pete Sampras and Jim Courier had ever gone to five sets, and only two days after Sampras had come back from two sets to love against Magnus Larsson. The game ended after 3 hours and 59 minutes at 1:09 a.m., and the score was 6-7(4), 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. Even as No. 1 in the world and possessed of an overpowering tennis game, Sampras has been teetering on an emotional edge during this tournament, which he won last year. His frayed emotions unraveled in the fifth set, when a fan yelled, “Win it for your coach!” His coach, Tim Gullikson was on a plane back to the United States, battling his own anxiety after being stricken with a recurrence of a heart problem last week. The last few months have made for a difficult emotional voyage for Sampras. In late September he was devastated by the death his best friend in tennis, Vitas Gerulaitis. Here, Sampras had kept his emotions in tight rein after Gullikson collapsed and was hospitalized last week. Sampras spent days suppressing his emotions about the illness of his coach, his friend, who was beside him when he won four of his five Grand Slam titles. What had been bubbling close to the surface, boiled over on court. It was a reminder: for all his titles and all his prize money, the 23-year-old Sampras is, after all, a young man. His undoing came after winning the 1st game of the 5th set, Sampras sat down on the changeover and began to weep into a towel, his shoulders shuddering. Even as he walked onto the court to receive Courier’s serve, Sampras was still crying. Courier won the game and Sampras was fighting to control his emotions during his service game. Wiping his shirt sleeve over his eyes, as if he were dabbing at sweat rather than tears, did little to conceal what was happening. Blinking back tears, Sampras stood at the service line and paused to collect himself. The once-boisterous crowd was hushed. Fans who earlier had interrupted service tosses by shouting or whistling were chastened into a respectful silence. Courier called out across the net, “Are you OK, Pete? We can do this tomorrow, you know.” Sitting in the players box Sampras’ girlfriend Delaina Mulcahy leaned forward and spoke softly to him, “Come on, honey.” Something passed over Sampras’ face and his eyes narrowed. His response was to serve two aces and win the game at love. On the changeover, he called for the trainer but received consolation not treatment. Sampras poured water over his head, took slow deep breaths and composed himself. He had gotten through. composing himself in the post-game news conference, which he conducted with his head hung low and speaking in a whisper. “Win or lose, I thought it was one of the better matches I’ve ever taken part in,” he said. “I just didn’t quit and tried to do everything I could to try to win. You know, we both showed a lot of heart out there.” The first two sets were played even. There were not only no service breaks, there was only one break point. Sampras had the easier job holding his serve, getting in 86% of his first serves, and Courier was more pressed to hold his own serve. Sampras served remarkably under the circumstances and considering the duration of the match – he had 23 aces and only 4 double faults. Courier later said that his pace in the first two sets came back to afflict his legs later. Still, it was hard to fault his tactics: teeing off on every forehand, he kept Sampras from dominating the net. He won the first two sets and was tired, but, in almost any other situation, Courier wouldn’t have expected to play courier_sampras_ao95another hour and a half. The players matched shots from all angles of the court. They dueled from the baseline, they slugged from outside the doubles alley and, occasionally, they exchanged volleys at net. The game wore on into the night. At midnight, Courier broke Sampras in the 5th game of the 4th set to get his only service break of the match establishing a 4:2 lead. But in the 8th game, Courier committed a rare but costly service error. He held game point but served his second double fault of the match and the game went to deuce. After that, a loose forehand and a backhand punched into the net by Courier gave Sampras the break and an even chance at 4:4. Sampras broke again two games later to win the set and even the match at two sets apiece. The last set took only 37 minutes, Sampras broke in the 8th game despite Courier had five games points… The clothes are straight from skateboard heaven, but the goatee adds a satanic touch. The earrings and bandana have given him pirate power, and so far all five of Andre Agassi‘s Australian Open opponents have walked the plank at the briskest possible pace. Here in Australia, where they are short on ozone, Agassi is in the zone. The master of contradictions, the superstar who is wearing the Jolly Roger as this season’s corporate logo, is making no bones about that. “It’s my first time playing down here, and I’m coming out there firing on all cylinders,” Agassi said after a 6-2, 7-5, 6-0 extermination of 10th-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov. “Andre is really on fire,” said Kafelnikov. “His ground strokes are unbelievable. He just