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Sampras Marches on

September 6, 2000

Richard Krajicek, the only man to beat Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in the past eight years, must have thought he had his Quarter Final match against the American Grand Slam Ace in the bag. Having taken the opening set 6-4, the tall Dutchman was up 6-2 in the second set tie-breaker - when the whole momentum of the match turned around.

Having suffered from Krajicek's massive serve in the first set, Sampras now faced four set points in the second. The manner in which he saved them all was spectacular, even by Sampras's elevated standards. First he played an amazing drop volley, which just touched the net cord. This was followed by a miss-hit forehand return, which still proved to be a winner, and then a perfect backhand rocketed into the corner. Sampras allowed himself a modest fist pump to the crowd. But the best was still to come. His shot to save the fourth set point was netted by a nervy Krajicek, who doubtless regretted that failed return for the rest of the match. Sampras then pounced to take the set, with a fine service winner and a breathtaking return. The deflated Dutchman looked as though he had been on the receiving end of the fist which Sampras punched exultantly into the air, in celebration of this stunning turn-around.

The effect on Krajicek was profound. Visibly disheartened, he seemed at a lost to know what had happened.

"It was his tie-breaker, somehow", he said miserably after the match. "It was meant to be that he would win that set. I don't know how."

But it is not in Sampras's uncompromising game to leave things to chance. He seized the opportunity he had created for himself by piling on the pressure, increasing his dominance to close out the match 6-2 in the fourth set. The score-line was a satisfying 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-2 for Sampras.

"I was getting outplayed", was the American's honest assessment. "He puts a lot of pressure on my service game. I thought I was gone. Richard's always tough, but after I won the second set, he got a little down. That turned it around - I was making him play. It was a big match."

With this result, Sampras improved his head-to-head against Krajicek to 4-6. His results at the US Open now stand at 57-7, and his record in night matches there is an amazing 14-0.

As Sampras continues his impressive course to the Final, it is now up to the Australian teenager Leyton Hewitt to see if he can find any flaws in the Slam King's game.

Based on AP news report


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