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Old 04-26-2005, 10:44 PM   #13
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Default Re: Sampras - AUSSIE OPEN

Emotional Sampras wins in 5

By Alan Attwood, The Age
January 25, 1995


This wasn't tennis; this was war. And after an extraordinary battle spanning two minutes short of four hours, a tearful Pete Sampras finally conquered Jim Courier. He later broke down while attempting to begin the post-match news conference.

In the finest, most dramatic, and longest match of this Australian Open, the defending champion defeated Courier in a match that finished in the early hours of this morning, taking Sampras through to the semi-finals. He won 6-7 (4-7), 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

For the second successive match Sampras had to fight back from two sets down. That he was able to do so was testimony to his extraordinary stamina and determination to hang on to the Open title he won last year. But the effort took him to the edge of exhaustion, and early in the final set he started to cry.

At that stage Courier called out to him: "You all right, Pete? We can do this tomorrow, you know." Sampras only reply was to serve consecutive aces.

Missing from his customary place at courtside was Sampras' couch of three years, Tim Gullikson. Se fell ill last Friday, was taken to hospital, and flew home to the United States yesterday.

Asked later if he could explain Sampras' distress on court, Courier said afterwards: "I don't know about emotional distress, but he was definitely in physical distress. We were both cramping at the end."

But before Sampras appeared for his news conference, tournament director Paul McNamee said he would not answer questions about Gullikson. Sampras appeared, broke down, and returned only after a few minutes, still very emotional. He later said he was unsure if would be able to recover fully before his semi-final, tomorrow, against Michael Change, who yesterday defeated Andrei Medvedev in straight sets.

Courier said he was aware early in the match that "something special was happening out there". Sampras said: "It was definitely one of the better matches I've ever taken part in. Iím just pleased I fought back and didn't quit." It was certainly one of the best matches ever played Flinders Park.

The crucial game of a stirring final set was the eight, with Courier serving, trailing 3-4. Five times Courier held game-point to lick up the deciding set at 4-all. Five times Sampras wrested back the advantage. Then, when Courier hit a backhand long, the centre court crowd erupted as Sampras gained break-point.

Courier, himself a former Open champion, wearily dumped a forehand into the net to concede the game. Summoning all his last energy, Sampras served out the match to love, sealing an incredible victory.

The pair embraced at the net, though Sampras seemed hardly able to raise his arms to celebrate his triumph. At the net, Courier said to Sampras: "I know you're dead, because I'm f---ing dead." Sampras left to cheers, as did Courier. The beaten man held a white towel above his head. It was a symbol of farewell, not surrender.

The first two sets resembled old-style trench warfare, with both Sampras and Courier fighting for every inch of ground. Courier, however, seemed to be marginally more confident and aggressive than the defending champion.

There were no breaks of serve at all, with both sets going into tiebreaks. Even in the first tiebreak, points went on serve until Sampras double-faulted to give Courier a 4-3 lead. Two points later, Sampras upset when the umpire over-ruled a linesman who had called a Courier shot out. The point was replayed, Courier won it, and soon afterwards claimed the set.

In 13 previous meetings, the winner of the first set had gone to take the match on 12 occasions, Courier trailed 3-10 in those career matches, but had won their last meeting at the French Open, where he also took the first set. At last yearís Australian Open, Sampras won a semi-final match 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

Early in the second set, Sampras received treatment for a cut on one foot. He seemed frustrated by his inability to find a chink in Courierís game. But still there were flashes of fire: in the seventh game he served three aces, interrupted by a double fault, to take the game from deuce. Again the set went to a tiebreak. Courier bamboozled Sampras with a mixture of drop-shots and lobs and wrapped it up 7-3.

After a fraction over two hours it was crisis time for Sampras. He had not had his own served broken, but trailed by two sets to love. As had been the case against Magnus Larsson two days earlier, he faced the toughest assignment in the game: having to recover from two sets down to win the match in five.
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