Wimbledon, Great Britain June 22-July 6, 1998; 128 Draw (16 seeded); Surface: Grass
Arguably it was a tournament featured opportunity for Tim Henman to end a 62-year title drought for the British tennis at Wimbledon. The local favorite had already a solid experience obtained in two previous Wimbledons as he reached quarter-finals on both occasions. Four-time champion Pete Sampras was clearly out of form before Wimbledon ’98, admittedly he was the biggest favorite of bookmakers (6:4, second Krajicek 8:1), albeit his sensational defeat on grass (3-6 2-6) at Queens Club to Mark Woodforde a week before Wimbledon, allowed to suspect he might have been ousted by Mark Philippoussis or Henman. However, Sampras proved once again that Wimbledon’s Centre Court belongs to him…
Pete Sampras  opened play on Centre Court with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty , a performance that belied the poor results that have cast doubt on Sampras’ chances of defending his title. “If you can’t get up for an event like this, you shouldn’t be playing,” said the top-seeded American, seeking his fifth championship in six years. “This place over the years has brought out the best in me. You get more keyed up, more fired up, going out there at 2 o’clock on Monday. Over the years, it’s been treating me pretty well.” Sampras served an ace on the first point, closed the first set with another ace and was never troubled. He finished with 17 aces and eight double faults. The most entertaining moment came after Sampras nailed Hrbaty in the thigh with a service winner in the fourth game of the second set. Waiting to return on the next point, Hrbaty held up his racket in front of his body as mock protection, drawing laughter from Sampras and the spectators. The young voice came from high in the stands on Court One, urging Tim Henman to close out his first-round match Monday at Wimbledon. “C’mon!” the boy shouted. “We want to watch the football!” Henman, trying to become the first Briton to win Wimbledon since 1936, found himself competing Monday against both Jiri Novak and the World Cup. The last part of Henman’s five-set victory over Novak overlapped the start of the English soccer team’s game in France against Romania. The result was a distraction for fans – and Henman. “People shouted out things about the football, and to tell you the truth, it irritated me,” he said. “Things like, `We want to watch football.’ Well, I agree with them, but it’s not what you want to be hearing. It doesn’t help.” Henman finally outlasted Novak 7-6(4), 7-5, 5-7, 4-6, 6-2 in 3 hours 10 minutes, then headed for a television to watch the World Cup match, which Romania won 2-1. Seventh-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov , lost on Centre Court to big-serving Australian  Mark Philippoussis, 6-7(5), 7-6(1), 6-4, 6-2 despite a 5:3 lead in the 2nd set. Kafelnikov, winner of a Wimbledon warm-up tournament in Germany (Halle), possesses an all-court game that made him one of the top title challengers. British bookmakers had rated him and Richard Krajicek as joint second favorites behind Sampras. Philippoussis, who had considered skipping Wimbledon after a series of early round defeats this year, served 21 aces and had 14 double faults. Conversely, Kafelnikov’s serve doomed him with 22 double faults. “I haven’t had a great year but there is no reason I can’t win this tournament,” Philippoussis said. Kafelnikov said his serving problems were due to the relentless pressure put on by the Australian. Marcelo Rios , who held the No. 1 ranking briefly earlier this year but whose game is not ideally suited to grass, was ousted in the first round by Spain’s  Francisco Clavet, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. Rios, who complained about numerous line calls, said, “We’re in England, what do you expect? Just kidding.” The Chilean, who lost in the first round of a Wimbledon warm-up tournament in Nottingham, said he was fed up