Pete Sampras was an undisputed Wimbledon king during the 90s, winning seven titles between 1993-2000 before Roger Federer toppled him in the fourth round in 2001. Things didn't look much better for the 13-time Grand Slam champion in 2002, staying without an ATP title for two years and heading to Wimbledon ranked 13th, 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 in the worst manner, losing to a player who had two Grand Slam wins on his tally before Wimbledon and 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, earning 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 but had no drive or strength to bring the match home from there, losing in the decider to leave the court with the head down, deeply disappointed with the way he performed.
In his darkest moments, Pete was reading notes from his wife Bridgette Wilson that gave him the strength to fight but not to cross the finish line first and avoid the shocker that had spread over the world of tennis faster than Sampras' initial shot.
One of the best servers ever managed to hit just eight aces and ten double faults, losing too many points in his games and failing to create more chances on the return, struggling to find the rhythm early on and not being able to beat the rival once he erased the deficit.
George took the opening set and continued in the same style in the second, breaking Pete in game two and making an essential hold in the next game after a few deuces. The Swiss grabbed another break in game eight for a 6-2, taking two sets to love lead and looking determined in his quest towards one of the biggest surprises in Wimbledon history.
Pete finally broke in the third game of the third set to end the downfall, serving 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 when he broke George twice to set up a decider, becoming the favorite for the victory against the rival with barely any experience in encounters like this one.
In the fifth game of the final set, Pete fended off a break opportunity and had a chance to create the lead with a forehand winner at 4-3 that could have been sent closer to the finish line. Bastl repelled it with a smash winner and made the crucial move in the next game after breaking Sampras, serving for the career-best triumph.
George held his nerves and delivered an excellent hold, sealing the deal when Sampras' forehand landed long to celebrate the most significant win and the place in the third round of Wimbledon where he lost to the future finalist David Nalbandian in straight sets.
By the end of the season, George scored just one more ATP win while Pete Sampras emerged as a champion for one last time at the US Open, lifting the 14th Grand Slam title to retire in glory as one of the best players of all time.