1996 – 1997, Australian Open

Australian Open, Melbourne
January 15, 1996; 128 Draw (16 seeded) – $3,180,318; Surface – Hard

1995, it was a year of amazing dominance of three players: Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Thomas Muster. When the Australian Open ’96 kicked off, it seemed almost impossible that the trophy would lift someone else than one of these three guys, however, Sampras faced an opponent, who played a match of his life, Agassi and Muster suffered slight leg injuries in Melbourne which eventually led to their failures, and any representative of the Big 3 managed to advance to the final. Boris Becker was a man taking advantage of it. The German came to Melbourne not having won a Grand Slam title in 5 years, he hadn’t even won a match at the Australian Open since 1993. In the first two rounds he barely escaped defeats to rather unknown young guys at the time (Greg Rusedski, Thomas Johansson), but survived, and since then delivered the most comprehensive tennis of his career to the very end…. The last Australian Open with net-judges.
All scorelines
First round: Herald Wire Services

Brutal heat gave way to beautiful weather as the Australian Open began today with an easy victory by Michael Chang and a tough win by two-time champion Jim Courier. A day after 102-degree heat baked the courts for the final practices, temperatures dropped to the 70s to give the year’s first Grand Slam event a pleasant kickoff. Chang, No. 5, became the first seeded player to win, routing David Rikl 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 in 90 minutes. “It was a good first match for me,” Chang said. “He’s a sneaky little player. He hits shots you wouldn’t expect him to hit.” No. 8 Courier squeaked past Johan Van Herck 7-5, 7-6(1), 6-4. Despite winning the Australian in 1992 and 1993, Courier showed little enthusiasm on court and sounded even less confident off it. “They don’t hurt,” Courier said of his previous Australian titles, “but you can’t put too much emphasis on them. That was then, and this is now.” Mark Philippoussis, playing in his hometown, won the first match on Center Court, 7-6(3), 6-0, 6-1 against Nicolas Kiefer [166]. Both guys were teenagers at the time. No. 6 Yevgeny Kafelnikov had an easy time beating Frabrice Santoro 6-1, 6-1, 7-5, while No. 9 Wayne Ferreira struggled past Jonathan Stark 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 3-6, 7-5. No more chances for Andre Agassi. Not after the way Agassi missed a step on a spiral stair-case in his hotel room, banged his right kneecap on an iron rod, and wound up with a swelling that looked as if he’d been hit by the guy who whacked Nancy Kerrigan. “I got a little confused, I guess,” a chagrined Agassi said. “I was just trying to get down the thing with my bag, and I just missed the step and my knee went into it. I’m not proud of it.” Agassi’s inauspicious start in defense of his Australian Open title in Melbourne went further than a mere bruise wrapped in layers of bandages. It very nearly ended in the biggest upset in Grand Slam history. Two points from defeat in four sets against qualifier Gaston Etlis [133] of Argentina, Agassi barely pulled out a 3-6, 7-6(2), 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3 victory yesterday in 3 hours, 17 minutes. No Grand Slam defending champion had ever lost in the first round to a qualifier. Only once before had a defending men’s champion gone out in his first match – Roscoe Tanner at the Australian in 1977 (lost in five sets to Chris Lewis). Agassi, seeded No. 2, had never heard of Etlis, but the Argentine played a drop-and-lob game, a smart, teasing style that took advantage of Agassi’s injury. “I basically just couldn’t jump off the mark and drive with that knee,” Agassi said. “That’s why he would have the nerve to hit so many drop shots.” Agassi, however, wore a thick bandage around his right knee, which swelled Sunday and hurt, he said, as if he’d been hit by a hammer. He said the bruise inflamed tendons and nerves in his knee, which he treated with ice and anti-inflammatory pills. “I had trouble pushing off entirely in either direction,” Agassi said. Etlis’ first serves, barely more than 100 mph (160 kp/h), clipped the corners, perfect placements that even Agassi, the game’s best returner, couldn’t touch. In one game, Etlis saved three break points with three aces, holding to 4:3 in the first set. “He did what he did well, keeping me moving and dropping in shots,” Agassi said, “but he couldn’t finish it off. He was getting pretty creative with finding ways to lose it. Finishing it often is the most difficult part. I was pretty lucky today, and pretty unlucky last night.” Etlis led 4:0* in the second set, and was close to winning at 5:3 in the fourth-set tiebreaker; earlier in the set he led 4:1* (40/30)! “I had the urge to call home to Buenos Aires,” Etlis said of his lead in the fourth. “I wanted to call my father, my mother, my coach. But now… ” “It just proves it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got, you can still fall downstairs,” Agassi’s coach, Brad Gilbert said. “I would have paid $500 not to have watched that match.” Pete Sampras, the men’s No. 1, showed few lingering effects of the flu that delayed his arrival as he played mostly from the baseline to bedevil Tasmanian Richard Fromberg 7-5, 6-3, 6-2. Sampras, who saved all 10 of the break-points against him, didn’t bother cranking up his big serve, hitting only four aces to Fromberg’s 11. Instead, Sampras, the 1994 champion, contented himself by staying back and picking his spots to charge the net. That worked to perfection as he put away 11 volley winners to Fromberg’s one. Sampras said he is over the flu that spoiled his warm-up plans for the Grand Slam event. “I thought I hit the ball pretty well, but didn’t serve great,” he said. Boris Becker caught himself just in time to push Greg Rusedski [33] into a fifth set Tuesday night. And when it comes to five-setters, no current player has won more. He won, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, in 2 hours 49 minutes. “I think Boris, if you just give him a little bit of a chance, he usually makes it go forever and he just gets so pumped and his level increases tremendously. rusedski_becker_ao96He showed why he is a great player, and great players can manage to turn those matches around,” Rusedski said. The crucial moment of the match came at 1-all in the 4th set, when Becker saved a break point. It pushed Becker’s five-set record to 29-13, one victory ahead of Aaron Krickstein, who is 28-9. Only Stefan Edberg has played more five-setters. He won, 7-6(6), 7-5, 3-6, 5-7, 6-1, against Jiri Novak, bringing his record to 26-18. Three of his four aces came in the final set. Edberg, who turns 30 on Friday, has won six Grand Slam titles, including the Australian Open in 1985 and 1987. “I think I can win another slam, starting here,” he said. And indeed, he won the tournament… in doubles (along with Petr Korda). At the end of 1995, Edberg announced that ’96 would be his last professional season on tour.