with the game. “I’m not enjoying playing right now,” he said. “I’m not enjoying being on the court. The grass, I never really liked it that much.” Goran Ivanisevic , a two-time Wimbledon finalist who had won only one match in his last five Grand Slam tournaments, beat  Grant Stafford 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. “I can beat anybody when I play good here, and I can lose to some serious bad guys,” said Ivanisevic, the No. 14 seed. “You never know with me. Not too many people rate me as a favorite or expect me to do good here. But I feel good. Anything is possible.” Greg Rusedski , fourth seeded this year and a quarter-finalist last year, pulled out of Wimbledon today with Mark Draper when his badly sprained left ankle failed to respond to treatment. Rusedski won the first set 6-4, dropped the second 6-2 as he began to limp badly. Draper was up a break at 5:4 in the third when play was called. Rusedski double-faulted 18 times, and was even out-aced (12-17) by 238th ranked opponent who only came to England to watch his brother Scott and then found himself in the main draw after advancing through the qualifiers. The Canadian-born Briton injured the ankle almost two weeks ago in a bad fall during the Queen’s tournament, a traditional grass-court warm-up for Wimbledon. “I thought it would get better,” Rusedski said. “I thought when it got warmed up it would get better. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. But there is always next year“. Tony Pickard, angered by Rusedski’s decision to attempt a match on the ankle, resigned as his coach. “I’m not worried about it,” Rusedski said, obviously upset. “The player always makes it. The coach can help, but it’s the player at the end of the day. I guess that just shows the person’s [Pickard's] true colors.” It was the only victory in Mark Draper’s career in majors (three appearances). Patrick Rafter , a natural grass-court player, beat Ivo Heuberger  of Switzerland 6-1, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to carry on from where he left off last week in the Netherlands where he won the Den Bosch title. “If I can keep the way I’m thinking and the mindset I’m in, and I know I can do that because I feel so good, then there’s no reason why I can’t get into the second week.” Rafter said. His compatriot,Jason Stoltenberg  eliminatedGustavo Kuerten  on Court No. 2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 10-8 being two points away from defeat at *5:6 (0/30). Stoltenberg, who had also won 10-8 in the 5th set his opening round in Paris a month earlier, won another two five-setters in London (Tarango & Woodforde) before lost in the fourth round to Philippoussis. It took American Jan-Michael Gambill three days – and 11 match points in the deciding set – to get a result at Wimbledon. At least he got a good one. Billed as one of next hopes in the American men’s game, Gambill won his first-round match Wednesday over Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands. Playing his first Wimbledon, Gambill was up 2-1 when darkness ended play Monday. Rain ended it Tuesday at two sets each, with Schalken up 1:0 in the fifth. On Wednesday – under sunny skies – Gambill came back from *2:4, and prevailed 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-7(5), 4-6, 8-6. “This is my first five-set match,” Gambill said. “And I’ve never had a match that’s lasted three days.”The match lasted 3 hours 45 minutes, Gambill converted just 5 out of 30 break points!In other very dramatic, nine minutes longer encounter on court No. 13,Marc Rossetunleashed 38 aces to win, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 13-11 againstCedric Pioline. The Swiss served to stay in the match seven times, but never faced a match point. A bizarre 5-set match was won by Thomas Enqvist, who lost first two sets to Daniel Nestor in tie-breaks, and won the last two not dropping a game! Enqvist served 30 aces, 5 more than his opponent.
