WIMBLEDON, England -- Pete Sampras looked at Richard Krajicek across the net on his favorite court, Centre Court at Wimbledon, before the second-set tiebreaker, noted his opponent's loose, confident body language, and felt an unfamiliar tension.
Here he was, the three-time defending champion, having been unable to take advantage of five break-point opportunities in the second set of this quarterfinal match that would drag on over two days.
One chance, in particular, worried him. He had had set point at 5-5 and missed a backhand, a shot he normally doesn't miss, by less than an inch; missed it by so little that he thought it was in. But the line judge said no, it was wide.
"I just felt it slipping away," he said sadly, after Krajicek had beaten him at his own serve-and-volley game, 7-5, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.
But Wednesday, he was going into the tiebreaker, and Krajicek, the world's No. 13-ranked player, who had been slighted by the seeding committee here, was out to prove a point, and Sampras could see Krajicek was settled and confident.
"I felt a little tight, that maybe my time had come," said Sampras, whose match was stopped Wednesday night at 1-1 in the third set before being resumed yesterday.
"I should have won the second set. I was an inch away from winning the second set, and if I had and we'd ended the night at a set apiece, it might have been different if I'd gotten that second set."
Sampras was not alone in his misery.
When the men's semifinals are played today, there will be only one seed left at Wimbledon, the first time that's happened since play was opened to professionals and amateurs in 1968.
No. 13 Todd Martin, who turned in a stoic, straight-sets victory over British darling Tim Henman, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, will face fellow American MaliVai Washington in one semi.
Washington advanced with a sparkling, five-set victory over Alex Radulescu, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-1), 5-7, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal.
In the other semi, Krajicek will face surprising Australian Jason Stoltenberg, who upset No. 5 seed Goran Ivanisevic, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-3).
Tennis is a game of ebb and flow, in which a player warms up in the early games, and, if he's lucky, finds his rhythm by the time it really matters.
But there was little flow to any of the men's quarterfinal matches. Sampras vs. Krajicek and Ivanisevic vs. Stoltenberg started at 12: 36 p.m. Wednesday and endured four rain delays that stretched play over 30 hours and 16 minutes.
Yesterday, four delays extended Martin's and Stoltenberg's matches over 6 hours and 35 minutes.
"To go out and play six, seven games and come back, there's a lot of hanging around," said Sampras. "It was the same for both of us, but Richard handled it a little bit better than I did. It was tough. You never feel like you're really into the match, you know. You just feel like it's so sporadic that you don't feel like you have any rhythm.
"But my hat is off to Richard. He played flat out and better than I did in the past couple of days. . . . I would say that he's probably given me my hardest test and I wasn't good enough."
Krajicek, who before yesterday was probably best known for his criticism of women's tennis here four years ago, when he said the women's tour was filled with "lazy, fat pigs," used 29 aces and solid volleys to pull off the latest and biggest upset at this upset-filled tournament.
"It was the first time in three years that I played on Centre Court, and I was a little bit nervous," said Krajicek. "But I notice that if I keep attacking him, he does start to miss. He can hit great passing shots, but you just have to keep going at him because he is such a dominant player.
"If you stay back, I have the feeling at least with my ground shots, he is going to start moving me around and put pressure on me. And then I have no chance."
Krajicek has been to two previous Grand Slam semifinals, but this is his first one since the 1993 French Open. Yesterday, he seemed pleased with beating Sampras, but not satisfied.
"I'm not unbelievably excited yet because I'm still in the tournament," he said. "But it is, you know, maybe a proud feeling that I'm the first one in four years to beat him on Wimbledon Centre Court.
"It is nice, but I have a feeling, for me, it's not over yet."
Men's singles, quarterfinals Todd Martin (13), Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., def. Tim Henman, Britain, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-2), 6-4. Richard Krajicek, Netherlands, def. Pete Sampras (1), Tampa, Fla., 7-5, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.
Women's doubles, third round
Katrina Adams, Missouri City, Texas, and Mariaan De Swardt (10), South Africa, def. Rosalyn Nideffer, South Africa, and Pam Shriver, Baltimore, 6-1, 6-4.
Pub Date: 7/05/96
Today's feature matches
(Seeds in parentheses)
Men: Todd Martin (13), Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., vs. MaliVai Washington, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Richard Krajicek, Netherlands, vs. Jason Stoltenberg, Australia.
Women: Steffi Graf (1), Germany, vs. Kimiko Date (12), Japan.
Head to head
Previous matchups of the men's semifinalists at Wimbledon (seedings in parentheses):
Richard Krajicek vs. Jason Stoltenberg
Series tied, 2-2
Singapore, hard, R32, Stoltenberg, 6-2, 6-2.
Moscow, carpet, R32, Stoltenberg, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Los Angeles, hard, R16, Krajicek, 1-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-0.
Australian Open, hard, R128, Krajicek, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.
Todd Martin (13) vs. MaliVai Washington
Martin leads, 1-0
Australian Open, hard, QF, Martin, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5).