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  Wednesday, 27 June, 2001, 20:23 GMT 21:23 UK
Sampras struggles past Cowan
Pete Sampras
Pete Sampras suffered a mid-match lapse
Pete Sampras (US, 1) beat B Cowan (GB) 6-3 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 4-6 6-3

Pete Sampras won his David and Goliath match with Barry Cowan but was made to work for every point in a five-set battle.

Cowan, who described the encounter as "undoubtedly the match of my life", pushed the defending champion to the limit over two hours and 52 minutes on court number one.

For his part Sampras admitted he was relieved to have got through a "major test" and what may have been "the upset of the century".


I think that's the closest it's going to get in the first couple of rounds
Pete Sampras
But his composed start gave no indication as to the drama that was to unfold during the evening on Wimbledon's third day.

In the opening two sets Sampras looked to be picking his opponent off at will and cruising to a straight sets victory.

However in the third set the number one seed failed to convert any of seven break points before Cowan took the tie-break 7-5.

And the 26-year-old Lancastrian maintained the momentum he had built up into the fourth set.

Cowan, ranked 265 in the world, proceeded to blunt all the weapons in the champion's arsenal, most notably his serve, and as his confidence grew against all the odds he broke in the fifth game before taking the set 6-4 and levelling the match.

"You have to give him a lot of credit," Sampras said of Cowan.


I had him on the ropes
Barry Cowan
"He competed really well and from the middle of the third to the fifth set he basically outplayed me.

"There was no reason to panic out there and although there are some tense moments those are where you have to draw on some experience, remember who you are and where you're playing.

It was the first time since his 1998 final win over Goran Ivanisevic that the seven-times champion had been taken the distance at Wimbledon.

And the American duly responded like a champion in front of a packed and partisan crowd by breaking his opponent's serve twice to take a 4-0 lead in the deciding set.

Cowan raised his game again and broke back once, but despite the swell of support he could not repeat the trick as the American served two aces to save a brace of break points in his next service game.

Barry Cowan
It was only the second time Cowan had played a five set match
Two games later Sampras served his 29th and final ace of the match to seal victory and book a place in the third round against Armenia's Sargis Sargsian.

"It's a shame that when I had a sniff of a chance at 4-2 in the fifth with two break points he had two aces," Cowan said.

"I had him on the ropes. On another day he might have missed and who knows, but he closed out like a true champion - he's a credit to the game.

"As soon as I walked off the court I was disappointed but the more I reflect on the match I've got to be pleased.

"It was the first time for me in a match like that, playing on a big stage in front of a big crowd and I thought I acquitted myself very well."

Wimbledon site

Men's singles final

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Henman's defeat

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SOL at Wimbledon

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See also:

27 Jun 01 | SOL at Wimbledon
27 Jun 01 | Wimbledon 2001
26 Jun 01 | Wimbledon 2001
25 Jun 01 | Wimbledon 2001
Links to more Wimbledon 2001 stories are at the foot of the page.


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