Angry at the officiating and hurt by double faults, Andre Agassi  is gone from Wimbledon. Agassi, the 1992 champion and No. 13 seed, became the eighth men’s seed eliminated Thursday when he lost in four sets today to Germany’s Tommy Haas . Agassi trailed two sets to one when the second-round match was suspended because of darkness Wednesday. Haas won the fourth set Thursday to win 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-4. Haas, 20, has been billed as Germany’s successor to Boris Becker. He is a product of the Nick Bollettieri academy in Florida, where Agassi also got his start. “I used to see him practice there,” Haas said. “I used to sit on the sideline when he was playing. This is a very special win for me. I can say I beat Andre Agassi, a former No. 1 who won a couple of Grand Slams.” Earlier, No. 5 seed Carlos Moya, the French Open champion, was ousted in four sets by Morocco’s Hicham Arazi. In a Centre Court match between two players more accomplished on clay than grass, Arazi  rallied to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. Agassi broke in the first game of the fourth set and held for a 2:0 lead. But he double faulted on break point in the sixth game to let Haas even the set at 3:3. The two remained on serve until the 10th game when another double fault by Agassi gave Haas a match point. Agassi saved that one, but Haas converted his second match point with a forehand return. In the final game, leading 40/30, Agassi was upset when at least one ground-stroke by Haas appeared long but drew no call. He approached chair umpire John Frame, who refused to overrule. Agassi had been furious with Frame over another line call Wednesday that helped Haas win the third set. A forehand by Haas was ruled good, even though replays showed it was clearly out. “It was nearly six inches [out],” Agassi protested. “It was out both ways. It was wide and it was long.” Frame shook his head and the call stood, giving Haas a 6:3 lead in the tiebreaker. Agassi saved one set point, but succumbed on the next. Play was then suspended, and Agassi resumed his protest. “In 12 years, I’ve never seen it miss that much,” he said to Frame. The Centre Court crowd jeered the umpire and linesmen as they left the court. Today, Haas acknowledged the ball had been out. Pete Sampras, the No. 1 seed and defending champion, hustled onto the grounds in mid-afternoon with a sandwich hanging from his mouth, successfully managing to remain unnoticed in the Wimbledon crowd. He then took to Court 1 and easily beat Sweden’s Mikael Tillstrom, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(5), in a second-round match. “I didn’t really want to be stopped so I kept my head down,” Sampras said of his anonymous journey to the players’ locker room. “Actually, I felt a little bit rushed going out there.” It was third Grand Slam match between Sampras and Tillstron, second year running at Wimbledon. At this year’s Wimbledon, Goran Ivanisevic is trying to make up for lost time. Yesterday, he completed his second-round match against Andrei Medvedev, swept the final set and won, 6-3, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-0. The No. 14 seed said he was feeling good and back on a roll. “If I play like this, then anything is possible,” Ivanisevic said. “This is a very high quality of tennis that I played.” Ivanisevic has just survived the toughest patch of his career, plummeting in the rankings after six miserable months. “I said, ‘OK, the first half of the year is gone, you cannot play worse than the first half of the year,’” he said. “Now, it’s the second part of the year. I’m happier to play. I have more fun on the court and more fun practicing.”Francisco Clavet  won second five-setter in a row as he came back from a *1:4 deficit in the 3rd set to beat  Guillermo Canas6-7(2), 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-4. Both players won 172 points each. Tim Henman will be Britain’s standard bearer in the men’s singles at Wimbledon following Greg Rusedski’s withdrawal from the tournament. Henman said playing David Nainkin  was “definitely not an easy match”. Henman, Britain’s No. 2, beat Nainkin 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 in his second round match (Nainkin led 4:2 in the 3rd set).
It was yet another frustrating day at Wimbledon, as most of the matches were delayed by a series of brief showers. No. 6 seed Patrick Rafter was the first man to complete his third-round match by defeating Magnus Gustafsson, 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-2, 6-1. Rafter is prepared to face Henman, the home crowd favorite. “You have to block out the noise,” Rafter said. “It’s going to be a bit difficult, but sometimes that can work against him as well. It is all about me blocking that out, if I do happen to play him.” Defending champion Pete Sampras charged into the fourth round at Wimbledon on Monday. In a faultless display (29 aces; saved 3 set points in the 3rd set) on Center Court, Sampras brushed aside 17th-ranked Swede Thomas Enqvist 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(3) in a match carried over from Friday. Enqvist lost five tie-breaks in three matches. Sampras now meets Sebastien Grosjean  of France, who upset Spanish 16th seed