Pete Sampras, upset over his ill coach Tim Gullikson and weeping openly on court, hung on for a stirring five-set victory over Jim Courier at the Australian Open in a match that ended early Wednesday morning.
Sampras won 6-7 (4-7), 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in a match that both players called one of the toughest of their careers.He had beaten his fellow American in 10 of 13 previous meetings, including last year's Australian Open semifinal. He next plays Michael Chang in the semifinals on Thursday.
Sampras began sobbing into his towel during the changeover after winning the first game of the final set. Throwing ice water on to his face in an effort to hide the tears, he was able to compose himself before returning to the court.
A spectator at the beginning of the fifth set yelled: "Do it for your coach," in reference to the illness suffered by Gullikson, who has had two strokes in the past three months. Gullikson left for the United States today after again becoming ill during the tournament and having to be hospitalized.
Sampras appeared to be composed after the changeover, but moments later, he again began crying and during one service game, blasted two aces past Courier in between wiping the tears away.
While Sampras was in tears, Courier yelled across the net: "Are you all right, Pete, we can do this tomorrow, you know."
At the same time, Sampras' girlfriend, Delaina Mulcahy, said to Sampras: "C'mon honey, get in there."
Tournament director Paul McNamee preceded Sampras into the postmatch media conference to confirm that it was Gullikson's illness that had upset Sampras during the match. McNamee also asked that the media not question Sampras on the details.
When Sampras came into the news conference, and he was applauded, he again fought back tears and had to leave the room. He came back moments later to answer questions.
"Win or lose, I thought it was one of the better matches I've ever taken part in," said Sampras. "I was happy I fought back. I didn't quit and tried to do everything to try and win."
"We both showed a lot of heart out there," he added, still appearing to be distressed.
Courier said he was suffering from severe cramping and that he and Sampras had fought their hardest.
"I've been in a few good matches, but I realized early on in the second set that something special was happening out there," said Courier. "We were both not missing very much and all the points were being fought."
Earlier, Chang admitted that players often exploit injuries to their opponents. But he was reluctant to talk too much about one he may have sustained himself.
"Jim and Pete read papers," Chang smiled when asked about an upper thigh injury he suffered during his 7-6 (9-7), 7-5, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Andrei Medvedev.
Medvedev injured his left wrist while lunging for a Chang forehand passing shot that gave the American a 5-3 lead in the first-set tiebreaker. Moving to his left for the shot, Medvedev slipped and fell, rolling over on to his left wrist.
Chang had problems later in the match when a trainer treated his upper legs. But he was reluctant to confirm which leg, or the extent of his injury.
"It definitely wasn't a cramp, just a little bit of tightness," said Chang. "We'll leave it at that." When asked which leg, he said. "We'd better leave it at that."
Chang said following Medvedev's injury, he checked out his opponent's ability to play a variety of shots.
Conchita Martinez, playing with the same determination that brought her last year's Wimbledon singles title, moved a step closer to another Grand Slam championship.
Martinez, the second seed, beat American Lindsay Davenport 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to advance to the semifinals against Mary Pierce. Davenport double-faulted on match point and made 50 unforced errors.
Fourth seed Pierce advanced with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Natasha Zvereva. Pierce, based in Florida and coached by Nick Bollettieri, needed only 62 minutes to beat the eighth seed. Pierce and Martinez have never played each other.