Second round: AP

Tempers flared predictably when Jim Courier and Jeff Tarango [74] dueled Wednesday at the Australian Open, an ugly American match of umpire baiting and racket throwing. Courier, twice champion of the Australian, vented his frustration by flinging his racket and cursing to the sky. Tarango expressed his displeasure with line calls by keeping up a running argument with the umpire. The antics of both players spiced a baseline confrontation Courier finally won with a run of nine straight games that brought him back from *1:4 down in the 3rd set to a 7-5, 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-3 victory. Courier repaid the favor when he was serving for the 2nd set at 5:3. Apparently trying too hard to finish it, he dropped service at 15/40 and then was unable to cash in on two set points, with Tarango serving at 4:5 and 5:6. Tarango saved the first with an ace and the second by suddenly shifting to slow-ball tactics that led Courier to hit a backhand long. More Courier errors gave Tarango the tiebreaker. Tarango complained to the umpire a couple of times about Courier getting away without a penalty for foul language. “Jeff feels punished,” Courier said. “He feels that if he were in my shoes, he would have been hit with a warning.” Said Tarango: “I’m restraining myself, and it would be very relaxing to know that I could throw my racket. There’s a lot of stuff in the back of my head that I have to keep suppressed.” Tarango berated the umpire over line calls numerous times, especially long and loud while serving at 1:1 in the 3rd. He held for 2:1, took a three-minute injury timeout to have a trainer attend to his sore right foot, and promptly broke Courier’s serve, starting the game with a scorching forehand down the line. But trailing, 1:4, Courier stepped up the pressure and took nine straight games, going ahead, 4:0*, in the final set before winning on one final break. Courier smiled at the first question posed at him after the match: “How does it feel to play against a reprobate?” Courier responded that he has known Tarango since he was 12, and “Jeff has always been a character. He’s a fine tennis player, but unfortunately that’s been overshadowed by what happened at Wimbledon. He’s an intelligent guy, always looking for a way to provoke you, get a rise out of you. I like Jeff, but I might be in a minority. When you become a marked man, people are a little bit rougher on you.Courier referred to Tarango’s famous default at Wimbledon ’95. Michael Chang, No. 5, advanced with a quieter and easier 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Jakob Hlasek. “The strength of his game is in the serve, and the return, and from the back he is just fantastic,” Hlasek said. “He really played well today. He came in with some good shots, the right passing shot. He always came up with a good answer.” The crowd went wild when Chang used his sturdy legs to chase down shots Hlasek rifled into a corner of the court. Two-time champion Stefan Edberg bade farewell to Australian fans after a 6-4, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 loss to qualifier Jean-Philippe Fleurian. Edberg saved two match points but couldn’t save a third as Fleurian, ranked 153, drove a forehand cross-court and out of Edberg’s reach. The packed crowd at Court 1 gave Edberg a five-minute ovation when he left… “It felt good in one way, bad in another way,” Edberg said of the crowd’s cheers. The defending champion Andre Agassi – competing with Pete Sampras and Thomas Muster for the top spot in the rankings – belted winners from all angles tonight in a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 victory over fellow American Vincent Spadea. Agassi banged his right knee into a post on a spiral staircase in his hotel room Sunday night and, hobbled by the swelling, barely escaped being upset Monday by Argentine qualifier Gaston Etlis in a five-set match. Spadea stayed with the No. 2 seed for most of the first set, even breaking service once, before beginning to feel the sting of Agassi’s rockets. Agassi was frustrated by his erratic first serve. His shouted description of it at one point in the sixth game of the third set brought him a code violation for an obscenity. When he missed his next first serve, the ball bounced back to him from the net and Agassi swung blindly at it behind his back and nearly hit a ball-boy in the head. Had he faced Spadea on Monday, he would now be out, he said later. “It’s definitely a lot better today. I was moving close to par,” said Agassi, who has been treating his knee with electrical stimulation and ice and holding back on practice. “By next match, it should be 100 percent.” Another famous name returned to prominence. Patrick McEnroe, younger brother of former No. 1 John, overcame a miserable start to upset No. 14 Andrei Medvedev of Ukraine 0-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. The younger McEnroe, ranked No. 57, was a semifinalist in 1991. No. 9 Wayne Ferreira of South Africa failed to overcome a hamstring injury, losing 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 to Karol Kucera [78] of Slovakia. Kucera lost just one game more in his first round against doubles specialist David Adams (7-5 6-0 6-0). No. 3 Muster advanced to the third round with a 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(4) victory over Javier Frana of Argentina. Boris Becker escaped defeat Thursday but not before testing his limits and nerves for the second match in a row at the Australian Open, rallying from a two-set deficit to beat Thomas Johansson [115] 4-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. “I am not doing it on purpose, trust me,” said the fourth-seeded Becker. “To tell you the truth, I would rather prefer a very quiet day at the office.” Becker has not had many at the Australian Open. He won here in 1991, claiming the No. 1 ranking for the first time. Since then, he has lost his touch in Melbourne, never advancing past the third round and losing in the first round in 1993 and 1995. If not for some timely serving and returning against Briton Greg Rusedski, he could have added 1996 to that litany, but Becker survived in five sets. And to hear Becker tell it, he survived, in part, because the boisterous, young Swedish fans who are a fixture at this event, made him angry. “I understand a bit of Swedish after playing for all these years against all my Swedish friends, and they weren’t very nice all the time with what they were saying,” Becker complained. For two sets, Johansson, who has jumped more than 350 places in the rankings in the past year, was blasting away with remarkable accuracy, but the match turned at 2:2 in the third set when Becker rallied from 40/0 to hold his serve. He saved the first break point with a backhand volley to the corner that appeared well out. Johansson argued briefly and was never quite the same after that, while Becker was more his customary self. When it ended, he pointed disdainfully in the direction of the Swedish fans as he walked toward the net. But the Swedes with the painted faces will get another crack at Becker in the third round when he faces their countryman Magnus Larsson, who was flirting regularly with the top 10 until breaking his right foot last June… Melbourne is Mark Philippoussis‘ town, a place where there are more Greeks than in any city except Athens. Sampras is of Greek heritage, too, but he won’t be the fans’ favorite this time. Yet, Philippoussis’ home-court advantage may also be his burden. The weight of this nation’s hopes for a new tennis star – someone to bring back the glory of Laver, Rosewall, Newcombe, all have leaned mightily on him. That became most obvious when he tried too hard and lost too soon in a tuneup tournament in Sydney. He tried to crush every shot against Britain’s Tim Henman, who called him “one dimensional.” Philippoussis’ coach, Nick Bollettieri, sat him down and made him watch videotape of that match, to see how foolishly he played. Philippoussis came away chastened and resolved to harness some of his power, go for angles and touch shots more. He’s done that in two matches so far this week, but he’ll have to do that and more to beat Pete Sampras. As far as the pressure of living up to his countryman’s hopes, Philippoussis is doing what he can to play it down as if it were just another match. He knows it isn’t. It’s a match against the No. 1 player, but Philippoussis can’t let himself think that way. “I’m just going to not think about playing Sampras,” he said. “I won’t worry about the whole outcome or the whole thing. It might be a great atmosphere out there, so I will just enjoy myself.” He may not enjoy himself so much if Sampras keeps stepping up his game as he did in Thursday’s match, when he served 20 aces against fellow American Michael Joyce in a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Third round: AP, Steve Wilstein

