Whatever the case, it's startling to watch arguably the best tennis player in history struggle against the ATP's marginalia. After his debacle against Bastl, Sampras's voice grew shaky as he rejected suggestions that he retire. "I plan on being back," he said, sounding almost as if he was trying to convince himself. "I'm not going to end my time here with that loss."
Moments later he slung his black Nike duffel bag over his shoulder and headed off in a courtesy car. It was his earliest exit from the All England Club since 1990, and the sun was setting fast.
The New Anna? No, She Can Win
With the Williams sisters running roughshod over the field and Anna Kournikova routinely getting bounced from tournaments before she can create a stir, women's tennis is suddenly hard up for another formidable player and a new glamour girl. It may get both in the form of Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova. A slender, blonde six-footer who seems to be all legs, Hantuchova, 19, has game to match her gams.
A native of Bratislava who was first taught the sport by her grandmother Helena, Hantuchova was touted as a player worth watching when she turned pro in 1999 at age 16. Her star turn, however, came this spring at Indian Wells when she beat top players Justine Henin and Martina Hingis en route to winning her first WTA tour title. Seeded No. 11 at Wimbledon, Hantuchova beat No. 7 Jelena Dokic in straight sets on Monday to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. "I love playing on grass," says Hantuchova, who is ranked No. 12 after starting the year at No. 39, "[but] I think I can do whatever I want on the court; it doesn't matter which surface it is."
Elegant and graceful, Hantuchova hits the ball fluidly off both wings, serves well and has no glaring weakness. Already a top doubles player—she teamed with Arantxa S�nchez-Vicario to reach the 2002 Australian Open final—she volleys well and, unlike most of her colleagues, isn't afraid to head netward during a point. She also has a strong will: Last month at Eastbourne, Hantuchova blocked out the distractions and beat her idol and tour mentor, Martina Navratilova, in three sets.
Though she has been anointed the New Anna by one of the British tabloids and has attracted a loyal following that outstrips her ranking, Hantuchova is unmoved by the attention. Asked why she has been so well-received at Wimbledon, she shrugs and suggests that it's because she has a British coach, Nigel Seal's. (Right. And fans who mob Kournikova's matches come to see her second serve.) Whatever the attraction, the crowds around Hantuchova are likely to grow—and be treated to yet more impressive tennis.