Sampras doesn't let underdog have day Rockville pro has crowd, but No. 1 gets 4-set win

U.S. Open

September 04, 1998|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Pete Sampras has no trouble remembering what it's like to be an underdog at the U.S. Open. Even if it was eight years ago, it's still vivid in his mind.

It was 1990 and he pulled off one of the biggest surprises in Open history, when he upended Ivan Lendl in the quarterfinals and went on to win his first Grand Slam title.

"It was a great feeling in 1990, when everyone was rooting for me and I could just go out there and swing away," Sampras said yesterday after overcoming Paul Goldstein of Rockville and a partisan crowd on the Open's former Center Court that is now Stadium Court 2. "Maybe when I'm 33, I'll be the underdog, again. But that's how American crowds are. They weren't really rooting against me, they were just rooting for him."

And Goldstein, 22, was doing his best to give them something to root for, taking No. 1 Sampras to a first set tiebreaker and forcing a fourth set before Sampras won, 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Sampras, who is focused on tying Roy Emerson's career record for Grand Slam titles at 12, said he wasn't in a panic, but admitted to some flashbacks.

Nearly everyone remembers his match with Alex Corretja on this same court two years ago. In that one, Corretja took the world No. 1 to a fifth-set tie-breaker, before a physically ill Sampras pulled out the victory.

"This is New York," Sampras said. "The crowd roots for the young, up-and-coming college player. They always like to see the underdog do well and he certainly handled himself very well.

"I felt I really wasn't at my best. But you're not going to play your best every day for two weeks."

Another top player to feel that was No. 8 seed Andre Agassi, who was up two sets and seemed on his way to a straight-set victory against Guillaume Raoux, when, all at once, he made several mental errors and found himself in a five-setter before regaining his dominance, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (6-8), 3-6, 6-1.

No. 3 Patrick Rafter advanced to the third round without any distress, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. On the women's side, all the seeds advanced.

Goldstein, who graduated from Stanford in the spring, said he was a little disappointed Tuesday, when his night match against Sampras was postponed because of rain. He said he always thought, "If you are going to play Pete Sampras, it might as well be at night at the Open, in the most electric environment out there."

But yesterday wasn't bad. Goldstein has played twice before as a wild card here, and lost in the first round each time.

His first-round victory came when his opening-round opponent, Andrew Ilie, was forced to retire mid-match because of %o cramping. And that, Goldstein, had said had been a disappointing way to register his first pro win.

Yesterday, tucked away in a small interview room, he said there was little disappointment in this loss.

"I think, what surprised me most, was that I was real competitive in the beginning," Goldstein said. "I didn't know what to expect going out there. Part of me knew I should feel I should win. Part of me wanted to keep it competitive for the fans. Part of me wanted to keep him there on the court at least an hour.

"I don't like the word satisfied and in the pure sense of the word, I'm not satisfied. But I'm pleased with my efforts for the week. Hopefully, I'll learn from this. In that third set, he gave me some short balls. He probably didn't mean to, but I need to be able to pounce on those and end the point. I hit the right shots, I felt. I just didn't execute the points that well. That gave him the break in the third, and from that point on, I thought his serve was pretty out of this world."

Sampras said he never felt the match was at risk. But Goldstein bTC did surprise him.

"He caught me off guard a little bit," Sampras said. "He was serve and volleying and coming to the net. I felt the points really weren't going the way I wanted them to go. He was the one coming in, and I was being a little passive."

Pub Date: 9/04/98

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