In 1990, a remarkably composed 19-year-old of Greek origin played nearly flawless power tennis against his elders in his national tennis championship. After Saturday’s stunning straight-set loss to Mark Philippoussis [39] in the third round of the Australian Open, Pete Sampras now knows what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such a performance. Philippoussis, a remarkably composed 19-year-old Australian whose father emigrated from Greece, was nearly flawless throughout his 6-4, 7-6(9), 7-6(3) victory on center court. He came back from a *2:5 deficit in the 2nd set tie-break with three winners, saving two set points (5:6 & 7:8) – another two winners (!), served 29 aces, some as fast 128 mph. He covered the net like the goalkeeper his father once was and ripped winners and passing shots relentlessly off both sides. He also consistently attacked Sampras’ second serve. Most remarkable of all was that he never cracked. From start to finish, he was rearing back, swinging for the lines and hitting them against the world’s No. 1 player, who had won the past two Grand Slam events. When Philippoussis walked off the court a winner, with 13,000 fans on their feet and screaming, the teen-ager who was born and reared in Melbourne was already the biggest thing to hit Australian tennis since Pat Cash. “Tonight was like nothing I’ve felt before,” said Philippoussis, who is 6 feet 4 inches and 200 pounds and plays like it. “I felt so confident on the serve. I felt like I could just toss it up and hit an ace how I wanted to. It was an unbelievable feeling.” Philippoussis, nicknamed “Scud” for obvious reasons, has a long way to go to match Sampras, who rolled all the way to the 1990 U.S. Open title at age 19. The Aussie’s fourth-round opponent will be countryman Mark Woodforde, and after Saturday night, he certainly is ripe for a letdown. If he gets past Woodforde, he probably will have to deal with No. 11 Goran Ivanisevic or No. 7 Thomas Enqvist in the quarterfinals. “If Mark can play at the level that he played tonight, he’s got the capability to win here, sure,” Sampras said. “But that’s a big if.” The indoor conditions certainly helped Philippoussis. With no wind to trouble his service toss or throw off his high-risk ground-strokes, he was able to keep a consistent groove. But it is one thing for a youngster to put himself in position to win a big match. It is quite another to close it out. “I was trying to keep my emotions back as much as I could,” Philippoussis said. “I didn’t want to get too pumped up.” Saturday night’s defeat was particularly damaging to Sampras because it will cost him the No. 1 ranking that he reclaimed from Andre Agassi in November. Sampras needed to reach at least the quarterfinals to have a chance of holding onto the top spot. Now, either Agassi or Thomas Muster, a winner of 12 tournaments including the French Open last year, will be No. 1 when this tournament ends. “It’ll take a little time to get over this, but I’ve lost before, and I’ll have to bounce back,” Sampras said. “But hopefully I can regain that No. 1 ranking. Certainly, I measure my year on the majors and this is pretty disappointing.” The slogan on Michael Chang‘s T- shirt today might well have been his motto, ‘Go To Work’ something he’s been doing here with little fuss and much success. Chang’s latest victory, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6(6) over Guillaume Raoux, put him into the fourth round with less strain than any of the seeded players ahead of him. Chang’s way into the fifth round became a little easier when No. 11 Richard Krajicek retired with a back injury in the third set against Jean-Philippe Fleurian (6-4, 3-6, 2-2 ret.). Though Fleurian beat former champion Stefan Edberg in the previous round, he’s likely to find Chang a much tougher opponent. “I’m 30 muster_ao96years old,” Fleurian said, “so it’s been a long wait to have this kind of good luck.”  The qualifier Fleurian advanced to the last 16 of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in 31st attempt. As the rubberized hardcourts burned with temperatures near 90 degrees, the heat took its toll on players and fans alike. No. 3 Thomas Muster, as fit as anyone, looked exhausted at the end of his 6-4, 7-6(9), 6-4 over Nicklas Kulti, saving five set points in the 2nd set. Chang is playing with the ease and confidence of a man who truly believes he can win this Grand Slam event, no matter that most people think it’ll come down to No. 1 Pete Sampras against No. 2 Andre Agassi. “I think I’m gaining on them,” Chang said. “My game is continuing to improve, and I think that Pete and Andre have kind of reached their peak of their tennis careers. I kind of still feel my best years of tennis are still ahead of me.” [He was wrong, 1996 was his last big season]. Chang appeared set for a short day at work after breaking Raoux at love in the third set’s first game. But Raoux began hitting sizzling angled shots and deft drops that even the speedy Chang couldn’t reach. Raoux broke back immediately and then, serving at 4:4, saved two break points with an angled volley and a Chang miss. Raoux jumped to a 3:1 lead in the tiebreaker, attacking one of Chang’s second serves to set up a volley winner. But a volley miss by Raoux evened things. Double-faults by each evened the score again at 5:5 before Chang clinched the match on a forehand hit long by Raoux and a service winner.  Andre Agassi wasted no time reasserting his dominance after losing the first set of his third-round match to qualifier Steve Bryan [225], a fellow American ranked 225th. He won 4-6, 6-0, 6-2, 6-1. Agassi stated: “I was really playing well for the last three sets, contrary to popular belief.” His next opponent will be Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman, ranked 34th, who ousted American Todd Martin, the 15th seed, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 in a nearly three-hour match. Agassi’s troubles so far “have been good to see,” said Bjorkman, who never has played him before. Muster said his ankle hurt for the first few points after he twisted it, but once he kept moving it improved. “Once the tape loosens up a bit and you feel that your confidence is coming back, running balls down, then it was all right,” he said, adding that there was no swelling or ligament damage. At the beginning, he said, “I wasn’t hitting the ball as I should have been. Actually, after I twisted, I got a bit of adrenalin, I guess, and I think I played better after that.” The Austrian clay court specialist said the Australian Open surface is very sticky, making it easy to twist an ankle. For sheer drama, Jim Courier may never play a match that will top the one a year ago at the Australian Open when Pete Sampras wept uncontrollably on court for his cancer-stricken coach and still won. For utter tension, Courier may never experience a match more riveting than his 4-hour, 31-minute victory, from Friday night to Saturday morning, over Australian Todd Woodbridge [35] and a crowd that treated the former two-time champion like an evil invader. Courier’s final forehand into the corner, a shot the exhausted Woodbridge couldn’t return, came at 1:13 a.m and closed out a 6-3, 6-7(2), 7-6(3), 3-6, 8-6 win that kept 15,000 fans screaming to the end. Before Courier finished it off, he wasted a set point on serve in the 2nd set, a 5:2 lead in the 3rd (Woodbridge served at 6:5 in that set), and match points in two different games, he also saved three mini-match points at 5-all. “It was a good, tough-fought match, and those are fun to win,” Courier said. “The crowd was on me tonight. They were telling me to double-fault. Australians are known for their fair play, in general. I think probably a few people… just aren’t tennis knowledgeable. It didn’t affect me on the court, but it’s extra satisfying to win because of those people.” When Goran Ivanisevic was berating himself for his mistakes, especially his failure to charge the net more often, someone suggested he change coaches. “What’s he going to tell me? `Goran, go to the net.’ And then the match comes, and I don’t go to the net, and then I fire him and find a new coach, and he says, `Go to the net,'” Ivanisevic replied. “There’s nothing to do with the coach.” Ivanisevic, seeded 10th, lost 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to Italian Renzo Furlan, ranked No. 38, in a third-round match today. “It’s only my fault. I don’t know, I can’t explain,” said the Croatian player, who had 66 unforced errors and seven double faults. “I hit 10 times from the back like an idiot and the ball every time comes to the service line again, again, again, and I never come in,” Ivanisevic said. “I lost 90 percent of the point, very important points, instead of coming in…I have to find the balance to come in more on the slower courts because I’m tall and it’s not easy to pass me.”

Fourth round: Christopher Clarey

Three disparate men dominated men’s tennis in 1995: Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and that moaning, groaning Austrian baseliner with the fragile left knee and iron will, Thomas Muster. As of Sunday evening, only Agassi was still in the Australian Open. Less than 24 hours after the top-seeded Sampras was stunned by Mark Philippoussis, the third-seeded Muster was upset in the fourth round by Mikael Tillstrom [105] of Sweden, who like Philippoussis has very little Grand Slam experience and lots of talent. Tillstrom’s 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory struck a serious blow to Muster’s chances of becoming No. 1 at this tournament. Tillstrom took advantage of Muster’s slight injury he’d suffered a round before, implementing phenomenal backhand dropshots throughout the match. Agassi can reclaim the top ranking he lost to Sampras in November by winning his quarterfinal match against Jim Courier. But after Agassi rallied to defeat Jonas Bjorkman [34], 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, he said: “If I don’t win this tournament, I don’t want to be ranked No. 1.” When Agassi won this event last year, he lost only one set, and that was in the final against Sampras. This year, in his first extensive action since last year’s U.S. Open, he already has lost five. He went five sets in the first round on a bruised knee against the qualifier Gaston Etlis, four sets in the third round against the qualifier Steve Bryan and five more against Bjorkman, one of the world’s best doubles players and the owner of an all-round game. “With these matches under my belt, I could change quickly, but I wouldn’t say I’m at my peak,” Agassi said. Neither is Courier, who won, 7-5, 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, Sunday over Marcus Ondruska, a South African with a Munich address. It was Courier’s second consecutive five-set match and second consecutive underwhelming performance from the baseline. “Too many hours, not by choice but by necessity,” said Courier, who holds a 7-5 career edge over Agassi and has won their last six matches, five of which came in 1991 and 1992. “I’m looking forward to it,” Agassi said “I think Jim’s definitely a rock-’em, sock-’em kind of tennis player.” A cocky Russian who talks big and plays fast, Yevgeny Kafelnikov issued a warning today to his rivals at the Australian Open: “Watch out!” Kafelnikov, dubbed “AK-47” by other players, blasted past MaliVai Washington 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals. The way Kafelnikov figures it, he can beat anyone left in the tournament in the next three rounds and capture his first Grand Slam title. “I’ve got $10 that says you’ll win,” a television interviewer told h)im as he walked off court. “Make it $100, I won’t disappoint you,” Kafelnikov responded. The legal sports books aren’t so sure, making him 11-2 behind favorites Andre Agassi, Michael Chang and Boris Becker. That’s quite a leap of faith for someone who’s never gotten past the semis of a major, someone who has a solid baseline game but no huge weapon, someone who is ranked No. 6 and may have to play Becker next. But shyness and insecurity are not problems for Kafelnikov, even if players like Agassi say he ought to prove himself a little more before popping off. “The player who I never won against (Pete Sampras) is out of the tournament,” Kafelnikov said. “Everybody else, I beat them. So why can’t I win the Australian Open? I feel like I am in very good shape now. I am completely satisfied with the whole aspect of my game, and I’ve got enough confidence to win it.” No. 7 Thomas Enqvist of Sweden also moved into the quarters, beating Italy’s Renzo Furlan 7-5, 6-0, 6-3. The Italian was serving to win the 1st set at 5:4, and lost 14 games in a row! Kafelnikov had been worried only about Sampras, who beat him in their four previous matches. But with Sampras gone in the third round, a loser to Mark Philippoussis, Kafelnikov rates his own chances pretty high. He also rates the 19-year-old Philippoussis’ chance pretty low. And rightly so. Philippoussis lost to countryman Mark Woodforde, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 two days after beating Sampras. On a day when chilly breezes swirled around Center Court, Philippoussis lacked the composure and control he showed under the closed roof against Sampras. He started out flat and subdued, then couldn’t harness his tremendous power when he fell behind. “It was very hard for me, after beating Sampras, to come back,” Philippoussis said. “I was maybe too relaxed. I wasn’t pumped up enough for the match. When things didn’t go well at the start, I couldn’t get myself pumped up. I don’t know why… It’s a big occasion for me, one of the biggest matches of my life. For a match like that, I wanted to play better.” Woodforde, a 30-year-old left-hander who once was the top-ranked Australian, teased Philippoussis in that early break with angled slices, hard groundstrokes, even a moonball that sent the teen scurrying far behind the baseline. When Philippoussis caught up to the ball and sent it back, Woodforde put away the game with a forehand down the line. *Breaking the speed limit: even Boris Becker didn’t think his serve was THAT fast. During his victory over Brett Steven (1-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2), Becker’s serve was clocked at 480 mph (772 km/h). Officially, the fastest men’s serve at this Australian Open has been 135 mph by Britain’s Greg Rudeski. Timing officials quickly acknowledged something was wrong with their equipment on Becker’s serve and offered two likely explanations for the erroneous result.

