Wimbledon ’93: in my opinion the most significant major of the ’90s. Admittedly, Pete Sampras came to London as the No. 1 player in the world, but with only one Grand Slam triumph, which he captured three years earlier (US Open ’90). Sampras’ right shoulder had been bothering him before the tournament, almost forcing him to withdraw, and it reminded him of its presence a couple of times in the first few rounds (especially in the opening match when he was close to trailing 1-2 in sets against a much inferior player). However, ultimately, it wasn’t an obstacle for him to play nearly perfect tennis in the second week, having an antidote for different styles he faced: Sampras defeated Andre Agassi (the defending champion; an offensive baseliner), Boris Becker (a three-time former champion; a serve-and-volleyer), and Jim Courier (the best player of the past two years; a mix of both styles earlier mentioned) in back-to-back matches! It must have been a tremendous boost of self-confidence that allowed him to dominate at the All-England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club for the next seven years. Moreover, it halted Courier’s momentum in the early 90s. Admittedly, he was only 23, but he already achieved something that no one had done since 1969; he reached the major finals in Australia, France & England within a season (no one could repeat it until Roger Federer surpassed Courier by reaching all major finals in 2006). Besides he was the youngest man to play all four Slam finals. At the time, it was incomprehensible that “versatile” Courier wouldn’t play another Slam final, yet he did not reach one for another six years of his career.
At a lower level of American tennis, there was another significant encounter that year at Wimbledon which altered the paths of two careers. Todd Martin defeated David Wheaton in a dramatic five-set match in the fourth round. Subsequently, Martin thrived in the ’90s and ultimately became the fifth-best US player of that generation, something which Wheaton could have taken for granted as he triumphed in the most lucrative event of the 90s (Grand Slam Cup ’91). Martin won two five-setters against big servers in back-to-back matches when it seemed he was destined to lose in four sets. In the third round, he escaped from *2:4 (0/40) in the fourth set against Goran Ivanišević. Against Wheaton, Martin faced an arguably tougher situation as he trailed 0:3 with a double break down in the fourth set. Ivanišević fell victim to playing too many sets, having gone to the maximum of 15 sets in the first three rounds, barely winning the first two matches (he saved four mini-match points in the first round and a match point in the second round – with a second serve ace; both extremes occurred in fifth sets he won respectively 6-4 and 9-7). A similar fate awaited Michael Chang, who was not considered among the favorites, unlike Ivanišević. Chang, who had won two five-setters 6-4 in the fifth sets, lost 4-6 in the fifth set to Wheaton after 4 hours and 22 minutes, which remained the longest match of the event until the end of that edition.
Andrew Foster  became a second-rate hero of the event. The 21-year-old Brit, playing thanks to a wild card, advanced to the fourth round where he almost stole a set from Sampras (led *5:3 in a tie-break), giving joy to the local fans who were hopelessly awaiting their own representative in the quarterfinals of the years 1974-95. Foster finished his career with the highest ranking at 184 (only one Challenger final), which is extremely low for someone who reached the “sweet sixteen” at majors, but it was the reality of the first three decades of the Open Era: serve-and-volley players could compete on equal terms on grass against much higher-ranked opponents who were not familiar with this style of play. Foster was very fortunate in the third round because his opponent Andrey Olhovskiy (who’d caused the biggest sensation of 1992 by defeating Courier at Wimbledon) withdrew midway through their match, complaining of flu-like symptoms.
A few more words about the defending champion – Agassi. Since the late 80s known for some controversies, Agassi shocked that time with a new technique of his serve (shortened preparation with his arm, caused by wrist injury; he displayed it for the first time actually a few weeks earlier during his early upset in Halle) and an alleged relationship with Barbra Streisand, famous American actress & singer, 28 years his senior. She was sitting in a box during his matches along with his brother and the closest friend. “We are simply people who enjoy being around each other and we’ve been around each other in all circumstances,” he explained.
The last two grass events prior to Wimbledon are of little importance. Only two Top 10 players decided to participate in them, and both were ousted in their opening matches. This created opportunities for lower-ranked players to enhance their modest collection of titles. Francisco Cerúndolo , who won in Eastbourne, captured his second title, while Christopher Eubanks , the best in Mallorca (these particular grass courts tend to lose their lush green appearance and become more bare and patchy already after a few days of playing), secured his maiden title. Cerúndolo’s victory marks the first time an Argentine has won an ATP title on grass since 1995 (Javier Frana in Nottingham). He made one of the best comebacks of the season in the semifinals, as he trailed Mackenzie McDonald 2-6, 1:4 with a double break. Eubanks was on the verge of losing two matches: first in the second round, where he was two points away from defeat, and then in the semifinals, where he needed to save five match points (including a triple match point) against Lloyd Harris. “It just means the world, man,” Eubanks said. “[…] It’s just a testament to the hard work. Now I just want to keep working even harder to experience this feeling even more.” Eubanks, who was relatively unknown until the end of the previous season, showcased his potential to make an impact earlier this year in Miami when he advanced to the quarterfinals as a qualifier. He is the tallest player (201 cm) I’ve seen so far who operates with one-handed topspin backhand… 42-year-old Feliciano López  played his farewell tournament in Mallorca, advancing to the quarterfinal (the oldest ATP quarter-finalist since 43 y.o. Jimmy Connors in Halle ’95). The Spaniard retires with one interesting record which I assume will not be beaten – the most consecutive Slam appearances (79). He played his first main-level event in Barcelona ’98, the Slam record he manufactured between French Open ’02 and Australian Open ’22.
WIMBLEDON ($3.5M; grass outdoors) – week 25/26
(1)🇺🇸Pete Sampras d. (2)🇺🇸Jim Courier 7-6(3), 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-3
Eastbourne (ATP 250; grass outdoors)
(4)🇦🇷Francisco Cerúndolo d. (2)🇺🇸Tommy Paul 6-4, 1-6, 6-4
Mallorca (ATP 250; grass outdoors)
🇺🇸Christopher Eubanks d. (4)🇫🇷Adrian Mannarino 6-1, 6-4
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