Wimbledon Flashback: Pete Sampras edges Goran Ivanisevic and matches Laver, Borg
by JOVICA ILIC | VIEW 1903
Four years after their previous final, Pete Sampras and Goran Ivanisevic were the last men standing in the title match at Wimbledon on July 4, 1998. Failing to deliver his best tennis on the biggest stages in the first half of that season, Pete threw everything into winning the fifth Wimbledon crown in the last six years, beating Goran 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in two hours and 52 minutes.
The American became the second player in the Open era with five Wimbledon crowns after Bjorn Borg. It was his 11th Major, joining the legends like Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg and trailing only one behind Roy Emerson. Ivanisevic struggled to find the form that year even more than Sampras.
He dropped out from the top-10 in November 1997 and never returned to the elite group again, especially not after the third Wimbledon final defeat that almost ruined his career completely! Both players suffered early losses at Queen's and headed to Wimbledon, where they restored their magic on the fastest surface to oust six rivals and set the heavyweight contest in the final.
Pete took down Dominik Hrbaty, Mikael Tillstrom, Thomas Enqvist, Sebastien Grosjean and Mark Philippoussis in straight sets, barely losing serve in those matches and setting the semi-final clash with the British hope Tim Henman.
The American prevailed 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 with five breaks of serve, booking a place in the final where things were not getting anything easier. Ranked outside the top-20 and with no ATP semi-final on the Tour since the title he won at home in Split in February, Goran opened his Wimbledon journey with a commanding triumph over Grant Stafford before dropping a set against Andrei Medvedev and Daniel Vacek, still facing no top-70 rivals.
Todd Martin fell in four sets after Ivanisevic clinched both tie breaks before the Croat ousted Jan Siemerink in three tie breaks in the quarter-final. The clash with the 1996 winner Richard Krajicek proved to be one of the most thrilling semi-final clashes at Wimbledon, with Goran scraping past the Dutchman 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-7, 15-13 in three hours and 22 minutes!
Two outstanding servers blasted almost 180 service winners and pushed each other to the limits in the decider that lasted only 80 minutes, with three breaks for Richard and five for Goran. The Croat had the opportunity to seal the deal in the fourth set's tenth game.
He created two match points before losing four points in a row and allowing Krajicek to take the set in the tie break and set up that exciting decider that went down to the wire. The Dutchman grabbed a break in game five, only to get broken at love a few minutes later and keep Goran in contention.
They stayed neck and neck until the 28th game, when Richard made a couple of errors to suffer a break and propel Ivanisevic into the final. The Croat gave his best to match Sampras' performance and finally claim the first Wimbledon crown.
Pete Sampras lifted his fifth Wimbledon crown in 1998.
He fought like a lion for four sets before fading from the court in the decider to leave the court crushed and broken, wondering would he ever get another opportunity to play for the title at his favorite event.
Ivanisevic fired 82 service winners and still got broken four times from 14 chances offered to his rival. On the other hand, Sampras repelled seven out of nine break points, stealing that tight second set and saving his best for the decider, his first and only in the Major finals!
The American had 67 service winners and more volley winners than Ivanisevic, who ruined his chances after 20 double faults, way too much against such a strong rival on the court where he already won four titles. Like in 1994, things went by so quickly, with 150 unreturned serves in 331 points and no rally longer than eight shots!
The Croat had to dig deep on serve already in the encounter's third game, fending off four break points with winners and bringing it home with two booming serves to avoid an early setback. Pete hit a double fault to face a break point in the next game, repelling it with a powerful serve and delivering two more to level the score at 2-2.
Goran had another opportunity to move in front, wasting two break points in the sixth game after two winners from the American and having to think about staying on the positive side of the scoreboard after four double faults at 4-4.
Goran repelled a break point with a good serve, repeated that two games later and claimed the tie break 7-2 with six winners! Pete started stronger at the beginning of the second set and broke Goran in game two. The American stayed in front only for a few minutes, as Ivanisevic broke back in the next game with a forehand winner.
The servers lost only seven points in the remaining games before the tie break that could have sent Goran two sets to love up and closer to the finish line. They hit 16 winners in 20 points (13 with serve), and Pete saved two set points at 5-6 and 7-8 with good initial shots.
He prevailed 11-9 with a late mini-break in the 19th point when Goran hit a volley error that would cost him dearly. Sampras grabbed a break at 2-2 in set number three following Ivanisevic's three unforced errors and his return winner.
The defending champion lost only four points in service games in the entire set and closed it with three winners in game ten and looking good to go all the way. With no room for errors, Goran erased a break point at 2-2 in the fourth set and fired four winners in the next game for the best performance on the return that sent him in front.
The Croat served well in games seven and nine for 6-3, sending the encounter into a decider. Sampras landed two winners on the return in the sixth game and forced an error from Ivanisevic to gain a 4-2 advantage. The American confirmed it with four winners in the next one and crossed the finish line with a break at love in game eight to lift the trophy and write new pages of history books.