Quarterfinals: AP

Andre Agassi‘s hopes of keeping his Australian Open title and regaining the No. 1 ranking almost crashed under the pounding of Jim Courier‘s ground-strokes. But, after losing the first two sets, Agassi began finding the range with his own rockets and won 6-7(7), 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in a match resumed today after a rain interruption late Tuesday night (it was halted as Courier led 5:4*, 15/0 in the 1st set). That means the No. 1 spot is his once again, and the second-seeded American still is on track for his second straight Australian title. He will face fifth-seeded countryman Michael Chang in the semifinals. First into the other semifinal was No. 4 Boris Becker, who dispatched his highest-ranked opponent so far, No. 6 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, with uncharacteristic speed. In four previous rounds, Becker needed five sets twice and four once. The German star fired 28 aces past the Russian and won 6-4, 7-6(9), 6-1 in 1 hour 51 minutes (in the tie-break Becker was 1:5, 6:7 & 8:9 down). In Friday’s semifinals, Becker will face Mark Woodforde, a 30-year-old Australian who never before had reached even a Grand Slam quarterfinal. Mixing speeds and spins, Woodforde beat Sweden’s Thomas Enqvist, the No. 7 seed, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. When the 2-hour match ended at 12:14 a.m. Thursday, a near-capacity crowd was still at the 15,000-seat Center Court to watch. Woodforde needed 38 Grand Slam appearances to reach the semifinals, overcoming Colin Dibley‘s 36 – he also reached his first major semifinal in Australian Open (1979). To reach the quarters, Woodforde had beaten Australian teenager Philippoussis, who had knocked Sampras out of the No. 1 ranking in the third round. After Agassi’s triumph today, Sampras fell to No. 3 and Austrian Muster, three days after losing his fourth-round match to Sweden’s Tillstrom, climbed to No. 2 on the strength of points from his clay-court success last year. Before today, Agassi had never come back from two sets down and had not beaten Courier since the 1990 French Open, losing six straight matches. “I feel like today, being down two sets and coming back to win it, I played as if I was No. 1, and that means more to me,” Agassi said. “If I win this tournament, you can give me the No. 2 ranking.” In five matches, Agassi has had to come from behind four times and has been extended to five sets three times. “That’s not usual for me, but anything is possible after 3 1/2 months away,” he said, referring to the chest injury that ended his 1995 season early and brought an end to his 30-week hold on the No. 1 ranking. “The last three sets were the best tennis I’ve put together so far.” The first set, which began at nearly 11 p.m. Tuesday after a marathon women’s match (C.Rubin d. A.Sanchez-Vicario 6-4, 2-6, 16-14 in 3:33), was interrupted in the 10th game by rain. In the 4th set Courier led 4:3* having lost just three points on serve in that set up to the 9th game, when Agassi won four straight points from 0/30. In very similar circumstances in terms of the scoreline, Courier had been defeated in Australian quarterfinals also a year before by Sampras. The long, hard struggle Agassi has had in Melbourne contrasts with Chang’s clockwork straight-set victories over five previous opponents. The No. 5-ranked Chang makes it look easy. Smaller than his adversaries, Chang scrambles about the court on a pair of legs that could give him a second career in marathons, and plays a wily game, outwitting his opponents. And he has as much endurance as Agassi, though he hasn’t had to call on it lately. He made it to the semis by beating Mikael Tillstrom of Sweden, 6-0, 6-2, 6-4. “I have been put in the position where I’m playing guys that are a bit taller than I am, maybe a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger,” Chang said. “God has given me a good pair of legs, and I think he has given me a good mind to try and think things through.” Agassi has beaten Chang nine of 13 times, but figures that gives him no advantage. “What matters is real clear, which is Friday,” Agassi said. “And what doesn’t matter is real clear, which is today and yesterday.”

Semifinals: Houston Chronicle News Services

Defending champion Andre Agassi finally ran out of miracles today when human backboard Michael Chang overcame a rib injury to reach the Australian Open final. The top-ranked Agassi, who clawed from behind in four matches and won three five-setters, played indifferently as a nearly flawless Chang beat him for the first time in a Grand Slam event 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(1). Chang, who will seek his first Grand Slam championship since he won the French Open at 17 in 1989, will play fourth-seeded Boris Becker, who eliminated Mark Woodforde 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 in the other semifinal. Agassi, who had won 12 consecutive matches over two years at the Australian, left the tournament with the No. 1 ranking but without the prize he wanted most – another Grand Slam title. “If you’re No. 1 in the world, it doesn’t mean that you’re safe anymore,” said Chang, the No. 5 seed. “Obviously you have to be out there playing your best tennis.” Agassi obviously wasn’t. He said he decided to “go for the miracle” in coming back from two sets down against Jim Courier in the quarterfinals, but made little effort to do that same against Chang. Although Agassi had beaten Chang in nine of their past 13 matches, and in all three of their Grand Slam matches, there was little surprise in Chang’s victory this time after they way they had played the past two weeks. Agassi came in after a 3 1/2-month layoff because of a chest muscle injury. Chang came in healthy, winning a tuneup exhibition the week before the Australian Open. “I felt rather flat,” Agassi said. “I’ve played a lot of sets. To play against the wind, against a guy like Michael that’s going to move you from corner to corner, I took a lot of chances. I just didn’t have it. In the wind, the person with the better footwork has the advantage.” Unhampered by strained rib cartilage, Chang served 13 aces against the best returner in tennis, and made only 22 errors to Agassi’s uncharacteristic 60 on a wind-whipped afternoon. Agassi hit lazy drop shots that floated into the net, and he slugged wild shots that soared at times 10 feet wide or long. He made no effort for some balls that might have been within his reach, as if he had nothing left after so many comebacks.is tournament. The adrenaline pulled him through a few matches but today he hit the wall. “If you haven’t got freshness in your legs against Michael Chang, you’ve got a problem because against Michael, you can’t hit one-shot winners.” Chang only played average but then again Andre didn’t make him play very well. “He’ll be disappointed that he’s not here on Sunday, but this means we’ll be watching the Super Bowl.” Chang, despite the rib injury, had fresh legs as he advanced to the final without losing a set in any of his six matches. He hit serves at up to 122 mph, but many of his aces were much slower, well-placed slices that surprised Agassi. Chang served three of those aces to close the second game of the third set. Agassi struggled all match to hold serve, never more than in the ninth of the second set, which went to deuce 11 times before Agassi held with the second of his three aces. Seven years after Chang became the youngest men’s Grand Slam winner in history, he’ll have a chance to win another major. At 5’9, he is an anomaly in the world of taller tennis champs, but the one-inch-longer racket he’s been using the past year has helped him overcome that. Many years later, Agassi confessed in his autobiography “Open”, he didn’t care about that match with Chang because he didn’t want to play against Becker in the final…

