When Lightning Strikes: Pete Sampras' Unforgettable Wimbledon Upset

World no. 145 George Bastl stunned Pete Sampras in five sets at Wimbledon 2002

by Jovica Ilic
When Lightning Strikes: Pete Sampras' Unforgettable Wimbledon Upset

One of the greatest Wimbledon surprises occurred in 2002 when seven-time champion Pete Sampras fell to world no. 145 George Bastl in the second round! Sampras was an undisputed Wimbledon king during the 90s, winning seven titles between 1993 and 2000 before Roger Federer toppled him in the fourth round in 2001.

Things could have looked better for a 13-time Major champion in 2002. Pete stayed without an ATP title for two years, heading to Wimbledon ranked 13th and defeating Martin Lee in the first round to kick off what turned out to be his last Wimbledon campaign.

On June 26, Pete suffered a shocking defeat to the Swiss lucky loser George Bastl, who toppled the legendary champion 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 in three hours and 15 minutes! Staged on Court 2, a so-called Graveyard of champions (Nastase, Ashe, McEnroe, Connors and Hewitt were all beaten at that court before Pete), Sampras played his last Wimbledon match, as Boris Becker wisely predicted.

His journey at The All England Club ended terribly! Sampras lost to a player with two Major wins on his tally before Wimbledon, playing way below his usual level from the previous decade. It was the only five-setter career win for a former University of Southern California star.

George earned it after fending off six out of nine break points and stealing Pete's serve on five occasions, taking four points more than the American. Sampras was on a recovery course in sets three and four. However, he had no drive or strength to bring the match home from there, losing the decider to leave the court with his head down, deeply disappointed with how he performed.

In his darkest moments, Pete was reading notes from his wife, Bridgette Wilson. He found the strength to fight but not to cross the finish line first and avoid the shocker that had spread over the tennis world faster than Sampras' initial shot.

One of the best servers ever hit just eight aces and annulled them with ten double faults.

Pete Sampras experienced a shocking loss to world no. 145 at Wimbledon 2002.

He lost too many points in his games and failed to create more chances on the return, struggling to find the rhythm early on and being unable to beat the rival once he erased the deficit.

George took the opening set and continued in the same style in the second. He broke Pete in game two and made an essential hold in the next game after a few deuces. The Swiss grabbed another break in game eight for 6-2, taking two sets to love lead and looking determined in his quest toward one of the biggest surprises in Wimbledon history.

Pete finally broke in the third set's third game to end his downfall. He served well in the remaining games to close the set at 5-4 with a service winner, reducing the deficit and getting back on track. His chances had grown even more after a reliable performance in set number four.

Pete broke George two times and served well to set up a decider, becoming the favorite for the victory against the rival with barely any experience in encounters like this. In the final set's fifth game, Sampras fended off a break opportunity and had a chance to build the advantage with a forehand winner at 4-3 that could have sent him closer to the finish line.

Bastl repelled a break point with a smash winner and made the crucial move in the next game, breaking Sampras and serving for a career-best triumph. George held his nerves and delivered an excellent hold. The Swiss sealed the deal when Sampras' forehand landed long to celebrate the most significant win and a place in the Wimbledon third round, where he lost to the future finalist David Nalbandian in straight sets. George scored just one more ATP victory by the end of the season!

On the other hand, Sampras emerged as a champion for one last time at the US Open, lifting his 14th Major title to retire in glory as one of the best players of all time.

Pete Sampras Wimbledon