Goran's Heartbreak, Pete's Glory: Sampras Triumphs in Wimbledon Marathon

Pete Sampras followed Bjorn Borg's record and claimed his fifth Wimbledon title in 1998

by Jovica Ilic
Goran's Heartbreak, Pete's Glory: Sampras Triumphs in Wimbledon Marathon

Four years after their previous Wimbledon final, Pete Sampras and Goran Ivanisevic arranged another title match on July 4, 1998. Sampras did not play at his best in the first half of the season, throwing everything into chasing his fifth Wimbledon title.

Pete ousted Goran 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 after two hours and 52 minutes, becoming the second player in the Open era with five Wimbledon crowns after Bjorn Borg. Sampras lifted his 11th Major trophy, joining Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg and trailing only Roy Emerson.

Ivanisevic failed to win Wimbledon in his third final, playing well but fading from the court in the decider. This match almost ruined his career, struggling to get over it and needing years to recover. Both players experienced early losses at Queen's and restored their magic at The All England Club to beat six rivals and set the title clash.

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 to book a place in the final. Ranked outside the top-20 and with no ATP semi-finals since the title he won at home in Split in February, Goran opened his Wimbledon journey with a commanding triumph over Grant Stafford.

He dropped a set against him, Andrei Medvedev and Daniel Vacek while still facing no top-70 rivals. Todd Martin fell in four sets after Ivanisevic clinched both tie breaks to reach the quarter-final, where he ousted Jan Siemerink in three tie breaks.

The semi-final clash with the 1996 winner Richard Krajicek turned into one of the most thrilling semi-final clashes at Wimbledon ever, 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. They 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 could have sealed 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 arrange an 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 to 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. Goran did his best to match Pete's performance, giving his everything to finally claim the first Wimbledon crown.

The Croat fought like a lion for four sets before fading from the court in the decider, leaving the court crushed and broken and wondering if he would ever get another opportunity to play for the title at The All England Club.

Pete Sampras took down Goran Ivanisevic in five sets in the 1998 Wimbledon final.

Ivanisevic fired 82 service winners and faced 14 break points, giving serve away four times. On the other hand, Sampras repelled seven out of nine break chances, stealing that tight second set and saving the best for the decider, his first and only in the Major finals!

The American had 67 service winners and more volley winners than Ivanisevic. Goran ruined his chances after massive 20 double faults, too much against a strong rival and a four-time champion. Like in 1994, things went on quickly on the court, 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 third game. He fended off four break points with winners and brought it home with two booming serves to avoid an early setback. Pete hit a double fault in the next game to face a break point, 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 chances in the sixth game after Pete's two winners before working hard to stay on the positive side after four double faults at 4-4. Goran saved a break opportunity with a good serve and repeated that two games later before claiming the tie break 7-2 with six winners!

Pete started stronger at the beginning of the second set. He broke Goran in game two but stayed in front only for a few minutes, as Ivanisevic pulled the break back thanks to a forehand winner. The servers lost only seven points in the remaining games before the tie break that could have sent the Croat 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. The defending champion prevailed 11-9 with a late mini-break in the 19th point when Goran hit a volley error that would cost him dearly.

Sampras moved in front with a break at 2-2 in set number three, welcoming three unforced errors from Ivanisevic and sealing the break with a return winner for a significant advantage. The defending champion lost only four points in service games in the entire set and closed it with three winners at 5-4, 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 pushed him ahead. The Croat served well in games seven and nine to claim the set 6-3 and send the encounter into a decider.

Sampras made a fresh start and landed two winners on the return at 3-2. He forced an error from Ivanisevic to grab a break and confirmed it with four winners in the next one. The American crossed the finish line with a break at love in game eight, lifting the trophy and writing new pages of history books.

Wimbledon Pete Sampras Bjorn Borg