Final: Steve Wilstein

Second big final was concluded between the AO ’96 finalists, a few month before they’d met in the Masters final (Frankfurt). Boris Becker (won that Masters final in straight sets) blended his uncanny survival instincts with the diving volleys of his youth to win the Australian Open on Sunday, more than a decade after the first of his six Grand Slam titles. Facing a gritty comeback charge by Michael Chang, Becker changed his shoes, his rackets, his shirts, changed the pace and style of his game, did everything he had to do to secure a 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 victory. Becker didn’t race outside the stadium to bellow among the ghost gum trees in Flinders Park after winning, as he did when he captured the Australian championship the first time to become No. 1 in the rankings in 1991. That was the last major title Becker won, though he came close by reaching the Wimbledon final later that year and again last July. Becker’s victory this time, at 28, proved to himself and the world that he’s not too old to win Grand Slam events, that he can keep up rallies even with indefatigable younger players such as the 23-year-old Chang, and that there may be more of this to come. “To tell the truth, I didn’t think I had a Grand Slam left in me,” Becker told the crowd. “My days are counting,” Becker said to Chang, “not yours.” Said Chang: “Boris is very much a champion, both on and off the court. Boris was just too good today.” Becker ‘s path to this title was as hard as any he’s ever had. After losing in the first round here in 1993, skipping ’94, and losing in the first round again last year, Becker got off to a slow start. He survived a five-setter in the first round, came back from two sets down to win another five-setter in the second round, and played close matches the rest of the way. At the start against Chang, it looked for a while as if Becker finally would have an easy time. When they walked on court and posed for the photographers, the 5-foot-9 Chang (175 cm) stood on his toes to make it seem as if he wasn’t so much shorter than the 6-3 Becker (190 cm). Becker, not to be outdone, stood on his toes, too. Becker asserted his size, power and quickness at the net right from the beginning, winning the first four games as Chang tried to figure out ways to beat him. “He surprised me a little,” Chang said, “because Boris is usually a slow starter.” Becker didn’t just dominate with ruthless strength, as he did when he became the youngest Wimbledon winner at 17 in 1985. He dueled on equal terms with Chang from the baseline, waited for Chang to make mistakes, charged in when he had the chances, and jumped on Chang’s second serve to force breaks. “He was playing some good patient tennis,” Chang said, “tennis you don’t ordinarily see from Boris. From the beginning I was a little on the back of my heels.” Chang, saying the rib cartilage he strained several days ago caused no problem, dropped his first service game on a double-fault but was under pressure the whole match as he struggled to save 18 of 23 break points. Chang saved six break points (at 1-all & 2-all) in the second set before, at 4-all, Becker dashed across to put away a forehand volley on what had looked like a winning forehand cross-court pass by Chang from short range. Becker served out the set at love. “I had my opportunities to be able to give that second set a better run than I did,” Chang said. But Chang, once again coming from behind, got to deuce on a forehand pass down the line and gained his first service break of the day on two double-faults by Becker. Becker wound up with seven double-faults, Chang six, and they each served 11 aces. Chang broke Becker again in the third set’s final game with two dazzling service returns and Becker’s last double-fault of the day. Becker’s first break in the third set was frustrating for Chang, who double-faulted at 15/0 after a portable telephone rang in the stands. Chang fell behind 30/40 when he hit a backhand that brought no call from the baseline judge but then was called out by the chair umpire. Chang protested angrily, and again after hitting wide on an attempted forehand pass down the line on game-point. That put Becker ahead 2:1, and he broke again for 5:2 when the speedy Chang couldn’t handle a drop shot and then a forehand cross-court pass. Becker served out the match as Chang ran out of passing shots, missing his first three tries in the game and then hitting long on a backhand cross-court effort on the second match point. No man past the age of 25 had won a Grand Slam title since Stefan Edberg captured his second straight U.S. Open in 1992. Becker now is the oldest player to win a major since 30-year-old Andres Gomez took the French in 1990. Becker also extended his mark as the active player with the most singles titles, 45, including Wimbledon in 1985, ’86 and ’89, the U.S. Open in ’89 and ’91, and the ’91 Australian. Chang was in his third Grand Slam final. Stats of the final.


Australian Open, Melbourne
January 13-26, 1997; 128 Draw – $2,513,067; Surface – Hard

Boris Becker becomes the first Australian Open defending champion in twenty years to lose in the opening round. Pete Sampras takes the title, his second and last in Melbourne. Three Spaniards (Carlos Moya, Felix Mantilla & Albert Costa) advance to the quarterfinals ripping off an etiquette of clay-court specialists. The most gifted among them – Moya – initiates a fashion for Babolat racquets and knee-length shorts.
All scorelines
First round: Steve Wilstein

Brain fried, feet scorched, the sizzling court feeling 140 degrees, Boris Becker peered through the haze across the net and watched Carlos Moya, bouncing youthfully as if to mock him. With his shoulder-length dark hair, and baggy, black shorts down to his knees, the 20-year-old Spaniard looked and felt a generation younger than Becker. Moya’s show of spryness suggested disregard moya_ao97_for the heat, if not disrespect for the defending champion. The young crowd saw the difference and sensed the upset in the making, chanting “Moy-a, Moy-a,” on changeovers and drowning out the few hardy voices who called out to support the 29-year-old Becker. When Becker sprayed the last ball wide, ending 3 1/2 hours of frustration and losing 5-7, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Monday, the crowd roared for Moya, who became the first man in 20 years to knock out a Grand Slam defending champion in the Australian Open opening round (Roscoe Tanner in 1977; two editions then, first one in January, second in December). Becker, his time apparently passed on these courts after visiting Australia for 13 years, shuffled off slowly with his racket bag looking like an unusually heavy load. “My brain is scrambled eggs right now,” Becker said when he retreated to an air-conditioned room. “I’m really struggling to speak normally because I’m burning. My feet and my legs are really hot, there were times that I couldn’t move at all because I was afraid I would lose the skin on my feet.” The air temperature was 90 degrees, but Becker reckoned the rubberized hard court was closer to the 140 degrees it’s reached in the past on similarly hot, cloudless days. On this afternoon, the precise court temperature couldn’t be determined because tournament officials, sensitive to criticisms of the heat, banned thermometers from the court. “The weather was the key to the match,” the 25th-ranked Moya said. “I was tired, but I think he was more tired than me. I’m still young.” In men’s action early today, top-seeded, Pete Sampras avoided a similar surprise, cruising past qualifier Dinu Pescariu, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. In other men’s matches, No. 3 Goran Ivanisevic, No. 8 Wayne Ferreira, No. 9 Marcelo Rios, and No. 16 Alberto Berasategui also won in straight sets. Rios defeated Petr Korda 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-3 – a man to whom will lose the Australian Open final the following year! Lleyton Hewitt, at the age of 15 years 10 months became the youngest participant in the Australian Open history losing to a two-time Grand Slam champion Sergi Bruguera 3-6, 4-6, 3-6. Fellow Australian, former finalist (1988), 16 years older than Hewitt, Pat Cash played his last tournament in Melbourne as he was defeated by Javier Frana 4-6, 4-6, 3-6. Another Aussie player Pat Rafter was eliminated in straight sets too, defeated on centre court 5-7, 2-6, 5-7 by Albert Costa. Best Australian player at the time, Mark Philippoussis withdrew due to injury (right forearm). Other notable withdrawals: Andre Agassi, courier_ao97Richard Krajicek, Todd Martin & Cedric Pioline Jim Courier loves a good scrap and he relishes the tricky conditions Down Under. Courier had a real fight on his hands in hot, windy weather Tuesday before struggling into the second round of the Australian Open – the event he won in 1992 and 1993. The powerful right-hander took just a shade under 4 hours to defeat 20-year-old Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands 6-7(4), 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 8-6 in a fierce slug-fest. Courier opened the year by winning the Qatar Open in Doha, but hasn’t won a title in his last 14 Grand Slams. “I’ve played him twice and had very tough matches each time, so I knew it was going to be a bit of a scrap,” Courier said. It was one of several five-set thrillers Courier has played over the years at the National Tennis Center, where he has always thrived under the Down Under sun. “I’d like the matches to be a little bit easier for me, but no one out here is going to give it to me. I’m going to have to earn it,” he said. Schalken only turned professional in 1994 and never has made it past the third round of any Grand Slam. He trailed *1:5 in the final set and was down match point before rallying and taking Courier to the brink. Schalken was three points away from winning the match leading 6:5*, but Courier broke him in the 13th game despite 3 aces of the Dutchman. “I played a little bit safe and he played a lot better,” Courier said. “He didn’t make any mistakes for a few games and it got a bit complicated.” Courier has split with longtime coach Jose Higueras and linked up with coach Harold Solomon in a bid to end his three-year Grand Slam drought that also has seen him tumble out of the top 10. “It seems to be working,” he said. “I’m obviously still in good enough shape to make it through this match, so whatever I’m doing is OK.There were two matches in which winners were close to lose their matches in straight sets, then close again in fifth sets: Christian Ruud struggled past No. 13 Jan Siemerink 3-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 10-8 in 3 hours 58 minutes (exactly the same amount of time needed Courier in his opening match) and Lionel Roux ousted Jonathan Stark 1-6, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2, 13-11 in 4 hours 33 minutes. Richard Fromberg took a revenge on Brett Steven for a fourth round loss during Australian Open ’93 when he had match point in the 5th set, this time Fromberg prevailed 4-6, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 under three hours.

