Sampras' return serves him right He earns revenge against Philippoussis

June 28, 1996|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WIMBLEDON, England -- No. 1 Pete Sampras doesn't put on emotional displays, doesn't do cartwheels when he scores the big points.

But yesterday, on Centre Court, when he finally broke Australian Mark Philippoussis in the ninth game of the second set, he let out a loud and meaningful "Yeah!"

"When you're playing a match like this," said the three-time Wimbledon champion, "you don't have a lot of chances to get his serve back, and once you get one opportunity, you try to convert. And I did. That's a huge change in the match. . . . I took advantage of my opportunity, and that was really it."

Sampras' 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 6-4 victory was the match of the day, the big matchup between two big servers on the slippery grass.

It was a match anticipated not only by the fans but also by Sampras and Philippoussis, who last met in the Australian Open, where Philippoussis broke serve once in the first set and won two tiebreakers for a three-set sweep.

"When I saw the draw and saw that it was a possibility that we can match up, I was kind of looking forward to it," said Sampras. "Whenever I've lost to someone, I've always looked forward to playing him again. In other ways, he's very dangerous. The way )) he serves, it's almost like he's hitting two first serves. He just goes for it. And some of that is dangerous, if he hits a couple of clean winners to break you, then there's nothing you can do. You just have to hang in and be patient."

The match on Centre Court was grueling, the kind of match that is sometimes difficult to watch, but spine-tingling to play.

Grass-court tennis is treacherous anyway, with its slick surface, and if Sampras or Philippoussis gave up even one break point, it could be the end.

"The pressure is gripping," Sampras said, "because you can't dig and grub and claw your way back in on grass."

His first three years here, that was what he learned. In those three Wimbledons, Sampras won one match.

When he heard former champion Fred Perry say he was a guy who could go on to win Wimbledon, he was more than a little surprised.

"I heard Fred's comment, and it was like, 'Wow!' You know, 'I've [won one] match here in three years.' A man has to know his limitations.

"I couldn't return here, really, the first couple of years," Sampras said. "I could serve well and hold my serve the majority of the time, but I couldn't return serve.

"In that respect, Mark reminds me of me. I think he has a lot of talent. He just has to find a way to control his long swings and start making some returns and passing shots."

Through the years, Sampras learned how to do just that. And though yesterday's match was a serving duel, it was Sampras' returns that made the difference.

"I think so," he said. "Today, the difference was that I just played the big points a little better and returned a little better. That's really the difference. There wasn't a whole lot of strategy out there. It was just me trying to get his serve back and him trying to return mine. I just did that, just a tad better."

In the first set, Sampras and Philippoussis needed a tiebreaker, during which Sampras managed the only two returns of serve.

"I think Pete was definitely more determined, you know, for revenge," said Philippoussis, 19. I think he wanted to let everyone know that when I beat him the last time, that it was a fluke or something."

On Sampras' serve, Philippoussis, playing in his first Wimbledon, never even saw a deuce. The closest he got was 15-30.

"I think what I've got to do is just learn to be a lot tougher," Philippoussis said. "A guy like Pete doesn't give away any free points. He makes you work hard for everything, and I think that's what I've got to try to learn. . . . If you can't get a return in, you know, you don't give yourself much of a chance. I've got to return to make him play a little bit. I don't think I made him play nearly enough at all."

Today's feature matches

(Seeds in parentheses)

Men: Tim Henman, Britain, vs. Luke Milligan, Britain. Magnus Gustafsson, Sweden, vs. Wayne Ferreira (11), South Africa. Neville Godwin, South Africa, vs. Boris Becker (2), Germany. Todd Martin (13), Ponte Vedra Beach, vs. Renzo Furlan, Italy.

Women: Naoko Sawamatsu, Japan, vs. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (4), Spain. Florencia Labat, Argentina, vs. Mary Joe Fernandez (9), Key Biscayne, Fla. Anke Huber (5), Germany, vs. Ai Sugiyama, Japan. Brenda Schultz-McCarthy (11), Netherlands, vs. Sabine Appelmans, Belgium.

MixedJonathan Stark and Martina Navratilova (14), Aspen, Colo. vs. Andrew Kratzmann, Australia, and Maria Lindstrom, Sweden

Pub Date: 6/28/96

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