- Wimbledon 2001 - Federer upsets Sampras
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Thursday, July 17
Federer upsets Sampras

WIMBLEDON, England -- Defeated and dethroned, a somber Pete Sampras lingered at his courtside chair, engulfed by cheers that weren't for him.

Roger Federer
Roger Federer of Switzerland falls to his knees as he defeats defending champion Pete Sampras in the fourth round on Centre Court at Wimbledon.

With no trophy to collect, the seven-time champion instead picked up three sweaty towels, stuffed them into his tennis bag and slung it over his shoulder. Then, head down, Sampras slowly followed Roger Federer toward the exit, making his earliest departure at Wimbledon in 10 years.

Federer showed his former idol the door in a stunning upset Monday, winning 7-6 (7), 5-7, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-5. The fourth-round thriller ended Sampras' remarkable reign -- at least for the moment.

"You know something so great isn't going to last forever," Sampras said. "Today I just came up a little bit short."

Sampras had won 31 consecutive Wimbledon matches and 56 of his last 57. The defeat, his first at the All England Club since a quarterfinal loss to Richard Krajicek in 1996, ended his bid for a record-tying fifth consecutive title.

The result also marked a breakthrough for the 19-year-old Federer in his Centre Court debut. The Swiss youngster has been considered a potential Grand Slam champion since winning the Wimbledon juniors title three years ago.

"It was his moment," Sampras said. "It's grass-court tennis. One minute you feel like you have it, the next minute you're walking off the court."

Sampras, who turns 30 next month, hasn't won a tournament since Wimbledon last year and hasn't reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal in 2001. The latest defeat will be cited as further evidence of his decline, but he dismissed the suggestion retirement might be near.

"Let's not get carried away," he said. "I plan on being back for many years. There's no reason to panic and think that I can't come back here and win here again. I feel like I can always win here."

The departure of the top-seeded Sampras creates an opening for Andre Agassi, Patrick Rafter and Marat Safin, who all advanced to the quarterfinals. Wednesday's pairings are set, excluding one unfinished fourth-round match. American Todd Martin led Britain's Tim Henman 7-6 (3), 6-7 (5), 6-4 when play was suspended because of darkness.

Pete Sampras
Pete Sampras holds his head in his towel during his match against Roger Federer of Switzerland. Federer defeated Sampras 7-6 (7), 5-7, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-5.

The winner will face the 15th-seeded Federer, suddenly a title threat. The highest-seeded player left in his half of the draw is Safin at No. 4.

"After beating Pete, I think maybe I have a chance," Federer said.

Although 32 of the world's best players were in action on a warm, muggy day, there was little excitement until Sampras and Federer took the court.

Sampras held a set point in the opening tiebreaker, but Federer erased it with a service winner. Sampras lost the set four points later when he dumped an easy backhand into the net, and the battle was on.

Wearing a bandanna and ponytail, Federer looks nothing like Sampras but plays with the same stylish ease and seems comfortable at the net, which is unusual for a teen-ager. Much of the time the Swiss youngster had the better serve, and he confidently closed out the third set with three consecutive service winners and an ace that kicked up chalk.

Sampras played his best tennis in the final two sets, cranking serves up to 136 mph and looking like the champion of old at the net.

"I've won a lot of close matches out there," he said. "I very much felt like I was going to win."

At 4-4 in the final set he held two break points, but Federer erased one with a volley and the other with a sizzling forehand. That was Sampras' last chance to pull out a victory.

Serving in the final game, he misplayed two volleys and fell behind 15-40. Federer then cracked a return winner -- something he had done repeatedly over the previous 3½ hours -- and fell to his knees with glee before keeling over onto the turf. Soon he had tears in his eyes.

"This match will give me as much confidence as I can get," Federer said. "This is the biggest win of my life."

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