Second round: (AP)

Still crazy after all these years, Jeff Tarango thrashed nemesis Marc Rosset at the Australian Open, then vowed to make this the year he soars in tennis, storms back at Wimbledon and maybe even learns to levitate. Tarango, thrown out of Wimbledon two years ago and banned from the premises last year, held nothing back on or off the court Thursday. “This is the year of Mr. Tarango,” the Californian-turned-French enfant terrible of tennis proclaimed after a 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 victory over voinea_ao97Rosset, the Swiss player he claimed was given friendly calls at Wimbledon by an umpire. First-set problems bedeviled two former men’s champions: top-seeded Pete Sampras and No. 11 Jim Courier. Both came back strongly, Sampras beating Romanian Adrian Voinea 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 and Courier downing Slava Dosedel of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. Voinea displaying superb backhand passing-shots, after grabbing the 1st set led *2:1 (40/15) in the 2nd set, but won just 5 out of 22 games since then. “By land or by sea, I got the job done,” Courier said after his second straight five-setter, this one 3 hours, 37 minutes. In two matches, he’s played 100 games – more than he’s ever played to get to the third round of a Grand Slam event. “I’m coming out and I’m here to prove myself. I’m 28, and this is my year. Nothing is really going to distract me, bother with me, tangle with me, anything. I’m just going to fight my little butt off.” Pitted against each other yesterday on Court 3 were Boris Becker’s worst nightmares: Spain’s Carlos Moya, the youngster who ambushed Becker in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday, and Patrick McEnroe, the spoiler who debunked Becker in the first round here in 1995. Becker, of course, wouldn’t have rooted for either one, but the crowd of 3,000 was clearly in the pocket of the 20-year-old Spaniard. After all, his long hair, headband, tart topspin and fluid passing shots are reminiscent of two favorites from a bygone era: Guillermo Vilas and Bjorn Borg. The 25th-ranked Moya, still abashed by the instant celebrity he attained by eliminating Becker, the defending champion, overcame a “lazy start” and dismissed the 229th-ranked McEnroe, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-1. Later on this drab, rain-bothered third day of competition, seventh-seeded Thomas Enqvist downed Richard Fromberg of Australia, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, and Tim Henman of Britain defeated Guillaume Raoux, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, for a berth against last year’s runner-up, Michael Chang, who lost just 13 games in two opening rounds. Moya fired 13 aces, a talent he traced to being, at 6-foot-2, the tallest member of a Spanish contingent that has lately devoted itself to mastering hardcourt technique. The hardcourts, he said, are where the money and rankings points are. To cultivate only his home-grown prowess on clay would be provincial. And besides, Moya said, he wants to have more in common with Sampramedvedev_ao97s, who has been No. 1 “forever,” than with Thomas Muster. “I do feel that if I can be aggressive, then maybe I can be the dictator,” said Henman, a slender serve-and-volleyer who is four inches taller than his next opponent, the 5-foot-9 Chang. “I feel I have a good chance against most players at the moment. It’s a confidence thing. And having won seven matches in a row, I do feel very comfortable with the way I’m playing.’‘ In the biggest second-round upset, Karsten Braasch of Germany, who played just one ATP match in 1996,  beat No. 12 Magnus Gustafsson of Sweden, 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-4. Braasch fired 35 aces, Gustafsson none. Lost also other seeded player – Michael Stich (No. 15), but he was eliminated by a former No. 4 in the world – Andrei Medvedev, who started the year with a new coach in his box – Bob Brett. In the deciding set of this final second round match playing on Centre Court, Stich led 2:1* (40/30), 3:2 (40/30), 4:3 (40/15) & 6:5 (30/15), but the Ukrainian left the court as a winner by a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 4-6, 9-7 margin.  “That was the greatest feeling I’ve had for the last two years,” Medvedev said of his win over Stich.

In the longest set in Australian Open history, the final set of a doubles match was won, 29-27, by Australians Wayne Arthurs and Jon Ireland. The entire match lasted 4 hours, 36 minutes, with the third set taking 3 hours, 21 minutes. And that doesn’t include a rain delay of more than two hours with the score 25:25. In beating Italians Cristian Brandi and Filippo Messori in the first round, the Aussie pair won, 6-3, 3-6, 29-27 – 74 games in all. The previous Australian Open record, a 23-21 set, was the decider in a five-set match won by Pieter Aldrich and Danie Visser against Scott Davis and Robert van’t Hof in the 1990 men’s doubles quarterfinals.
Third round: Steve Wilstein

sampras_ao97Tennis 1-0-1, taught by professor Pete Sampras, is a short course in achieving near perfection on court. It is Sampras serving at 125 mph, drilling winners from every angle, leaping like Michael Jordan to smash a final overhead, and crushing a player as good as Mark Woodforde, 6-1, 6-0, 6-1, in 79 minutes Saturday night at the Australian Open. Sampras, one year after getting thumped by Australian Mark Philippoussis in the same third round, making absolutely certain nothing even remotely close occurred again. “Playing a night match here against an Aussie, I came out prepared and ready to go,” the top-seeded Sampras said. “I played a great match and everything was really clicking. You just wish you had days like this all the time. I played pretty much faultless tennis.” In late afternoon matches, No. 3 Goran Ivanisevic served 26 aces to beat American Chris Woodruff 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-1, and 11th-seeded, two-time champion Jim Courier ended his string of five straight five-set matches at the Australian the past two years with a 6-1, 7-6(3), 6-3 victory over Jeff Tarango. A year before they met in the second round in Melbourne and Courier won in four tight sets. Tim Henman and his ‘Barmy Army’ bellowing British fans with faces painted like Union Jacks, proved no match for Michael Chang. In an atmosphere that crackled with the electricity of a final Friday night at the Australian Open, the imperturbable Chang quickly turned the roars into groans as he carved out a 6-1, 7-6(3), 6-3 (exactly the same scoreline as in Courier’s win over Tarango) victory Friday to move into the fourth round. Henman didn’t play much like Stefan Edberg or any of the other greats with whom his overwrought fans have compared him during his run from the final in Qatar two weeks ago to the title in Sydney last week that brought him a No. 14 ranking. In fact, the No. 2 Chang made Henman look rather ordinary. When Henman charged the net, Chang calmly flicked lobs over his head or ripped passing shots by Henman as if he were a statue. “I thought I was going to get a stiff neck at the end of the match seeing those (lobs) go over my head,” Henman said. Quotes of the day: “I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have my computer. If someone stole it I’d just default and go home.”MaliVai Washington on his love of surfing the Internet. Last year’s Wimbledon runner-up beat Todd Woodbridge 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. “Every time I step on court it doesn’t matter who is on the other side, they should know they will not have an easy match. They should know they will have to struggle, they will have to bleed.”Andrei Medvedev after beating Dennis van Scheppingen 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.  The 70-minute victory came on the heels of Medvedev’s win Wednesday over former Wimbledon champion Michael Stich of Germany, the 15th seed.  Like two fuzz-topped chicks, Thomas Muster of Austria, seeded fifth, and Jens Knippschild, a qualifier from Germany with a copycat Day-Glo yellow hair style but absolutely no Grand Slam experience, pecked away at each other early today in the bright sunlight at the Australian Open. In order to force a second-set tiebreaker, Muster had to nullify four set points (including a triple set point at 5:4*)  held by his clone, who made a point of pestering him with drop shots. But Muster dominated the tiebreaker as well as the match and advanced with a 6-4, 7-6(2), 6-3 victory. In the 3rd set Muster already led 5:0, but afterwards was forced to save a break point serving to win the match at 5:3. The indignation of the host nation, which has lost all its female contenders and was down to just Scott Draper and Woodforde, was roused early inside the stadium by an influx of Spaniards no longer playing the role of conquistadors only on clay. The Spanish holiday weekend began with 10th-seeded Albert Costa‘s elimination of Brisbane’s No. 83-ferreira_ao97ranked Draper. The Spaniard trailed, 5:2, in the final set before rallying for a 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 victory. A well-planned forehand volley at match point sent Spain’s top player into the round of 16. Costa’s victory Saturday, a day after wins by Felix Mantilla and Carlos Moya, gave Spain more players in the fourth round of the men’s draw than any country except the United States, which was likely to have four. Moya  a rising Spanish star who ousted defending champion Boris Becker in the first round here at the Open, routed Germany’s Bernd Karbacher 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 Friday.  Costa next plays South African Wayne Ferreira, who served 24 aces in beating Italy’s Renzo Furlan 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-1. Gilbert Schaller was serving at 6:5 to lead two-sets-to-none against Marcelo Rios, but couldn’t consolidate a break of serve and lost the match 6-4, 6-7(2), 1-6, 1-6. Dominik Hrbaty [76] advanced to the last 16 in his Grand Slam debut (third main-level tournament overall) when his opponent, seeded with No. 16, Albert Berasategui retired trailing two sets to one… 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-7(4), 2-0 ret.  

