Novak stuns Sampras in Davis Cup opener

Saturday 08 April 2000 00:00 BST

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


The United States received a jolt in the Davis Cup on Friday when Pete Sampras was swept in three sets in the opening quarterfinal match.

Jiri Novak survived 11 break points in the first two sets to upset the world's third-ranked player 7-6 (1), 6-3, 6-2, giving the Czech Republic a startling lead. It was Sampras' worst loss in seven years of Davis Cup play.

Andre Agassi, the world's No. 1 player, met Slava Dosedel in the second singles match of the best-of-5 series. Agassi evened the tie for the US with a comfortable victory over Slava Dosedel 6-3 6-3 6-3 .

Sampras had beaten Novak in five sets in the 1996 U.S. Open in their only other meeting. But he appeared in a fog on the fast indoor hardcourt at the Forum.

"I didn't know what to do," Sampras said. "He came up with some good stuff. He was on fire."

Sampras served a love game to open the 1 hour, 28-minute match, but it was downhill after that. The American seemed to be rushing his serves and committed numerous unforced errors. Even his 15 aces couldn't bail him out.

They stayed on serve until the first set tiebreaker, where Novak swamped Sampras 7-1. Sampras made three consecutive errors, capped by a netted forehand volley, to drop the set.

"The most important for me was the beginning of the match," Novak said. "I was saving 10 break points and Pete wasn't making one. I was much better in the tiebreak."

Sampras had 31 unforced errors to Novak's 12.

Novak, whose loping strokes and casual nature on court belie a deceptive game, opened the second set with a love game. He netted a forehand to set up break point for Sampras in the third game, but Sampras netted three straight shots to fall behind 2-1.

After a love game on his service, Sampras had triple break point. But he couldn't convert and Novak held serve to go up 3-2 despite hitting only one winner at 15-40. Sampras sprayed shots beyond the baseline or hit them into the net.

Novak gained his first break point on Sampras' serve and Sampras cooperated by hitting a forehand volley long to trail 5-3.

Novak won seven straight games over the end of the second and start of the third set to go up 4-0 in the third.

Henri Leconte of France handed Sampras his worst previous defeat, a 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 loss in the 1991 Davis Cup final.

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