Felix Mantilla in straight sets. Mantilla failed to recover from an awful start during which he lost the opening nine games to Grosjean. The Spaniard raised his arms in triumph after winning his first game when trailing 6-0, 3:0. He rallied to 6:6 in the second set, but lost the tie-break to 8, before folding again to surrender the deciding set 6-2. Goran Ivanisevic, who served a record 46 aces last year at Wimbledon and lost, served 44 on Monday and won in four sets over Daniel Vacek  to reach the fourth round. The quotable Croatian also double faulted 15 times. “My matches are like horror thrillers and you cannot expect anything,” said Ivanisevic, twice a Wimbledon runner-up. “It’s like a movie. I make the movie, but I don’t know the end. That’s it.” Todd Martin , the only American man left in the draw other than Sampras, completed a rain-delayed third round match against last year’s semifinalist  Todd Woodbridge, winning 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(1) 6-4. Play was halted at Wimbledon’s Court 18 on Saturday afternoon after fire swept through a tower block overlooking the All England Club. Spectators of the match were shepherded away along with fans picnicking in Aorangi Park as a precaution. A Wimbledon spokesman said the court evacuation was a “security measure because of smoke.” A fiercely partisan Wimbledon crowd cheered local hero Tim Henman  as he marched to within one step of his third consecutive quarter final at Wimbledon on Saturday. Zimbabwe’s Byron Black  was the lonely loser on the Centre Court as the British crowd helped the 12th seeded Henman to a 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 victory, earned over two days at rain-soaked Wimbledon. On Friday night Henman competed with the England soccer side for British pride when he raced to a 3:2 lead in the 2nd set over a player he had not beaten in two previous attempts. In the 4th set Black led 5:3*. No. 9 Richard Krajicek had 25 aces and outlasted Nicolas Kiefer, 6-4, 7-6(2), 7-6(4), to gain a round-of-16 match with Wayne Ferreira. With Krajicek on the bottom of the draw and Sampras on the top, expectations are beginning to build toward their possible meeting in the final. “I know if I stay sharp with my serve like this, then I think I have a good chance of doing something very nice here,” Krajicek said. ”But I don’t want to think too much about the final.” Kiefer squandered a double set point leading 6:5* (40/15) in the 2nd set. Jason Stoltenberg won third consecutive five-setter, this time overcoming fellow Australian, Mark Woodforde 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. It was too much tennis for Stoltenberg, who won 1st set of his next match against another Aussie (Mark Philippoussis) but couldn’t do anything in the three following sets.
Davide Sanguinetti, who had never played a grass-court tournament before Wimbledon, is one victory from a spot in the semifinals. The 25-year-old Italian, who has played 10 of his 16 tournaments this year on clay, defeated Francisco Clavet of Spain Tuesday 7-6(3), 6-1, 6-4 and will next face Krajicek, the 1996 champion. “I’m surprised because I didn’t know how I would respond to grass,” Sanguinetti said. “But as soon as I came here and started to practice I felt really good.” Sanguinetti is moving up in the rankings, and his place in the Wimbledon quarterfinals will carry him higher than at any time in his career. Beginning the year at No. 92, a march to the final of the tournament in Coral Springs, Florida, in May helped boost him to a current high of No. 65. “I have flat shots, and the grass is like soap,” said Sanguinetti, who attended UCLA for two years. “It’s slippery and they have a lot of trouble putting their shots on the other side [of the net], especially my serve.” Pete Sampras, who hasn’t dropped a set so far, served his 13th and 14th aces to finish off French qualifier Sebastien Grosjean, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. “To start a match and complete a match in one day was nice,” said Sampras, whose previous match spanned four days. Sampras wore a brace on his left knee for the first time to relieve soreness in the back of the knee. Richard Krajicek, who beat Wayne Ferreira 6-3, 6-3, 7-5, hyper-extended a knee when he slipped at the end of the second set. “I slipped, and then my knee bent the other way,” Krajicek said. “I overstretched it, and I just felt a sharp pain in my knee, basically on my scar from my operation. It’s not the tendon. It’s something inside the knee, and sometimes I’ve got an unbelievably sharp pain. It’s not comfortable, and I’ve no idea what it is.” Krajicek rolled through the first two sets, then struggled in the third set after the injury. “I was basically serving with one leg,” he said. “That’s why I lost my aim and hit more double faults. And it was also a little bit of a mental thing. I just didn’t really want to go for the volleys any more.” Krajicek knows his strengths and weaknesses and, unlike other players, he doesn’t mind discussing his failings. “My return is never my weapon,’‘ he said, and though he returned better against Ferreira than he did in beating Nicolas Kiefer in the third round, Ferreira did a great job of surrendering. He provided Krajicek