Fourth round: (AP)

Pete Sampras had never met Dominik Hrbaty but is unlikely to forget him. Hrbaty, ranked No. 76 and the youngest player in the top 100 at 19, drilled 21 aces past a sagging Sampras and held a 3:1* (30/0) & 4:2 (40/15) lead in the 5th set of the fourth round of his first Grand Slam tournament. But Sampras showed why he is still No. 1, coming back to beat Hrbaty of Slovakia, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, Monday in 2 hours 56 minutes in more than 120-degree heat (49 Celsius!) in the Australian Open. Sampras saved the double mini-match point with service & quasi-forehand winners. At 4-all the Slovak had another mini-match point, but made a forehand error. Hrbaty self-hrbaty_sampras_ao97destructed under pressure, double-faulting three times in his last two service games (not committing a single one in six previous service games) for a total of 15 double-faults in the match. “It’s really not about tennis at that point,” Sampras said of the final games. “It’s about luck. He played well enough to beat me. I got a little bit lucky, and sometimes that’s what it takes.” Sampras also won because he played smart – if not pretty – tennis under brutal conditions, taking a lesson from his exhausting five-set victory over Alex Corretja at the U.S. Open last year when Sampras vomited on court. Sampras made sure he loaded up on liquids before and during the match, and he tried to keep points short. “It was so hot today, it was a joke,” Sampras said. “My feet were on fire. We were both feeling it.” The heat not only led to a lower quality of tennis, Sampras said, but was so hazardous to the players’ health that officials should consider closing the roof or allowing longer rest between sets. “I don’t know where you draw the line,” Sampras said. “It’s going to have to come a point where someone really gets hurt out there to make a rule. It’s the toughest conditions I ever had to play under.” Hrbaty watched the Sampras-Corretja match and said he thought he might be able to exploit Sampras’ vulnerability to the heat. “But it was tough for me also,” said Hrbaty. Sampras didn’t try to run down every ball. Rather, he relied on his serve – he had 17 aces – and went for winners. The players weren’t the only ones suffering. More than two dozen fans were treated by medics for heat exhaustion, including one woman who was taken to a hospital after collapsing. In a later match, eighth-seeded Wayne Ferreira of South Africa retired against 10th-seeded Albert Costa of Spain because of a leg injury, trailing, 6-3, 6-2, 3-2. MaliVai Washington went down in straight set to No. 14 seed Felix Mantilla [18] of Spain 7-5, 6-2, 6-1. Washington [21] was bidding to get to the Australian quarterfinals for the second time, but couldn’t come up with the shots against the clay-court specialist. Prior to Australian Open ’97, Mantilla hadn’t won two consecutive matches on a surface other than clay, defeating Washington he notched fourth straight win on hardcourts. Spain’s Carlos Moya, who rios_ao97conquered defending champion Boris Becker in the first round, advanced to the quarters with a 6-3, 1-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman after very tense last game in which match points were entwined a couple of times with break points for the Swedish player. In other five-setter, Marcelo Rios outlasted another Swede, Thomas Enqvist 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 6-3 on centre court in 3 hours 16 minutes serving career-best 30 aces. Enqvist, strongly supported by Swedish fans, came back from a *1:4 deficit in the 4th set saving a match point, but failed physically in the decider. Goran Ivanisevic needed five sets as well, surviving a battle with Christian Ruud, for whom fourth round was career-best result as far as majors are concerned. Ivanisevic squandered two set points in a 3rd set tie-break, but last two sets won quite easily against wilting Norwegian, and the match 4-6, 6-2, 6-7(7), 6-3, 6-3. The Croat fired 39 aces (Ruud 14), four of them in a crucial moment when he was 0/40 down at 3-all in the final set. Ivanisevic called the day’s intense heat impossible – “After 10 minutes you’re dead,” he said. No. 2 Michael Chang cruised into the quarters with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Andrei Medvedev of the Ukraine. Chang’s compatriot, Jim Courier had won seven consecutive matches against Thomas Muster, but the Austrian avenged those defeats eliminating the American two-time former champion with a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 scoreline. The three-hour match, which ended at 12:50 a.m., was interrupted for more than half an hour while the center court lights returned to full power after an outage.  In the 3rd set, Muster was treated for a nerve problem in the shoulder and back that leaves the fingers numb on his hitting hand, the left. But he came back strongly, breaking Courier three times in the final set.

Quarterfinals: (AP)

Any day now, tennis players will be conspiring by computer, sending e-mail to some bogus address like BeatPetelove.com, feeding information to each other on how to defeat Pete Sampras. Thomas Muster and his coach (Ronnie Leitgeb) can lead the way with the new computer program they’re using to analyze the subtle tendencies of players. It worked for Muster against No. 3 Goran Ivanisevic at the Australian Open, and Muster hopes it’ll work again in the semifinals Friday against the top-seeded Sampras. Everyone on the ATP Tour would be able to log on and read in, except Sampras. “I don’t really know how to use a computer,” Sampras said, though he knew how muster_ao97to wield his racket well enough to serve 26 aces Wednesday night and win his second consecutive five-setter, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-1, 3-6, 6-2, against Spain’s Albert Costa. It was an untypical five-setter – Costa had break points only in one game and won as 25 points fewer than Sampras!  “It’s all pretty much feel out there for me,” said Sampras, who is 7-0 in five-setters in his career at the Australian Open. “You play these guys enough to know what their tendencies are going to be.” For the No. 5 Muster, who’s always searching for an edge, it’s more complicated. First, he punishes himself with a training regimen fit for a triathlete. On court, he does whatever it takes to psyche out an opponent. Now he’s added a third element, a computer program he and his coach use to dissect the strengths and weakness of other players. “Everyone has a type of play he likes to use,” Muster said. “The computer can help you work it out. We have it and we’ll take advantage of it, but still, you have to go out there and play. The computer doesn’t play for you. It can help you out, but it’s not going to do the work for you.” It appeared to help against Ivanisevic, with Muster anticipating the direction of his fierce serves enough to break him seven times in a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 romp. Ivanisevic thought Muster might be ready to beat Sampras. “This is not a very fast court and I think he has a good game to beat Pete in the semis,” Ivanisevic said. “And if he beats Pete he is going to win [the tournament] pretty easily.” Sampras is anticipating trouble against Muster, calling a match against him “a war.” “I’ve played him enough to know what it’s going to be like,” Sampras said. “He’s very intense, he’s ready from the first point, and he doesn’t give up. That’s what makes him so tough to beat. I’m prepared to face that challenge.” Considering what he’s been through in the past two matches – a five-setter in sweltering heat against 19-year-old Dominik Hrbaty and a three-hour slugfest on a balmy evening against the No. 10 Costa – Sampras said he’s feeling fresh. Sampras might have spared himself some extra work against Costa if he had capitalized on either of the two break points he gained on Costa’s serve at 5:5 in the 2nd set. Additionally, one shot Sampras would have liked to play again forced him to go to a 5th set. On the third break point on Sampras’ serve, with Costa leading, 4:3, in the fourth set, the Spaniard blocked back a return that Sampras watched drift past him. “I misjudged it,” Sampras acknowledged. “If I did it over again, I would have hit it. He just caught the outside of the line.” That turned out to be the only break of Sampras’ serve in the match, and Costa chang_ao97took advantage to serve out the set. Protected from the searing sun and dry, desert-like winds, unseeded Carlos Moya surged into the semifinals of the Australian Open in the first match ever played with the roof closed because of heat. Moya, conqueror of defending champion Boris Becker in the first round, beat Spanish compatriot Felix Mantilla 7-5, 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2 Tuesday in the mid-70s comfort beneath the retractable roof in Melbourne, Australia. “I’m going to be playing anyway. If it’s snowing, raining, 60 degrees (Celsius), I don’t care,” Moya said, who already led 5:4 (30-all) on serve in the 3rd set; he was so relaxed throughout the match that quite often used “serve-and-volley” tactics – something he hadn’t showed up in four previous matches in Melbourne. Michael Chang caught up to virtually everything on court Tuesday night except a quick cricket. A ball girl with faster reflexes snatched the bug away, and Chang did the rest. Chang, a 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 winner over Chile’s Marcelo Rios at the Australian Open, moved within two victories of the second Grand Slam title he’s been chasing since he won his first one at 17 at the 1989 French Open. An elusive goal, if not an obsession, a second major championship would relieve Chang of a burden and confirm for him that his decision to build more power into his game was the right one. “When you lose with Michael the first set, it’s going to be a tough match,” Rios said. “I have to learn to concentrate more, not give up so soon and try to compete hard. It was their fourth meeting and for the fourth time Rios couldn’t win a set, their rivalry finished with Chang edging 6-1.

