The first, most dramatic and the longest of 22 matches between the two Americans (Sampras 18-4). The 22-year-old Martin [93, Wild Card] was rather unanimous at the time, but in late Summer of ’92 two events potentially turned him from one of many “second league” Americans into an elite player. First he reached an Indianapolis semifinal losing a very long (2:31 hrs) two-set match to Courier, who was the best in the world, then in his first appearance on a centre court at majors, he almost defeated a soon-to-be best world’s best – Sampras . Those two events boosted Martin’s self-confidence and turned him from a Top 100 player into a Top 10er within two seasons… In the night session 3R match at the US Open (finished before midnight), Martin displayed very intelligent tennis, he could easily win points at the net or staying back, his double-handed backhand was excellent, very solid during baseline rallies, and sharp at passing-shots, moreover he presented a great touch at cross-court BH lobs (5 out of 6 lob winners off the backhand side). Sampras felt it would be a tough night already in his first two service games saving break points. Then he was easily holding to win the tie-break 7/1. From 2-all in the 2nd set very strange things began to happen and the favourite lost nine successive games! Partly because of very good tennis of the underdog, partly because of his disinterest (one close decision upset Sampras a lot). In the 3rd set Martin’s backhand return almost gave him a double set point to bagel (!) Sampras – hitting the return which landed a few centimetres behind the baseline, Martin lost his dampener and it initiated Sampras’ comeback from a helpless situation. The UO ’90 champion improved from *0:5 (15/30) to *4:5 (30/15), but lost three straight points and a sensation finally hung in the air. In the 4th set Martin improved from *2:4 to 5:4, but Sampras facing the defeat, won his easiest service game of the night (Martin didn’t return any of four serves). Sampras won three straight games and the set, but the decider began itself with almost three games for Martin – he played two sensational points beyond his standards (first a moon-lob from big defence forcing Sampras’ overhead error to win the opening game, then in the first point of the 2nd game a perfect passing-shot down the line, using just one hand). Martin led *2:0 (40/30) when Sampras survived one of the longest rallies of the match (13 strokes), then played his only dropshot (BH) which gave him a winner, and he took the momentum, winning four straight games. The finishing line was fascinating: at *3:5 Martin saved a match point with an ace, in the following game he saved a double match point with two impressive winners (from the back & at the net)… *5:4 (deuce) when Sampras was irritated because he probably had struck an ace DTT which was called out. Behind the second serve he stayed cool though, and got the fourth match point with a perfect half-volley. The fourth MP was converted thanks to his powerful serve. Very strange that in his another match against Forget, Sampras wins just two games within fifty minutes again (!), but in contrary to the Martin match, it’s reflected by the scoreline.
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