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Tuesday, January 27, 1998 Published at 16:18 GMT

Sport: Tennis

Pistol Pete fired from Open
image: [ Sampras defeated by a player ranked 19 places below him ]
Sampras defeated by a player ranked 19 places below him

Pete Sampras, the world number one in tennis, made a shock exit from the Australian Open on Tuesday, when he was knocked out in four sets in the quarter-finals by unseeded Slovak player, Karol Kucera.

Kucera played the tennis of his life to win 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 6-3 after dominating the American with a stinging service game and a barrage of winners from all corners of the court.

Sampras earned the nickname 'Pistol Pete' because of his bullet-like serves. This and his other all-round skills have made him the player to beat in world tournaments.

Kucera hot from the start

The omens of defeat were set in the opening game when Kucera, ranked 20 in the world, broke the Sampras serve.

Though the American immediately broke back, he lost his serve again in the ninth game and his first set of the tournament.

Kucera broke a shell-shocked Sampras in successive games as he swept to victory in the second set by 6-2 - constantly passing the 26-year-old with ease.

He broke Sampras in the third game of the next set, but the American showed his fighting qualities by breaking back immediately.

Sampras then lost his serve for an incredible sixth time in the match, but again instantly replied by taking Kucera's serve to love before finally holding his own to lead 4-3.

The set went into a tie-break which Sampras took 7-5. He looked to be taking control but crucially missed two break points in the third game.

Kucera responded by breaking Sampras in the sixth game before holding his nerve - and serve - to complete the greatest victory of his career.


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