Semifinals: John Brock

Nine years ago in his Grand Slam tournament semifinal debut at the Australian Open, Thomas Muster lost to the dominant player of the 1980s, Ivan Lendl. This time, in the same round at the same tournament, Muster fell to the top player of the ’90s, Pete Sampras. Muster, winner of the 1995 French Open, couldn’t stop Sampras, even with the aid of a computer. The top-seeded Sampras, producing shots no computer could calculate, won 6-1, 7-6(3), 6-3. Muster, 29, the No. 5 seed, has been using a computer program to assess the strengths and weaknesses of his opponents. muster_sampras_ao97He gave it some of the credit for his quarterfinal win over No. 3 Goran Ivanisevic. But it couldn’t provide the answers against Sampras, who is chasing his second Australian Open title and ninth Grand Slam tournament crown. “The computer is good. It told me exactly the right things, but you still have got to make the shots,” Muster said. “He’s the No. 1 player, he’s confident and has the best all-round game. He’s a Grand Slam player and I’ve just got to give him credit.” The Austrian is the winner of 42 career titles, only seven fewer than current active leader Boris Becker. The 29-year-old hadn’t reached the Australian Open semifinal since his 1989 loss to Lendl. Muster, at his best on clay but well-suited to the medium pace of the Rebound Ace courts at the National Tennis Center, had his chances in the 2nd set. He led 5:2* and held a point to level the match in the ninth game. But Sampras was able to turn it around. The American served 16 aces, but it was one shot in the 4th game of the final set that highlighted his dominance and left Muster stunned mid-court. On the run, Sampras stretched low for a backhand, caught the ball just above the ground and rifled it ankle-high around the net-post for a winner. A fan stood and bowed, and Muster did likewise. “I don’t know how many (of those) he can make out of a thousand,’‘ Muster said. “At one stage in the second set I thought here’s my chance to take the set. I think it would have been wide open, but he came right back, and once he is ahead he’s very hard to beat.” Muster said his plan was to try and play to Sampras’s backhand in a bid to open up the court. “But it’s really hard because you have to risk a lot and he covers it (the court) so well,” Muster said. Carlos Moya has precedent, if not experience, on his side at the Australian Open, the Grand Slam event he has made his own. The unseeded 20-year-old Spaniard kept the shocks coming today with a masterful elimination of last year’s veteran runner-up, moya_ao97second-seeded Michael Chang. Moya launched himself here with a five-set opening round manifesto that gave Becker, the defending champion, a premature divorce from the event that last year rekindled his Grand Slam career after a five-year drought. And since that brilliant upset, Moya has been impervious to any letdown. Today, in full-blown sunshine on the Stadium Court, Moya hurtled around the court like he owned it, manipulating Chang from the baseline, the net, and beyond, and sent him packing with, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4. The victory put Moya into the final of this Grand Slam event in just his second appearance here, and in just the fifth Grand Slam of his career; he had never before passed the second round of a Grand Slam event, but he did possess a 4-4 career record against top 10 players coming into this event, a record he has now embellished to 6-4. Neither Chang’s serve, a late addition to his bag of tricks, nor his speed, which has always been the envy of his less dogged peers, made any impact on the 24th-ranked Spaniard. Moya, who looks to Sampras for the methods and mannerisms he considers worth copying, simply plastered Chang with topspin from the back-court and outwitted him at the net, where he willingly went on the right occasions.

Final: Robin Finn

He turned his inexperienced opponent into a virtual statue and turned the site of his most painful Grand Slam memory into a showcase for his tennis talent, which has left him, as the decade wears on, virtually without a peer. Top-seeded Pete Sampras earned his ninth Grand Slam singles sampras_ao97_championship today (45th title) at the Australian Open with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-3, 81-minute demolition of this event’s resident glamor boy: unseeded Carlos Moya. Sampras left himself just three titles shy of equaling Roy Emerson‘s men’s record of 12 Grand Slam singles crowns. ”Sure, when you look back at your career, that’s what stands out, Grand Slam titles, and sure I want to win more of them, but I’m not consumed with Bill Tilden or Roy Emerson or Rod Laver,” said the 25-year-old Sampras, referring to the men who won, respectively, 10, 12, and 11 Grand Slm titles. Not consumed by learning his tennis history, either, Sampras forgot to list Bjorn Borg, who owns 11 major titles and whose headband and topspin are echoed in the up-and-coming player he beat today. It was here two years ago that Sampras sobbed through his quarterfinal comeback against Jim Courier after his longtime mentor, Tim Gullikson, collapsed because of what was later diagnosed as brain cancer. Gullikson died last May, a loss that rocked Sampras’s self-confidence and lent some shades of gray to what had been his one-dimensional approach to tennis and to life. ”It sobered me up to some things I never had to deal with before, and coming here rekindled the emotion,” Sampras said. ”To this day, I can’t believe he’s not still here.” Sampras also saw his longtime relationship with his girlfriend, Delaina Mulcahy, come to an abrupt, if less traumatizing, end in 1996. ”But I think if you can get through the death of a friend like Tim, you can get through anything,” said Sampras. He had trounced the 20-year-old from Majorca in their only other meeting, at a charity clinic in Barcelona, Spain, three years ago. Moya recalled being so awed that he could barely strike a ball, and today’s outing turned into something of a clinic, too. ”I think I learned many things today, more than I’ve learned in the two weeks that I’ve been winning my matches,” Moya said. ”Most, I learned who is the No. 1 player.” Moya was appearing in his first Grand Slam final in his sophomore year on the pro circuit and, until this event, had not passed the second round of his four previous Grand Slam tournaments. Sampras, who won this title in 1994 and arrived on a Grand Slam winning streak having won the 1996 United States Open last September, has a 9-2 record in Grand Slam finals. Entering the final, Moya had been buoyed by his upsets of last year’s defending champion, Boris Becker, and last year’s runner-up, Michael Chang. But while Sampras seized the occasion, Moya was overwhelmed by it and played tentatively from the start to the end, a mere 87 minutes later. Sampras, who wore a big white cap to block the hazy sun, needed just 12 aces to suppress Moya, who kept his tresses under control with a big white headband. Moya was bombarded by an sampras_moya_ao97unrelenting attack from Sampras, who converted all six break points he held, and showed few signs of the all-court insouciance that carried him to the final. ”He showed why he’s No. 1 in the world,” Moya said of Sampras. ”He had a good serve, a good forehand, and I didn’t feel comfortable at any moment of the match.” In the 1st set, Sampras was clearly the maestro, moving Moya from corner to corner, serving him off the court and, in the 4th game, taking control from the backcourt to break him for a 3:1 lead. Sampras kept applying pressure and kept being rewarded with errors such as the unforced netted backhand that cost Moya his serve and the first set. After a slight wobble in the 3rd game of the 2nd set, the veteran manhandled the rookie the same way he had in the first. ”I wanted to set the tone early on in the match with my serve, chip and charge a little bit, show him a different look,” Sampras said. ”I didn’t want to get into these long grueling rallies.” Moya fared no better in the 3rd, where he lost his serve and fell behind by 2:1 by netting a forehand, a shot he usually flicks to perfection. Sampras forged to a 4:2 lead by ending the 6th game with a pair of aces and went ahead by 5:3 with three more aces. The shaken Spaniard then lost the final game without winning a point. Moya was the youngest Australian Open men’s finalist since 19-year-old Stefan Edberg burst on the Grand Slam scene with a championship here in 1985. And Moya was the first Spanish man to reach the final in Melbourne since Andres Gimeno was beaten by Rod Laver in 1969. Even though Moya did not look like a world-beater today, his campaign here put him on the map, so far as Sampras was concerned. ”He has a good head on his shoulders, a big game and a big serve backed up with some big groundies, and he’ll just get better,” Sampras said. ”The crowd, what can I say about the crowd?” Moya said. ”Without your support I wouldn’t have gotten here.” Stats of the final