Relieved Agassi wins a marathon as Sampras gets a night off

Published July 1st, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Second seed and former champion Andre Agassi survived two match points against him to win a marathon second-round tussle in the men's singles at Wimbledon on Friday, ousting fellow American Todd Martin in a tumultuous five-setter. 

Agassi's big rival, defending men's champion Pete Sampras, saw fortune smile upon him as the rain came down and forced the postponement to Saturday of his scheduled third-round match against fellow American Justin Gimelstob. 

Sampras is facing a fitness scare as he looks to recover from an inflamed tendon in his left shin, an injury suffered in Wednesday's second-round win over Karol Kucera. 

The extra night's rest was manna from heaven for the six-time Wimbledon champion, who is after a record 13th Grand Slam title. 

If Sampras can oust Gimelstob, he will next face Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden, who beat South Africa's Neville Godwin 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. 

Swedish number nine seed Thomas Enqvist, the only surviving seed in Sampras' half of the draw, rallied from being two sets to one down to pip German Christian Vinck 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in a rain-interrupted match on Center Court. 

The shaven-headed Agassi found himself 2-5 down in his decider on Center Court against Martin before the 1992 title winner pulled the match, held over after rain on Thursday, out of the fire to win 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 10-8. 

The Las Vegan next faces Frenchman Jerome Golmard after recovering from two breaks down in the final set to outlast the man he beat in last year's US Open final in three-and-three quarter hours. 

"Once I lost my serve the second time, I didn't think there was a whole lot of hope left," Agassi admitted. 

"I needed a little help from him at 5-2 down and I was very lucky to get back into the match." 

The 29-year-old Martin, who four years ago let slip a 5-1 lead in the final set when he lost a semi-final here to MaliVai Washington, valiantly hammered down 28 aces but it wasn't enough as Agassi broke him in the final game of a see-saw match. 

"I felt like I'd gotten to the point where I was controlling play - even the points I wasn't dictating," said a crestfallen Martin afterwards. 

"It looked like I was in control of the match. But the tide can turn very quickly. Before you know it I was between a rock and a hard place." 

Agassi had dropped his serve in the opening game of the fourth set before the two men came off on Thursday and angrily complained the match should have been halted after the third set as both slid around the court in the rain. 

When the contest resumed in midday sunshine, a lacklustre Agassi produced error after error as Martin moved in sight of a huge upset. 

Agassi, 30, had beaten his countryman in 11 out of the 16 previous meetings - but Martin had won their only previous encounter on grass. 

Armed with his early fourth set break Martin repeated the dose to move 5-2 ahead and wrapped up the set with an ace before two breaks of the Agassi serve left him 5-2 clear in the fifth. 

Agassi gifted him what should have been the match-winning lead with a double fault. 

A stunning forehand return allowed Agassi to break back for 3-5, but he then served up a 10th double fault 

A low Agassi volley into the net handed Martin a first match point but he netted. 

Agassi then had to stave off a second match point after another double fault, but he saved himself with a volley at the net. 

Martin choked serving for the match a second time as Agassi leveled at 5-5. 

Martin then went 30-0 up on the Agassi serve, but the Las Vegan hauled himself level and that proved his opponent's last hurrah. 

Agassi then made a supreme effort as he finally broke the Martin challenge with a break in the final game. 

Top women's seed Martina Hingis had it much easier as she reached the fourth round with a routine 6-2, 6-2 win over Silvija Talaja of Croatia. 

Swiss miss Hingis, champion here in 1997, will next meet German 11th seed Anke Huber after Huber beat Slovenia's Tina Pisnik 6-2, 6-3. 

"I feel very good. I played very well and I was very focused from the first point on," said Hingis, who was far more impressive against Talaja than she had been in beating the same opponent in the German Open in early May, when Talaja had set points against her. 

Also racing through was eighth seed Serena Williams of the United States, who blew Spaniard Cristina Torrens-Valero off Court One 6-2, 6-1. 

Williams, last year's US Open champion, showed she is more than capable of bringing subtle touch to her undoubted power as she broke for 2-0 in the opening set with a delicate drop shot after appearing to shape up for a murderous backhand. 

After a rain break, she carried on where she had left off to win in 1hr 4min and next faces Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand, who beat Anne-Gaelle Sidot of France 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. 

Williams could yet face elder sister Venus in the semis. 

Back among the men, Zimbabwean Byron Black moved into the last 16 when he scored a 6-2, 6-0, 6-4 victory over Spaniard Albert Portas to set up a meeting with Italian veteran Gianluca Pozzi, who beat Belgium's Olivier Rochus 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2. 

South African Wayne Ferreira, who ousted former champion Richard Krajicek in the previous round, also progressed when he beat Andrei Pavel of Romania 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 6-3. 

Ferreira now tackles qualifier Vladimir Voltchkov of Belarus, who shocked world number 16 Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco in three sets, adding his scalp to that of French former finalist Cedric Pioline. 

Jan-Michael Gambill of the United States, who ended the dreams of seventh seed Lleyton Hewitt of Australia in the opening round, beat compatriot Paul Goldstein 7-6 (12/10), 6-2, 6-2. 

Goldstein wasted six set points in the opening set and his challenge then collapsed as Gambill served up 24 aces – (AFP) 


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