shows you how weak you are, how stupid you look on the court when you’re playing against him.” Aaron Krickstein was almost as formidable in a 7-6(3), 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 dismissal of Jacco Eltingh tonight. With the victory, Krickstein joined Agassi, Pete Sampras and Michael Chang in the first all-American cast of Grand Slam semifinalists since the 1979 United States Open. agassi_ao95_After upsetting sixth-seeded Stefan Edberg, Krickstein was undaunted by the prospect of upsetting another net-minded player, in this instance the 24th-ranked Eltingh of the Netherlands. The 45th-ranked Krickstein not only dominated from the baseline, he also finished their 2-hour-34-minute match serving 21st ace (career-high), Eltingh hit just 7. The Dutchman advanced to the Top 20 thanks to that quarterfinal, but the loss to Krickstein initiated his 9-match losing streak! Krickstein said his three previous hardcourt victories against Agassi, his occasional practice partner and now his semifinal opponent, might lighten the load of facing a player he says “is hitting the ball extremely well from the ground, better than anyone else in the world at the present time.” In the fourth round, Agassi made the local glamour boy, Patrick Rafter, “look silly” on the stadium court; Rafter couldn’t think of any other way to describe the humiliation of a 6-0 third set. In the quarterfinals, Agassi delivered precisely the same parting shot to Kafelnikov, and provoked the same awed response. “No chance, no chance, no chance,” Kafelnikov chanted about the possibility that any other player except the top-ranked Sampras, who today lost his spot as the oddsmakers’ favorite to Agassi, could prove a sufficient obstacle to the Las Vegan. Agassi was reverential regarding the defending champion’s tearful comeback from a two-sets-to-none quarterfinal deficit against Jim Courier. “It’s an extraordinary thing to see what Pete has managed to do,” Agassi said of Sampras’s consecutive comebacks from two sets down, the second of which took almost four hours and provoked the world’s No. 1 player to cry openly during the fifth set because he was overcome by worry over his ailing coach, Tim Gullikson. “Just to have him still be in the tournament, it’s inspiring,” Agassi said. “He’s obviously going through a lot of things at the moment with Tim, and I can identify with that.” Today Agassi identified with the task at hand, needing just 83 minutes to stun the 20-year-old Russian into submission with a knockout combination of steady serves and blistering angled ground strokes. By the third set Kafelnikov was so tired of being jerked around the sunny stadium he surrendered the final set in 19 minutes. After being the evening headliner for the majority of the previous rounds, Agassi blithely used this daylight outing “to be out there in the sun and get a little bit of a tan. Quite honestly, this has been incredible practice more than anything,” said Agassi, who has yet to be tested. “To play three sets every other day is not taking a whole lot out of you.”

Semifinals: Robin Finn

He’s the champion who suddenly has taken to wearing his heart on his sleeve and crying real tears on the court, not the behavior of which terminators are made, and yet somehow he manages to be the only man still standing at the end of the round. The saga of Pete Sampras, the defending Australian Open champion, moved one step closer to a happy ending this afternoon when he rose above his bodily aches and pains, displayed none of the mental anguish that caused him to break down in the quarterfinals and marched into the final Thursday with a 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory against Michael Chang. “I was down and out against Larsson, and down and out against Courier,” said Sampras. “I think I showed more heart this week than I probably ever have.” Sampras was unapologetic, and unembarrassed, about his uncharacteristic outpouring of emotion in the latter stages of his duel with Courier. “I’m normal, I’m not a robot,” he said of his concern for his absent coach, a concern that never became obvious until he’d taken a 1:0 lead in the final set of that match. “I’m as normal as the guy across the street,” Sampras said. “This is a tough thing to go through – I’m happy I’m still here.” Thursday a calmer but wearier Sampras, soothed by news that his hospitalized coach was in satisfactory condition back home in the Midwest, out-finessed Chang, chang_sampras_ao95the same pint-sized workhorse he’d had trouble subduing ever since they began doing battle when they were 7. Sampras fired just 14 aces (Chang 20!), committed 4 double faults and 48 unforced errors, and connected with just half of his first serves. But the smart shots were parceled out at the proper time: brilliant running crosscourt forehands helped him claim the 2nd set after breaking Chang for a 5:3 lead, and he maintained the momentum in the 3rd set by breaking Chang twice more to take a 4:0 lead. “It was a little frustrating to lose seven straight games from the second set to the middle of the third,” Chang said – he experienced similar thing against Sampras during their quarterfinal meeting at US Open ’93.
