Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sampras Wins after `Choke' Chang Steamrolls Agassi, Needs Victory in Title Match to Take over No. 1 Ranking

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sampras Wins after `Choke' Chang Steamrolls Agassi, Needs Victory in Title Match to Take over No. 1 Ranking

Article excerpt

Pete Sampras choked. He knew it. The crowd saw it. Goran Ivanisevic celebrated it.

The moment passed in embarrassment for Sampras, and he played an extra set he didn't need and most certainly didn't want two days after throwing up and nearly fainting on court.

Yet when he walked off after the third semifinal on Semi-Super Saturday, he held up his arms in triumph, a U.S. Open finalist again in defense of his title. Sampras, who will go for his fourth Open championship Sunday against Michael Chang, wound up with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (11-9), 6-3 victory over Ivanisevic. The Sampras-Ivanisevic match lasted 2 hours 20 minutes - about 40 minutes longer than it would have if Sampras hadn't done the unthinkable. Sampras wanted this match over as fast as possible. He just couldn't quite do it when he first had the chance with four match points in the third set. Leading 6-3 in the tiebreaker, with two serves to put the match away, Sampras watched one backhand go by him for 6-4, then double-faulted to 6-5, both serves clipping the net cord and popping out. "I basically choked on the second serve," Sampras admitted. "Then I was waiting for him to miss, and you can't do that." Ivanisevic didn't miss the rest of that tiebreaker, closing it out with an ace as a jet roared overhead. "The first couple of games in the fourth set, I couldn't believe I was still out there," Sampras said. "I wasn't mad at myself. I was a little bit rattled. I couldn't believe what was happening. I needed to regroup and regain my composure." That's exactly what Sampras did, settling down, waiting for his chances, finally gaining a break to 5-3 with the help of a fan. At deuce in that game, Ivanisevic was about to hit a forehand when a fan yelled out in the silence, "Whooo!" Ivanisevic turned, took his eye off the ball and netted it. The point lost, he scowled up into the crowd but knew he could do nothing. …

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