with breaks in each of the first two sets, both on double faults. Then, he doubled-faulted at 5:4, 40/30 in the final set. Briton Tim Henman rode a wave of nationalistic fervor on Monday to beat sixth seed Pat Rafter and book his third consecutive quarterfinal berth at Wimbledon. Spurred on by enthusiastic hometown support Henman, the 12th seed, raised his fists in triumph and the crowd rose as one, as much with relief as pleasure, when Rafter pushed a volley wide to hand the Briton the match 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-2. “To walk out there on court when it was as full as that gives you a buzz,” said Henman. “I think I’ve shown again that I do respond to that.” Next up for Henman is a test against No. 3 Petr Korda, who overcame a severely sprained left ankle late in the third set to outlast John van Lottum, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4). Goran Ivanisevic continues his march towards a third Wimbledon final by beating old rival Todd Martin in the fourth round 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(2) - the Croat beat him in the Wimbledon fourth round for the second time, previously in 1995, also with a help of two winning tie-breaks. The 26-year-old reached a milestone with his 500th match victory but then went on to compare his 1998 season to a horror movie. “My matches are like horror.” said Ivanisevic, “It would be nice if I can win it. This year is a good chance for me. I’m playing maybe the best tennis ever I play here, and so now it’s three more matches to go.” The American out-aced the Croat 24-16, and won three points more altogether.
In men’s play, defending champion Pete Sampras, closing in on his fifth title in six years, swept Mark Philippoussis 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-4. Sampras, who hasn’t dropped a set in five matches, was out-aced 14-10 in a contest between two of the fastest servers in the game. But he never lost serve, saving three break points against him while breaking the Australian twice. There was a lot of talk before this tournament that the Sampras era was near its close. Now, he’s on a roll. “I have no complaints the way I’m playing,” Sampras said. He will next face Tim Henman, who beat  Petr Korda 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to become the first British player to reach the men’s semis since Roger Taylor in 1973. Korda, who strained his left Achilles’ tendon two days ago, was limping and received treatment during the first set. Henman got a standing ovation from the Centre Court crowd, his victory providing a lift for Britain following England’s World Cup defeat to Argentina on Tuesday night. Henman started brilliantly, winning his first ten points on serve and breaking the 30-year-old Czech on his first service game. Once again the 12th seed was in devastating form on his serve. And he never relinquished control, dominating at the net and frequently winning the longer rallies. Henman wrapped it up in 1 hour 44 minutes and saluted reaching his first grand slam semi-final with arms raised to the heavens. Indeed, it was a mini Grand Slam of his own because he has now beaten the reigning French Open (Kafelnikov), Wimbledon (Krajicek), US Open (Rafter) and Australian Open (Korda) champions at the All England Club over the last three years. Korda felt he couldn’t play his best tennis because of his ankle: “You could see it was bad, but I did not want to give up. I will stand and fight to the last point. That is me and I will have to break my leg to retire.” The following year Korda was ordered to forfeit all prize money since July 1998 – $661,831 – for testing positive for the steroid Nandrolone at Wimbledon ’98. Sampras said Henman, bidding to become the first British men’s champion since 1936, will have enormous crowd support Friday. “It’s going to be tough,” he said. “But you still have to play well. It’s still one-on-one. I think the toughest crowd I’ve ever played in front of was probably against Boris Becker in Germany.” Richard Krajicek and Goran Ivanisevic advanced to the other semifinal with straight-set wins. Krajicek, the 1996 champion, cruised to a 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 win over 65th-ranked Davide Sanguinetti of Italy. Ivanisevic, a former two-time finalist, beat Jan Siemerink  in three tiebreakers (12/10, 7/5 & 8/6). The Croat fought off set points in each set: 4 in the 1st tie-break, 1 set point at *2:5 (30/40) in the 2nd set (an ace) and 4:5* (30/40) + 5:6 in the tie-break of the 3rd set! He was also better in aces, 29-14. Krajicek’s right knee, which was surgically repaired in December 1996, has been hurting. But he just keeps winning. “I don’t think I’m a Marine or a Navy Seal, but I think I can cope with the pain OK,” he said. But Krajicek still has to get past Ivanisevic. If Henman can’t win Wimbledon, many here would like to see Ivanisevic finally grab the title. The Croat is on a comeback, serving hard and winning easily. What would happen if Croatia won the World Cup and Ivanisevic won Wimbledon? “I think the whole country will be drunk for the rest of the year, including me and the rest of the team,” Ivanisevic said. “We celebrate. I put the rackets in the closet and just come next year.”
