Sampras the survivor

Ivanisevic's power is blunted by his Wimbledon conqueror in Grand Slam Cup marathon
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The Independent Online
IT WAS this year's Wimbledon final transported indoors in Germany, and without the anti- climax - unless you happen to be Goran Ivanisevic.

The Croat was again beaten by Pete Sampras, but on this occasion, in the semi-finals of the Compaq Grand Slam Cup, he stretched the world No1 to five sets over three hours and 22 minutes and saved four match-points.

Sampras won, 5-7 6-3 6-4 6-7 10-8, and though that was the vital statistic, the match provided others that were astonishing. There were 70 aces - 41 of them delivered by Ivanisevic, who extended his world record for a year's tally to 1,241. In 1970, Britain's John Feaver hit 42 aces when losing to John Newcombe on Court No2 at Wimbledon, but that will be of no consolation to the Croat.

Between them, Sampras and Ivanisevic generated 71 other service winners, 36 of which were from Sampras, who was also guilty of 11 double-faults, four more than his opponent. With so many free points flowing, it was a wonder that the players could hold their concentration on the rare occasions when a rally was allowed to develop. But they did.

Poor Ivanisevic must be wondering how he is able to lose after serving so well. At Wimbledon in 1992, he hit a record 206 aces in seven matches, 37 of them in the final against Andre Agassi - and was the runner-up.

Sampras's delight was heightened by the fact that in the semi-finals here a year ago he lost to the Czech Petr Korda, another left-hander, on a fifth match point, 13-11 in the fifth set.

In today's final, Sampras will play Sweden's Magnus Larsson, who continued an impressive end to the season by defeating the American Todd Martin, 6-4 6-1 6-1 in 75 minutes.

Sampras, after an uncertain start yesterday in which he double-faulted twice to lose his serve in the opening game, broke back to 3-3 in the opening set. When leading 5-4, he narrowly missed with a forehand down the line with his second set-point on Ivanisevic's serve.

Ivanisevic immediately broke for 6-5 and then held to become the first player to take a set from Sampras. The Californian quickly recovered and won 15 consecutive points from 2-2 in the second set, levelling the match on his seventh set point.

Frustration began to creep into Ivanisevic's play, and he received a code violation for smashing his racket after netting a forehand volley to be broken for 3-2 in the third set. Sampras took a 2-1 lead, but not before saving three break-points in the concluding game of the set.

The fourth set, and the match, seemed about to go Sampras's way after Ivanisevic double-faulted and then missed a backhand to offer the American a break-point at 5-5. Ivanisevic missed his first serve, then delivered his 25th ace with his second - shadesof that memorable Wimbledon contest against Britain's Chris Bailey last year.

After saving two match points at 4-5 in the fifth set and two more at 7-8, Ivanisevic finally steered a backhand volley over the baseline.

Agassi may have departed after losing to Larsson in the quarter-finals on Friday, but his misbehaviour continues to cause a buzz. The Las Vegan, who admitted daring the British umpire, Mike Morrissey, to disqualify him after being penalised a point for audible obscenities, was fined $6,000 (£3,850) yesterday. This represents $2,000 for the first swear word and $4,000 for the second.

Agassi was heard on television to ask of the umpire: "Why didn't you default me after the third f***?" To which Morrissey replied that he was announcing the penalty point at the time. "If you had said it after the penalty point, I would have defaulted you." As usual in tennis, the size of the fine is laughable. Agassi won $250,000 for winning one match here, which raised his prize-money for the year to $2.19m.

The most famous incident in the five-year history of the Grand Slam Cup happened in the inaugural tournament in 1990. Two Americans, Brad Gilbert and David Wheaton, squared up to each other during a row in the semi-finals, for which each was fined $5,000. Gilbert, who is now Agassi's coach, went on to receive $1m, his biggest pay cheque, after losing to Sampras in the final.