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Youth Is Served as Teenager Beats Sampras in Three Sets

January 21, 1996|From Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia — Unseeded Australian teenager Mark Philippoussis served 29 aces past a stunned Pete Sampras and eliminated him in straight sets from the Australian Open on Saturday.

Philippoussis, 19, who lost to Sampras in four sets at the U.S. Open last August, turned the tables in front of a fiercely partisan hometown crowd with a 6-4, 7-6 (11-9), 7-6 (7-3) victory.

Philippoussis, nicknamed "Scud," was in a zone throughout in recording the biggest upset by an Australian since Pat Cash won Wimbledon in 1987.

"I didn't have a sniff at getting a serve back," Sampras said. "When he's serving that big, there's nothing you can do."

Fans gasped and giggled at the speed of Philippoussis' serves, up to 129 mph, and the distinctive thud of his forehand when he'd take a full windup, let out a loud "AAARGH," and slug it into the corners. No one in tennis hits the ball harder and, on this night, no one could have been more precise.

"I felt like I could just toss it up and ace how I wanted to," Philippoussis said. "It was an unbelievable feeling. . . . I did feel like I was in the zone."

Sampras not only lost the match but also his No. 1 ranking. That will go to either No. 2 Andre Agassi or No. 3 Thomas Muster. Philippoussis is ranked 40th.

Pushed to five sets for the second time in defense of his championship, Agassi overcame Jonas Bjorkman, 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, and reached the quarterfinals to face another beleaguered former champion, Jim Courier.

"If I don't win this tournament, I don't want to be ranked No. 1," Agassi said.

Courier, playing consecutive five-set matches, edged Marcos Ondruska of South Africa, 7-5, 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

The prospect of three former champions, all Americans, losing within 24 hours seemed real enough as Agassi and Courier struggled after Sampras' abrupt departure.

No. 4 Boris Becker, who is in Sampras' half of the draw, had a relaxed victory earlier in the day over Sweden's Magnus Larsson.

Becker, who was on the brink of defeat in two five-set matches in the opening two rounds, breezed past Larsson, 7-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Joining Becker in the round of 16 for the year's first Grand Slam event was seventh-seeded Thomas Enqvist, who beat Argentine Hernan Gumy, 6-2, 7-6, 3-6, 6-1, and sixth-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russian, who beat Australian Michael Tebbutt, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.

Philippoussis' biggest struggle against Sampras was trying to contain his emotions, especially on the final point.

"My hand was shaking when I was just about to serve," he said. "I was just happy to get the serve in."

Sampras netted a backhand on that serve, setting off a roar by the crowd that lasted several minutes as Philippoussis paraded around the court with his arms raised.

They played with the retractable roof closed, though the day's rain had stopped, and Sampras felt that gave Philippoussis an advantage.

"The fact that it was indoors made his serve that much better," Sampras said. "It's an outdoor tournament. It would have been nice to have that roof open if it wasn't raining."

But Sampras, who served only five aces, didn't use that as an excuse.

"He was just on, plain and simple," said Sampras. "It's obvious he's very talented.

Sampras was seeking his third consecutive Grand Slam title after winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Sampras had only two break points in the first two sets and got only five points total off Philippoussis' serve in the third set.

In matches that took place late Saturday night, the top-seeded woman, Monica Seles, had no trouble rolling into the quarterfinals, defeating No. 15 Naoko Sawamatsu, 6-1, 6-3. Seles hasn't lost a set so far, yielding only 14 games in four matches.

No. 3 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario also reached the quarters without dropping a set, defeating No. 9 Mary Joe Fernandez, 6-3, 6-3. Sanchez Vicario next plays No. 13 Chanda Rubin, who knocked off No. 6 Gabriela Sabatini, 6-2, 6-4.

On the men's side, No. 10 Goran Ivanisevic was upset by Italy's Renzo Furlan, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, and No. 5 Michael Chang breezed into the quarters, defeating Jean-Philippe Fleurian, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

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