Sampras falls to Bastl
WIMBLEDON, England -- First Pete Sampras, then Andre Agassi.
The two biggest Americans in men's tennis lost in the second round at Wimbledon in stunning upsets Wednesday.
On an amazing day at the All England Club, second-seeded Marat Safin was also eliminated.
Sampras rallied from two sets down on a court nicknamed the "graveyard of champions'' but came up short 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4 against George Bastl, a Swiss player ranked 145th in the world.
It was the seven-time champion's earliest exit from the grass-court championships in 11 years.
Later, on Centre Court, the third-seeded Agassi -- champion in 1992 -- went down in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-2, to 67th-ranked Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand.
In the past two days, the tournament lost five of the top-8 seeded men. No. 7 Roger Federer and No. 8 Thomas Johansson lost Tuesday.
With Agassi and Sampras out, Richard Krajicek is the only remaining former champion left in the draw.
The Dutchman, winner in 1996 and playing his first major tournament in two years after elbow surgery, served 32 aces and outlasted American James Blake 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 11-9. The match lasted 3 hours, 7 minutes _ with the final set alone taking 1:08 minutes.
Krajicek next faces Srichapan.
Agassi's one-sided defeat -- which took only 1 hour, 47 minutes -- ranked as an even bigger surprise than Sampras' ouster. While Sampras' game has been in decline, Agassi has been playing well and was considered a stronger contender for the title.
"I'm a little stunned,'' he said. "I'm certainly disappointed. I never found my rhythm out there today. I played a very average match against a guy who's taking it to me and deserved to win. It was a bit of shocker for me.''
Srichaphan, 23, came into the match with a career Grand Slam record of 5-10 and had won only two matches at Wimbledon.
But, on Wednesday, he played the match of his life on the sport's most famous court against the only player to win all four Grand Slam singles titles since Rod Laver in 1968.
Agassi usually dominates matches with his punishing baseline game, but he was on the defensive. Srichaphan dictated the points, moving Agassi from side to side with ground strokes to all corners of the court.
Agassi had an unusually high number of unforced errors (35), 10 more than Srichaphan. The Thai player also served 15 aces and broke Agassi six times.
After Agassi hit a backhand wide on match point, Srichaphan threw up his arms, then covered his face with his hands. He pressed his hands together in a prayer gesture and bowed to all four corners of the stadium -- a ritual usually carried out by Agassi after his wins.
Srichaphan's father and coach, Chanachai, jumped to his feet and pulled out a small camera to take photos of his son's celebration.
In another major surprise, Safin was ousted 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (1) by Belgium's Olivier Rochus -- a player nearly a foot shorter than the Russian.
Sampras experienced one of the worst defeats of his career and, on paper, one of the biggest upsets in recent Wimbledon history.
Bastl, who had won just one previous grass-court match, only made it into the draw Sunday as a "lucky loser'' after Spain's Felix Mantilla pulled out with a knee injury.
For much of his match, Sampras appeared out of sorts. He made glaring unforced errors, struggled with his serve, failed to run full-out for some shots and didn't resemble the player who won a record 13 Grand Slam singles titles.
"I wasn't at my best,'' he said. "But I felt like I was going to win the match, even though I was down two sets to love. It's disappointing. I fought hard to get back into the match. It will be a tough flight home, knowing this is going on and I'm not here.''
Sampras lost in the second round at Wimbledon in 1991. Since then, he has won a record seven singles championships, including four straight from 1997-2000. He lost in the fourth round last year to Roger Federer.
But Sampras hasn't won a tournament since Wimbledon in 2000 and came into the tournament with his lowest seeding (six) in 11 years. Wednesday's defeat will inevitably raise questions about the future of the man considered the greatest grass-court player in history.
Sampras vowed to return.
"You know, I'm not going to end my time here with that loss,'' he said. "I want to end it on a high note, and so I plan on being back. ... As long as I feel like I can continue to win majors and contend, I'll just continue to play.''
Bastl, who played collegiate tennis at South Florida and Southern California, had lost in the first round of all six previous grass-court tournaments he played.
"It's a nice story isn't it?'' he said. "I gave myself chances because I was practicing on grass for the last three weeks. I had won my last three matches and I knew my game was improving match by match. I felt I would have some sort of a chance.''
Sampras' body language after his defeat was particularly downcast.
After he hit a forehand way long on match point, he trudged head down and shoulders slumped to the net.
Bastl pumped his fists, shouted, "Come on!'' and tossed his wrist bands into the crowd.
Sampras stayed behind, slumped on his chair with head bowed, for about two minutes after Bastl left the court. The former champion then walked off very slowly, briefly raising his right hand as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
During a few changeovers in the match, Sampras unfolded a piece of white paper and read notes. He said it was something that his wife, Bridgette Wilson, had written for him.
Sampras, who is used to playing on Centre Court or Court 1, looked out of place on Court 2 -- a small, intimate court that seats about 3,000.
He's the latest champion to lose on that court, joining a list that includes Agassi, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastase, Richard Krajicek and Pat Cash.
"When I heard about it, I wasn't happy about it,'' Sampras said. "I'd rather be on a show court. Having won this thing a few times, I thought they might have put me on one.''
Bastl broke Sampras twice in each of the first two sets and appeared headed to a straight-set win. But Sampras, who has come back to win from two sets down five times in his career, broke for the first time for 2-1 in the third set and broke again in the ninth game.
Sampras broke twice again in the fourth set, sending the match into a decisive fifth, where he was up 4-3 and had a break point to go up 5-3.
But Bastl saved the point with an overhead, held and got the decisive break in the next game. He hit a backhand serve return at Sampras' feet, forcing a forehand volley error. Bastl then served out the match.
Sampras had only eight aces, along with 10 double faults and 25 unforced errors. His first-serve percentage was just 57 percent. Bastl had 12 aces.
"I had my chances,'' Sampras said. "Give him credit, he played well. My serve just let me down. One shot I can usually rely on is my serve, but I wasn't getting any in.''
Earlier, Rochus outplayed Safin on Centre Court.
Safin leads the ATP Champions Race, which counts points in tournaments this year, but couldn't handle the quickness and clever play of the 64th-ranked Rochus.
The result wasn't totally unexpected: Rochus had beaten Safin once before in 2001 and extended him to five sets on clay at the French Open last month.
Rochus had advanced to the second round by defeating his brother Christophe in his opening match, the first between brothers at Wimbledon since 1988.
Safin finished with 45 unforced errors, compared with only 10 for Rochus. Safin had 21 aces, but also served eight double faults.
In another men's upset Wednesday, Australia's Mark Philippoussis ousted No. 14 Thomas Enqvist of Sweden 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 on Court 1 to move into the third round. He finished the match with his 30th ace.
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