Pete Sampras punched holes in a British fantasy with the fastest serves at Wimbledon, and Goran Ivanisevic curbed his stormy temper to win a “horror thriller” Friday and set up a second clash for the title. Sampras, seeking to tie Bjorn Borg’s Open-era men’s mark of five Wimbledon championships, crushed aces from 136 mph in the first set to 134 mph (218, 215 kph respectively) on match point to take out England’s Tim Henman, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Goran Ivanisevic, a two-time finalist who lost to Sampras in the 1994 title match, outlasted 1996 champion Richard Krajicek in a thunderous, 70-ace serving duel, 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-7(5), 15-13. “You know he’s going to hit his aces, he’s going to hit his double faults,” Sampras said of the prospect of playing Ivanisevic on Sunday. “You’re going to have to ride the wave with Goran.” Ivanisevic is weary of hearing himself called the greatest player who’s never won a major title. He’s joked about his wild matches – he served 37 aces in the 1992 Wimbledon final he lost to Andre Agassi – but he desperately wants to win this time. “I’m really keeping my mind well and believing I can do it this year,” said Ivanisevic, who flung his racket cross-court and 12 rows up in the stands to celebrate his victory. Sampras’ game is built around his serve, and in the first set he came close to perfection as he held three times at love and delivered a 136-mph ace that was faster than Ivanisevic’s previous best of the tournament, 133 mph. But it was not all power. Sampras, who practices often with Henman and occasionally plays doubles with him, returned well and finessed his way to breaks in the seventh and ninth games of the set as he strung together four straight winning games. Ivanisevic: “I was practicing hard for the last one month, trying to not feel sorry for myself and keep working.” Henman finally found ways to pressure Sampras with angled returns and passes as he broke him twice for a 4:1 lead in the 2nd set and went on to tie the match at a set apiece. “I dug my heels in a little bit, created some opportunities, hit some good returns at 1:1, and got ahead,” Henman said. “That obviously gave me a lot of confidence, and I built on that. A set all, going with serve in the third, it’s anyone’s match. But at 5:6, he was the one who came up with the goods.” The goods Sampras produced virtually gave him the match. With Henman serving at 30/30, Sampras sprang a few feet into the air for an overhead smash that bounced into the stands for the first of three set points. Henman survived the first two but not the third, which Sampras notched with a brilliant backhand volley cross-court. Sampras followed that up with a blistering backhand cross-court pass that Henman barely reached. It was the only break of the third set, and Sampras leaped to celebrate. “When I won the third set, I knew I had him,” Sampras said. The fans kept hoping for a miracle, but Henman was at Sampras’ mercy. As well as the 23-year-old from Oxford played, Sampras played better. Serving to close out the match, Sampras showed he wasn’t the least bit weary as he whacked a 133 mph ace for 40/0 and, two points later, a 134 mph ace, his 16th, for the match. Ivanisevic will have his third shot at the title, and second with Sampras on the other side. That prospect is somewhat surprising in view of Ivanisevic’s recent history: He won only one match in his previous five Grand Slam events. “A lot of people say, `He’s gone, he’s never going to be back,’ and, you know, you have two ears and you have to listen all the time,” the Croatian said. “But I knew that I had a bad six months, and Wimbledon came at the right time. I was practicing hard for the last one month, trying to not feel sorry for myself and keep working. I think this is the time it’s going to pay off for me.” Ivanisevic squandered two match points in the fourth set, then outlasted Krajicek, who finished with 42 aces. The final set lasted one hour, 19 minutes. “The fifth set was a just a horror thriller,” Goran said. “I never saw somebody serving like that in my life. They were just bombs. I couldn’t even react. I said, ‘Just keep your serve. He has to miss a couple of first serves.’ And that happened at 13:14.” The most surprising aspect of Ivanisevic’s victory was how he didn’t lose his temper or his composure after missing the two match points in the fourth set and going down a break in the fifth. “I don’t think anybody bet on me when I lost the fourth set,” he said. “I was just mentally very strong today. Never like this in my life. I just believed I was going to win it.”
