The Match That Kickstarted Sampras' Wimbledon Dominance
For all of their epic battles, one thing that the ATP Head2Head series between Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras lacks is five-set battles. But their 1993 Wimbledon quarter-final that started as a mismatch would end as a compelling affair that marked the first of only two five-set matches in their rivalry.
Sampras withstood a fightback from defending champion Agassi to prevail 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4 in their debut grass-court meeting. Both of them earning the right to face each other in the last eight appeared unlikely 10 days earlier. Agassi struggled with tendonitis in his right wrist before the start of the tournament and Sampras dealt with intense pain in his right shoulder, but Agassi refused to make excuses in defeat.
“The only time I’m devastated over a loss is when I don’t feel like I gave it everything, when I felt like there was something else I could have done. I’m not convinced I could have today,” Agassi said. “He turned out to be the better man in the end."
Agassi admitted that he was “borderline embarrassed” in the first two sets as Sampras’ game plan worked perfectly. He blocked the defending champion’s serve back and frequently sliced his backhand, giving Agassi no pace to work with.
“You’ve really got to make it a mental match with Pete, keep it close and take advantage of a few opportunities,” Agassi said. “But if you allow him to get up… He starts playing off confidence and his ability really shines at that point. It’s hard to stop.”
Eager for more tennis, the already pro-Agassi crowd became boisterous as they tried to urge him back in the match. He obliged by beginning to gamble more on his returns as Sampras let his guard down slightly. As Sampras’ first-serve percentage dropped and the pain in his serving shoulder appeared to return, Agassi dictated more of their rallies and eventually brought the match to a fifth set.
The medical timeout that Sampras took for shoulder treatment early in the deciding set did wonders in restoring his game. He broke Agassi at 2-2 and wasted no time serving out the match, firing three consecutive aces before advancing to his second consecutive semi-final at the All England Club.
“The crowd was really pulling for Andre to come back because in the first couple of sets, I was dictating play,” Sampras said. "The third and fourth sets, he started serving much better… I’d like to think the crowd was pretty partial in the fifth. I hope that I have a couple of fans out there against Andre.”
Buoyed by his victory, Sampras scored two more impressive wins against Boris Becker and Jim Courier to lift his maiden Wimbledon crown. It proved to be the start of his dominance at this event as he prevailed seven times in an eight-year stretch (1993-1995, 1997-2000), putting him only behind Roger Federer on the all-time list at this event.