Sampras pulls out five-setter at Australian Open
Updated: Saturday January 20, 2001 2:00 AM
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Pete Sampras might not have much energy left for the tough opponents yet to come in the Australian Open.
The two-time champion survived his third consecutive tough match Friday, outlasting unheralded Juan Ignacio Chela 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the fourth round.
Sampras' first two matches took more than three hours, and this one was even more arduous.
"I'm definitely earning my paycheck this week," he said. "There's room for improvement, but I'm still in the tournament, and I've always had a belief I can get my game going at the right time."
Sampras struggled to hold serve and was slow-footed and sloppy at the net against Chela, an Argentine who won one hardcourt match last year.
In the fifth set, the sunny, warm weather briefly seemed to bother Sampras. After breaking serve for a 3-1 lead, he sat down in the shade in a lineswoman's chair for several seconds and wiped his forehead.
Then in the next game, he fired three aces in a row to hold serve at love. The third-seeded American closed out the win in 3:08 and improved to 29-12 in five-setters.
"I felt pretty good in the fifth set," he said. "Physically I feel I'm coming through these matches pretty well. I feel like I'm pretty fit here. Hopefully I can get through it."
No. 6 Andre Agassi followed Sampras on center court, and he won when David Prinosil retired because of heat exhaustion after just 68 minutes. Agassi, who overcame a 6-2 deficit in the first set tiebreaker, led 7-6 (11), 5-0 when Prinosil quit.
"I hate to see a match end like that ... you don't want to see anyone in physical danger," Agassi said. "But he's OK and I'm onto the next round, so it's all good."
Sampras' next opponent will be fellow American Todd Martin, who upset No. 13 Cedric Pioline 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. No. 2 Marat Safin had his easiest match so far, beating Michal Tabara 6-1, 6-1, 6-4.
No. 12 Patrick Rafter swept Michel Kratochvil 6-4, 6-1, 7-5. No. 14 Dominik Hrbaty defeated Christophe Rochus 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
Defending women's champion Lindsay Davenport, who struggled through the first two rounds, beat Silvia Farina Elia 6-2, 6-1. The No. 2-seeded Davenport's opponent in the fourth round will be No. 15 Kim Clijsters, who won the first 11 games and beat qualifier Nuria Llagostera 6-0, 6-1.
No. 8 Anna Kournikova rallied to beat her doubles partner, Barbara Schett, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. No. 12 Jennifer Capriati swept Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-0, 6-2.
Rising Belgian star Justine Henin, who has already won two tournaments this year, eliminated No. 14 Sandrine Testud 6-2, 6-4. That left 12 seeded women and 12 seeded men still in the tournament.
The 193-centimeter (6-foot-3) Chela, 21, is part of a recent influx of top South American players. He improved his ranking last year to 63 from 131.
And on the warmest day of the tournament -- with temperatures expected to top 32 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) -- he had Sampras sweating early. The two-time Australian Open champion jumped to a 2-0 lead, but then came the first sign of trouble, with Chela cracking a pair of return winners in the next game.
From there Sampras often struggled to hold serve, part of a trend that dates back to his lopsided loss to Safin in the U.S. Open final. He once could go several matches without losing serve, but he was broken four times by Chela and has been broken 13 times in three matches this week.
It didn't help that he volleyed poorly, often floating shots into the middle of the court or dumping them into the net. And the results were no better when he tried to rally from the baseline.
But by the fifth set Sampras was moving better, and Chela's serve became shaky. The Argentine erased four break points before hitting an easy volley into the net to fall behind 1-3, then hit a forehand into the net on the second match point.
There was little drama in the first center court match. Davenport raced to a 4-0 lead in each set and closed out the victory in 63 minutes.
"I'm a lot happier with the way I played," Davenport said. "You can tell when you're hitting the ball cleanly and well, even when you might not win every point. I was hitting with more power and depth and all that good stuff I've been lacking the last couple of matches."
Davenport was pushed to three sets in wins over Jelena Dokic and Greta Arn. Next up is the 17-year-old Clijsters, who is 0-2 against Davenport, with both matches three-setters last year.
"It's a tough match," Davenport said. "It's funny -- for so many years I was the youngest player. Now I'm one of the oldest. The young girls are very fiery and have a hard-hitting game, and they go for their shots.
"The two times I played Kim, they were tough three-set matches. I don't expect anything different this time."