Aaron Krickstein‘s right groin gave in just before flooding struck at the Australian Open today. Andre Agassi, close to his sixth consecutive straight-set victory, won by default, leading 6-4, 6-4, 3-0 when Krickstein, who suffered a groin pull during the first game of the match, decided he could not continue. The players had barely left the stadium when ankle-deep water flooded center court.  “You think that when you have a stadium with a roof, you’ve got all the angles covered,” said Agassi, who returned from the match to a darkened dressing room during a power failure caused by a thunderstorm. In Agassi’s win, there were five breaks of serve in the opening set – Agassi went ahead on two service breaks, but Krickstein fought back before Agassi served out the set. In the 2nd set, Agassi broke Krickstein in the 5th game and held the rest of the way, winning on a looping cross-court forehand that Krickstein could not reach. Agassi got on top of Krickstein immediately in the final set, breaking Krickstein in the opening game and again in the third to roll to his 3:0 lead before Krickstein threw in the towel.

Final: Steve Wilstein

Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras crossed a threshold at the Australian Open, coming of age in different ways and evolving into a 1990s version of the Jimmy ConnorsJohn McEnroe rivalry. As talented and fiercely competitive as their predecessors, and far more civil, Agassi and Sampras are turning into the tennis duo of the decade. Agassi won Sunday’s match 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(6), 6-4, and is in position to snatch Sampras’ No. 1 ranking in the coming months after dropping as low as No. 32 a year ago following wrist surgery. The winner of Wimbledon in 1992, the U.S. Open last summer and now the Australian, Agassi’s next goal is to win the French Open and become the first American to complete a career Grand Slam since Don Budge did it all in one year in 1938. Agassi, 24, finally showed a grown-up commitment to fulfilling his tennis potential, winning the tournament from which he always played hooky, and handling himself with poise on and off the court. His short hair added to his look of maturity, but the difference from his early days in the way he played and acted went beyond a superficial change of image. Sampras, 23, revealed the depth of his character, serving aces through his tears, struggling back from two sets down twice and yielding only in the final when the physical and emotional strain became too much against a player of Agassi’s caliber. The magnificent final, featuring 28 aces by defending champion Sampras and stunning ground strokes by Agassi, wasn’t the best match of the tournament. That was in the quarterfinals when agassi_sampras_ao95Sampras and former two-time winner Jim Courier engaged in a five-set struggle that will rank among the most memorable matches in history for its quality of play and heart-wrenching drama. The sight of Sampras sobbing for his coach, Tim Gullikson, who suffered symptoms of a third stroke in four months, will be the enduring image of this Australian Open. After losing in the final, Sampras choked back tears when he spoke to the crowd about Gullikson, who became dizzy and lost his speech and vision for half a day the first week of the tournament. “I just want to let him know I keep thinking about him and that I wish he was here,” said Sampras, wiping his eyes. “I’ve been praying for him the last couple of weeks.” Agassi praised Sampras’ courage in playing through the emotional stress of Gullikson’s illness. “I have to say what I witnessed Pete do in the past two weeks, with the difficulties about his coach, his courage on the court and off the court is absolutely inspiring,” Agassi said. “We can all learn from what he did. He’s a class act. I think he’s shown these past couple of weeks why he is No. 1 in the world.” Gullikson watched the match at home in Wheaton, after being discharged for the weekend from the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center. More tests were scheduled for today. The Australian final will be memorable as the match when Agassi achieved the status that Sampras has occupied for the past two years: