Defending Champion Hobbles a Step Closer Towards Another Record
July 5, 2000
Defending Champion, Pete Sampras remains firmly, if not obviously painfully on the track to claiming his ultimate ambition and making a dream of winning a record-breaking 13th Grand Slam singles title a reality! The defending champion who is having acupuncture treatment on his injured left ankle and hoping that this form of therapy helps to alleviate the pain and allow him to continue on his quest for ultimate greatness.
While the defending champion is fighting through the pain barrier, one of his staunchest rivals, Andre Agassi has been producing some of his best form at the championships this year and is staying on course for a final showdown with Sampras.
Spectators and players alike started the day and hoping that the typically unpredictable British weather would allow for play to commence.
The first match on the Centre Court was contested between Andre Agassi who had in recent months played his best form and Australia's Mark Philippoussis.
Last year's finalist, Agassi who had been blown away in the final by a majestic performance by Sampras defeated an unlucky Mark Philippoussis' 7-6, 6-3, 6-4. Agassi' next opponent in the semi-finals is a repeat of the previous years match-up against another Australian who is also playing at his best Patrick Rafter, who defeated Germany's Alexander Popp 6-3, 6-2, 7-6.
After these two matches, an obviously struggling defending champion fought to get past a player who is obviously one of America's future stars, Jan-Michael Gambill. It was obvious to all during the 2hr 46min match that the defending champion was having to dig deep to find away not only to battle past his opponent but fight through the pain barrier coming from his injured ankle.
"It's a touch sore, that about it", Sampras said afterwards.
"If this was any other tournament, I wouldn't play", Sampras confessed, "I've been dealt this blow and there's not much I can do except do my best to work this out."
He also admitted that he is trying every form of treatment available to him including having acupuncture. He is still unable to do any form of physical practice, which is obviously a big disadvantage to him.
The defending champion has yet to meet a player who is seeded, and his next opponent is someone who no one had even entertained that his semi-final opponent would be the little known Vladimir Voltschkov aged 22 from Belarus the son of an electrician. Voltschkov is a player who had won the boys singles title back in 1996.
Although Gambill produced patches of brilliance in the match, Sampras used all of his skill and some may say pure guts to grind out the win. For Sampras it was as much a mental battle as a physical one.
Sampras won the first set after he pressurised Gambill into making errors on his service game and thus breaking his serve to take the set 6-4.
Gambill deservedly drew the match level in the second set. It took a trademark Sampras service ace to save a break point at 4-4 but Gambill fought and managed to take the tiebreaker 7-4.
The 3rd set was won by one of the finest points of play ever seen on the Centre Court this year. Gambill produced a fine reaching backhand return off a good serve by Sampras, but Sampras managed to produce a brilliant shot by driving a fiercely hit backhand deeply down the line.
Gambill responded brilliantly by striking a lunging backhand volley back at Sampras, although Gambill managed to get back into the middle section of the court and returned the next shot struck by his formidable opponent, what disappointed when he saw his shot land just over the baseline.
Sampras won his match against Gambill, 6-4, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4.
Sampras gave praise to Gambill at the end of the match by saying that "He is the future of American tennis, with a lot of potential." Although it was Sampras who is injured, Gambill twice called for the trainer, firstly to supply him with a support for his thigh, then because his chest had started bleeding due to his shirt rubbing against it. He played a fighting match, but Sampras sealed victory in the fourth set by serving his 26th ace at match point.
So, the defending champion managed to hobble through to the semi-finals, where his will play against Vladimir Voltschkov, a player who has admitted to having to borrow his clothes from other players on the tour due to not being sponsored by anyone and having watched "Gladiator" 4 times in the last month as a way in gaining confidence! But, one feels the real Gladiator out there is Sampras, as it appears nothing, not even injury will prevent him from achieving the unimaginable.
Based upon John Parsons (Electronic Telegraph) "Sampras Limps towards record"
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