Australia's Mark Philippoussis defeated second-seeded American Pete Sampras 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 8-6 in Paris, Monday in the first-round match at the French Open.
After more than 3 1/2 hours in blustery weather that kept shifting from hot to cold, from sunny to cloudy and back again, this match between serving titans ended in the most ignoble way, when Sampras double-faulted on match point.
Even stranger was the fact that Sampras had asked the umpire at 6-6 in the fifth set whether they play a tiebreaker now.
No, the umpire said, no tiebreaker. At the French, unlike the US Open, the fifth set is played out in games.
Sampras never won another point. He watched Philippoussis serve his 23rd ace in taking a 7-6 lead at love before Sampras fell at love in the final game.
The defeat means Sampras, who has never won the French Open, must wait until Wimbledon to continue his bid to eclipse the record of 12 Grand Slam wins he shares with Australian Roy Emerson.
"It was a very close match that could have gone either way," admitted a clearly disappointed Sampras.
The American vowed that he is still capable of winning this title saying, "One year, hopefully, I'll get the breaks. I'll be back next year."
Asked if he honestly believed he could still win here after 11 failures, Sampras said, "My career is not over yet".
Philippoussis was clearly delighted with his performance. The player derided by some as an unsubtle power merchant showed real maturity as he matched the more experienced Sampras both mentally and physically.
"I concentrated really well - and I had to - the whole match," Philippoussis said. "It was definitely a great match - and one I'm proud to win, but I don't want to get too excited, I am just glad to get through and now I must concentrate on the next match" -- (Several Sources)
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