Re: Sampras - AUSSIE OPEN
Brawn, Sweat and Tears
By ROBIN FINN
January 24, 1995 MELBOURNE, Australia-Long before he won this tortured passion play that masqueraded as a quarter- final match at the Australian Open, Pete Sampras, the event's defending champion and the world's No. 1 player, had already done the unthinkable. He broke down in tears under the spotlight on stadium court. And the instant this 3-hour-58- minute tear-jerker ended in a 6‚7 (4‚7), 6‚7 (3‚7), 6‚3, 6‚4, 6‚3 post-midnight comeback against the ninth-seeded Jim Courier, the traditionally stoic Sampras was again overcome by sobs.
"I think we were both just playing our hearts out," said Courier, who suspected that his opponent's uncharacteristic histrionics might have something to do with his unease over going on with a title defense while his coach had been sent back to the United States for further treatment of a serious heart ailment.
Long before Sampras had resurrected himself from the ultimate in Grand Slam predicaments -a two-sets-tonone deficit-for the second match in a row, his opponent was coping in secret with a body-racking case of leg cramps. "I just physically gave out," said Courier, this Grand Slam event's champion in 1992 and 1993. "At 4‚3 in the fifth, either one of us could have collapsed, but he was the one left standing. Pete's pretty determined, and certainly at a Grand Slam he's going to do whatever's in his power to win."
Sampras had worn himself into an emotional frazzle worrying about the health of his coach and best friend, Tim Gullikson, who spent the weekend undergoing tests in a private hospital after apparently suffering the latest in a series of strokes linked to a congenital heart ailment, which was first diagnosed in December.
Sampras was unable to talk about his crying jag, which began after he held serve in the opening game of the final set and then resumed intermittently throughout the set. "Hopefully I can recover from this whole experience," said Sampras, whose composure had reached the cracking point even before a spectator incited him to "win this one" for his coach. "I was really happy that I fought back; I didn't quit," said Sampras, who hurled 23 aces at Courier, two of them between sobs as he took a 2‚1 lead in the final set.
It wasn't until Sampras took his first lead of the match by holding serve to start the fifth set that his emotions floored him. He sat down for the change-over and, with his shoulders heaving and his face buried in his towel, he burst into uncontrollable tears. He struggled through the next two games, then called the trainer over to help talk him through his distress.
Sampras had appeared on the verge of giving up the match, but instead he soldiered on, broke Courier in the eighth game, and converted his first match point when Courier's forehand return soared long. Up at the net, Sampras apologized to Courier and embraced him; Courier had, after all, been part of a group that, on the eve of this match, shared dinner with Gullikson before he flew home. Gullikson learned the results of the match while changing planes in Los Angeles en route to a doctor's appointment in Chicago.
Pete Sampras defeated Michael Chang in the semifinals and lost to Andre Agassi in the final (see Jan. 29). Tim Gullikson died of brain cancer in May 1996 at Wheaton, Ill. He was 44.
Last edited by angiel; 04-16-2005 at 06:57 PM.