Barbra shows for Agassi, but Sampras takes stage Sampras upstages Agassi in five sets

July 01, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England -- On the ninth day, Barbra Streisand finally showed up and turned Wimbledon from a tennis match into a passion play.

When her man, Andre Agassi, finally won a set in his quarterfinal match, he turned and pointed toward her. She rose and stretched her arms in his direction.

Such a funny girl.

But it was all to no avail. No. 1 seed Pete Sampras rained on Streisand's parade and ousted Agassi, the defending Wimbledon champion, 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4.

It was quite a blow to the fans at the All England Club, where this tournament suddenly got much duller.

As Streisand, dressed in a dark blue sailor's suit complete with little white hat, yelled, "Go, baby, go," and joined the crowd in doing the wave, Agassi played like a champion to force a deciding fifth set.

He had been down two sets to love, but he fought back and had Sampras stressed and struggling with his sore shoulder and the match even at 2-2 in the fifth set.

"At that point, I thought I was going to win," Agassi said.

But as Agassi lifted his game, Sampras also reached down for something few knew he had and gutted out the victory.

"When I got my serve broken early in the third set, I started thinking about my shoulder," Sampras said. "My head was hanging a little bit, and my arm felt very uncomfortable. But it was something I could definitely play through.

"I think it was mostly mental. So I told myself to suck it up, or it's the last set I'm going to play, and I just told myself to just hang in there. As it turned out, I was able to pull through."

He will play No. 4 seed Boris Becker -- who survived a clash with Michael Stich, 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-4 -- in one semifinal match tomorrow. In the men's other semifinal, No. 2 Stefan Edberg will play No. 3 Jim Courier.

Edberg earned his berth yesterday with a quarterfinal victory over Frenchman Cedric Pioline, 7-5, 7-5, 6-3. And Courier dispatched his friend Todd Martin back to Lansing, Mich., 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.

Not since 1927, the first year of seeding here, have the top four seeds advanced to the semifinals. It is a fact that may have disappointed Courier. During his post-match interview, he looked up at the television showing the Sampras-Agassi match and indicated he wouldn't be upset if Agassi won. "Really," he said, "I'm rooting for Barbra. If Andre wins, I might get to meet her."

Agassi certainly tried. After getting off to a slow start and being broken twice in the first and second sets, when neither his serve nor his baseline game was working, he picked himself up in the third. He broke Sampras in the second game and took control.

"I felt I was just a hair off," Agassi said, who was interrupted with laughter. He raised an eyebrow, thought for an instant and then joined in. "Let me rephrase that: I felt like, in the first two sets, I was about an inch away from really hitting offensive shots. But I don't know if it was my feet or if it was just kind of a bit of the nerves."

Agassi had been the life of the tournament. His body hair, his women and his tennis have enthralled England for a week and a half, and the fans packed into Centre Court yesterday hated to see him lose.

Agassi took the loss graciously.

"Pete is the type of player who can steamroll you when he gets going,"Agassi said. "I thought in the fifth set he got off to a good start and when he was able to break me back right after I had evened the set, that he was on his way. I think you saw that by the way he played the last game."

In the last game, Sampras went up 40-0 by serving three aces.

He had struggled through the third and fourth sets. His head, usually hung low, hung even lower, as he avoided overhead slams for peculiar forehands.After Agassi had broken Sampras to get back on serve, Sampras broke him again. This time there were no signs of shoulder problems.

Suddenly, the man who seemed barely able to raise his arms for two sets, wrapped up the final game in the fifth with those three aces, and jumped for joy when Agassi's final forehand return went wide.

"So much of Pete's game is mental," Agassi said. "And once he got the upper hand with the second break, I pretty much knew.

"But I don't feel too bad about losing. . . . I don't think there was anything else I could have done to win this match. I'm pretty pleased. I proved to myself that just my sheer ability and mental discipline gave me a chance to win the tournament."

Sampras said he would rest his shoulder today, take anti-inflammatory medication and get several therapeutic heat treatments.

"I'm two matches away from winning the biggest tournament in the world," Sampras said. "I want to be ready to go out there and give it my best shot."

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