Closing in on one of the mightiest records in tennis, Pete Sampras is the king of Wimbledon again. He won the tournament for the fifth time in six years Sunday with a 6-7(2), 7-6(9), 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 triumph over Goran Ivanisevic. “It’s just really sweet,” Sampras said. “I can’t believe I’ve won five of these.” When Ivanisevic sailed a backhand long on the first match point, Sampras raised his arms and flashed a big smile. The victory tied Sampras with Bjorn Borg for the most Wimbledon singles titles of the open era. Borg won five straight from 1976-80. Sampras, who received $722,000 for the win, also moved into a second-place tie with Borg and Rod Laver on the list of Grand Slam victories, just one behind the record 12 of Roy Emerson. Ivanisevic took home $361,000. “It’s a little overwhelming to think of myself in those terms,” Sampras said. “I’ve tried to stay humble through all of my accomplishments. I’ve got some years left in me where hopefully I can do this again.” By reasserting his grass-court superiority, and extending his Wimbledon record to 44-2 since 1992, Sampras ended a yearlong slump in which he failed to get past the quarterfinals of the last three Grand Slam events. For Ivanisevic, it marked his third defeat in a Wimbledon final. He lost to Andre Agassi in 1992 and Sampras in 1994. “I had a chance,” he said. “This was my best chance ever here.” Ivanisevic had 32 aces and Sampras had 12. But the key was Ivanisevic’s 20 double faults. The match was settled in the sixth game of the fifth set when Sampras broke for 4:2, ripping a backhand return at Ivanisevic’s feet. After Sampras held for 5:2, Ivanisevic buried his head in his towel and muttered to himself during the changeover. Sampras then broke him at love in the next game to end the 2-hour, 52-minute match. Ivanisevic said he was so drained he had little on his serve in the last game – “no pace, nothing there.” Ivanisevic won the first set with a roller-coaster serving show that included 13 aces and nine double faults. Ivanisevic saved six break points, including four double faults in one game, while Sampras saved three. The tiebreaker went Ivanisevic’s way when he hit a backhand passing shot for a mini-break and 2:0 lead and increased the lead to 5:2 with a forehand winner. He then followed with an ace and a service winner. Pete Sampras celebrates winning the third set The first service break of the match came in the second game of the second set when Sampras, head to head with Ivanisevic across the net, stabbed a reflex backhand volley to go up 2:0. But Ivanisevic broke right back in the next game. It took four break points before he converted by driving a forehand pass down the line. Sampras didn’t serve his first ace until the fifth game of the second set, when he hit three in a row. Only five points went against serve over the next nine games as the two headed into another tiebreaker. Sampras saved two set points, while serving at 5:6 and 7:8, both times Ivanisevic failing to take advantage of second serves and hitting high backhand returns into the net. “The two set points going to my backhand I missed the balls, which is ridiculous,” Ivanisevic said. The turning point came on the 19th point when an Ivanisevic shot was ruled in but was then changed to out by the lines-woman. Sampras, initially thinking he had lost the point, shouted, “Oh, my God,” and held his head in his hands in disbelief. But the point was replayed, and Ivanisevic sailed a sloppy forehand volley way long to give Sampras a third set point, this time on his own serve. He promptly hit a service winner to take the set and even the match. “I felt the match slipping away in the breaker,” Sampras said. “I thought this could be Goran’s year. Once I won the second set I thought, `Now he’s down and I’m up a little bit.’” It was Sampras’ 55th title (11th major).