the main man in tennis. The way he’s playing, and the way the computer rankings are set up, Agassi is likely to jump from No. 2 to No. 1 even before he goes after the only major title to elude him – the French Open – in May. “If he stays fit, he’s a threat to win every major tournament of the year,” Sampras said. “The game has been missing a rivalry, and with Andre and me it could result in a great rivalry. Our games are very different and we are very different. If we’re playing in Grand Slams like we did here, that’s great for the game. Andre is one guy who puts tennis on the front page of sports pages, and I think tennis needs that.” At the end Sunday, Agassi still was springing around the court, pounding shots with all his weight behind every stroke. Sampras had lost his bounce, his legs dead from 18 tough sets in one week, his shoulders slumping as the brutal sun burned through the ozone hole and bounced off the burning rubberized court. The hotter the better for Agassi, who dictated play from the backcourt and made Sampras work harder. Agassi also had the luck of the draw, a couple of qualifiers to start, straight-set matches up to the final. Sampras had to slog past Magnus Larsson, Courier and Michael Chang. “It was the hottest day in quite some time, and it was humid,” Sampras said. “The matches that I’ve played over the past couple of weeks definitely took their toll. But that’s not an excuse. He basically outplayed me.” Sampras played as aggressively as his weary and aching body would allow, going for the lines, the angles, the subtleties of drop shots – anything to get a point over quickly. “I’m not going to out-rally Andre,” Sampras said. If Agassi lacked Sampras’ variety, he compensated with a surfeit of consistency, making only 26 unforced errors to Sampras’ 50. Agassi also had his frustrating moments. He double-faulted, his second serve clipping the net and hopping past the service box, on set point in the first set after he allowed only one point in each of his four previous service games. It was the first time in four matches that Sampras won the opening set, and the first set Agassi lost in the tournament. But Sampras gave away the second set without much of a struggle, double-faulting to start the set and getting broken three times. The match then turned on the seesaw tiebreaker in the 3rd set. “I felt like it was a strange match in that you never could be sure who had the momentum,” Agassi said. “I felt like when you thought you had it, you didn’t.” Sampras fell behind 3:0 in the tiebreaker, won the next four points and served for the set at 6:4 with a brilliant reflex volley past a stunned Agassi. But Agassi then ripped a forehand return that nicked the net cord and skipped past Sampras for a agassi_ao95championwinner. “When you’ve got Pistol Pete at set point, you’ve got to go with your hunch,” Agassi said, “because you can’t sit there and hope that he misses. He knows that with one execution of the racket head, the set’s over. You know that he’s going to pick a spot and hit it big, so you better be ready to respond to it.” That was the first of four consecutive points Agassi won as he closed out the set with a backhand volley drop shot that spun away from Sampras. “In the fourth, he just kept on the high level of intensity and broke me down,” Sampras said. The circumstances of weather and the draw may vary the next time they meet on another surface. On clay in the French, Agassi would be favored, on grass at Wimbledon probably Sampras, on the hardcourts at the U.S. Open pick ’em. They surely will meet again soon. In assessing their rivalry, Agassi acknowledged his respect for Sampras in a way that also revealed Agassi’s own ambitions. “He wasn’t the best player in the world today, but the reality is that he’s clearly ahead of everybody,” Agassi said, refusing to assume the top spot prematurely. “I have a lot of respect for that because it’s a dedication and a commitment and an ability to do it week in and week out. I’ve done it now for a while, and I’ll continue to strive.” Agassi’s 25th title, he reached the No. 1 for the first time in career three months afterwards. Stats of the final

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