Sampras struggles to win over Novak No. 1 seed says he never thought that he was going to lose

U.S. Open

August 31, 1996|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Defending U.S. Open champion and No. 1 seed Pete Sampras tracked down a defensive lob and lofted one of his own deep into the backcourt. Across the net, Jiri Novak sighted the ball and then swung with a two-fisted backhand that sent the ball inches too low into the net on match point.

Sampras raised his arms in a joyous celebration of his second-round victory yesterday and then sat with his head in his hands contemplating the need for five sets against Novak, a 21-year-old from the Czech Republic.

But Sampras said he never once thought he was going to lose.

"I felt pretty good going into the fifth set," Sampras said after winning, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. "After I lost the fourth set, the crowd got behind me and I thought, 'Either pull it out or go home.' I decided to stick around."

In the end, it was Sampras' experience that made the difference, but losing was like winning for Novak.

He is ranked 47th. He never had played a No. 1 player before. Never played in a Grand Slam match on a center court before. Never played what anyone would call a really big match before.

"It was very difficult for me," said Novak, who then described his downfall in the fifth game of the final set. "I got nervous and hit two double faults at Love-15 and he break me. It was the most important moment in the match.

"But I think it was very good match for me . . . I am very happy zTC that I could play with him for five sets because I have nothing to lose and I was playing very well. I think it was the best match in my life for me."

The victory moves Sampras into the third round, where he will meet Alexander Volkov tomorrow.

Sampras is now 4-0 in five-setters this year and 20-7 lifetime.

Quick exit for Sabatini

No. 15 seed Gabriela Sabatini, hoping to turn around a disappointing year, added to her woes yesterday by losing to Asa Carlsson, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.

"I just didn't feel comfortable with my game," said Sabatini, who has made it at least to the quarterfinals the last nine years. "I have to accept that I lost and it's going to be a little hard. This tournament is a big tournament for me. I always did very well here and this is where I really wanted to do well."

Look who's still here

No. 4 seed Goran Ivanisevic advanced to the third round for the first time since 1992, with a 6-7 (1-7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Aussie Scott Draper.

Asked if he is happy that Sampras and Andre Agassi are getting all the attention, Ivanisevic grinned.

"That's great. I love it," he said. "They talk about me that I never pass the first week here, when they actually talk about me. Maybe they're going to talk, you know -- later. . . . If they don't talk, I'm happy."

Also happy was Petr Korda, who has been past the first round here just twice. He moved into the third round last night with a 6-0, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 victory over Bohdan Ulihrach.

Not so happy was No. 17 seed Felix Mantilla, who lost to Guy Forget, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.

Stefan Edberg defeated Bernd Karbacher, who retired in the fourth set with a pulled hamstring. Edberg was leading, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 1-0.

Sailing along

No. 2 Monica Seles breezed past Dally Randriatefy last night, 6-0, 6-2; No. 4 Conchita Martinez bounced Helena Sukova, 6-4, 6-3; and it almost took longer for No. 8 Lindsay Davenport to apply her sun screen than it did for her to beat Anne-Gaelle Sidot, 6-0, 6-3.

Disney love match

Walt Disney World Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., made another addition to its empire yesterday, when USTA president Les Snyder announced a multi-year deal for the Disney complex to play host to the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships. The competition, scheduled for April 21-28, will be broadcast by CBS.

Pub Date: 8/31/96

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