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Sampras beats Agassi to reach Wimbledon semifinals

June 30, 1993

WIMBLEDON, England (UPI) - Pete Sampras overcame a spirited comeback by defending champion Andre Agassi and the vocal backing of Barbra Streisand Wednesday to reach the semifinals of the $7.5 million Wimbledon tennis championships.

Sampras, ranked No. 1 in the world, edged his eighth-seeded U.S. Davis Cup teammate, 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, in a fluctuating 2 hour 48 minute Center Court battle watched by Streisand, Agassi's singer-actress friend.

Wednesday's other all-American quarterfinal confrontation saw third- seeded Jim Courier outgun Todd Martin, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, in 2 hours 18 minutes on No. 1 court.

Sampras plays the winner of the all-German clash between fourth- seeded Boris Becker and sixth-seeded Michael Stich while Courier meets either second-seeded Swede Stefan Edberg or Frenchman Cedric Pioline.

Agassi, who only recently returned to action after being sidelined for two months with tendinitis of the right wrist, appeared headed for a straight sets loss.

Streisand, wearing a nautical hat and jacket, sat almost motionless as the 23-year-old Agassi struggled to find his touch in the first hour. But the 51-year-old star became animated when Agassi clawed his way back into the match, rising to her feet to shout "Yeah, yeah," when the champion drew even at two sets each.

But Sampras proved the stronger man in the decisive fifth set, ousting Agassi on the back of two service breaks and finishing it off in style with three consecutive aces and a service winner.

Agassi conceded he had been too tentative at the start.

"I was not pleased with the quality of tennis for two sets," he said. "I felt I was about an inch away from hitting offensive shots. I don't know if it was my feet or just nerves, but I just tried to hit my way out. I was just dedicated to fight until I got things together. There were so many factors. There was always going to be a dog fight.

"There were a lot of nerves in the fifth set and you just try to stay competitive. Pete is the sort of player who steamrolls players and he showed that in the way he served out. So much of Pete's game is mental and when he got the break he started hitting big again.

"I was ready for him to make his big move in the fifth. He put together some good points at the right time. I looked at my support group for the right type of encouragements. I was really discouraged."

Commenting on his relationship with Streisand, Agassi said: "It is important to me. She's my version of a friend."

Sampras, showing no sign of his nagging shoulder injury, took only 31 minutes to wrap up the opening set, dropping just four points on his powerful serve and breaking Agassi in the third and fifth games.

The Centre Court crowd was stunned into virtual silence as the 21- year-old continued the onslaught in the second set. Agassi hinted at a possible comeback when he had his first chance to break serve, but three booming service winners from Sampras dug him out of trouble.

Although the defending champion began to recapture some of his groundstroke rhythm, Sampras showed he was no mug from the back of the court either, conjuring up breathtaking winners.

Agassi was broken when a forehand winner from Sampras gave him a 3-2 lead in the second set and another superbly crafted point from the No. 1 seed gave him yet another break for 5-2.

Sampras served out for the set when he hammered down his ninth ace of the match after a little over one hour on court.

Agassi snapped out of his malaise in the third set as he broke for the first time in the match when a chipped approach shot from Sampras strayed into the tramlines.

The breakthrough was greeted with roars from the massive Agassi fan club, with Streisand unable to contain her relief as she leapt from her seat. And she was out of her seat again when Agassi, serving to take the set 6-3, took a leaf out of Sampras' book when he sent down his fifth ace to reach 40-15.

After faltering on the first set point he succeeded at the second attempt when his opponent drove a backhand yards over the baseline.

Agassi's charge continued to gather momentum when he broke an increasingly subdued Sampras in the opening game of the fourth set after a brilliant return forced a volley error. He took the match to a fifth set when he captured serve once again, thanks to a string of vintage returns, including a scorching backhand to clinch the set.

Both players conceded serve in the fifth set but Agassi was broken again to give Sampras the crucial advantage.

The champion grimly held on to his title when he saved two match points at 3-5, but Sampras served out the match for a place in the semifinals for the second conselcutive year, pounding down three consecutive aces and completing his victory with a service winner.

Sampras said he did not feel his shoulder injury during the first two sets, but when he got broken in the third, "I started thinking about it, but I just told myself to hang in there. It was uncomfortable but I could play. It was more mental than anything.

"My game plan was to hit 10 to 12 balls and not give any free points away. On his serves, I wanted to hang with him from the baseline and make him work."

Sampras, who beat Agassi in the 1990 U.S. Open final, was eager to add the Wimbledon crown to his Grand Slam belt, saying, "This is the biggest tournament in the world."

Courier was in the groove with his punishing ground game for his quarterfinal against Martin, whose serve-and-volley style lacked incisiveness. The No. 3 seed broke Martin's serve in the opening game and broke again for 5-2 when his opponent double faulted.

Martin's game seemed to be getting untracked in the next set. Ahead 5-4, he held a set point against Courier's serve in the 10th game, but overhit a forehand and the set went into a tie-breaker, which Courier took, firing a forehand pass off Martin's soft volley.

Martin became frustrated and slammed his racket into the wheel of the umpire's stand.

Courier, the former world No. 1, carried a 5-3 lead in the final set on the strength of a lone break in the seventh game as again Martin double-faulted the game away. He then closed out the match with little difficulty.


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