For five sets, Pete Sampras watched 29 aces by Todd Martin fly past. But it was Sampras who fired the ace that ended the match.
The top-seeded American overcame a sizzling start by Martin, his close friend and golfing partner, to reach the fourth round of the French Open with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 victory."Pete started off slowly and I started off quickly," Martin said. "He finished quickly and I finished slowly."
Sampras had 20 aces and 34 service winners as the two big hitters put on a display of power tennis rarely seen on the red clay at Roland Garros.
"At some times during the match, I thought the Roland Garros gods would be rolling in their graves," Martin said. "It was very quick tennis for awhile."
Among other players reaching the fourth round were Monica Seles, co-seeded No. 1 with Steffi Graf, who came from 1-4 down in the second set to beat Sabine Appelmans, 6-2, 7-5.
Also advancing were No. 4 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, No. 6 Anke Huber and No. 10 Jana Novotna. But the tournament lost its first women's seeds: No. 8 Brenda Schultz-McCarthy, No. 12 Mary Pierce and No. 15 Martina Hingis.
Schultz-McCarthy lost to Irlina Spirlea, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2; Pierce, the French woman who reached the final here in 1994, was jeered off court after losing 6-4, 6-2, to Barbara Rittner; and Hingis, the 15-year-old Swiss, lost 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 to Karina Habsudova of Slovakia.
Among the men, the winners included No. 6 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, No. 7 Jim Courier, No. 10 Wayne Ferreira and No. 13 Richard Krajicek. Courier was up two sets to one and leading 5-4 in the fourth when his opponent, Karol Kucera, retired with a sprained right ankle.
But the Sampras-Martin match was the highlight.
Sampras repeatedly dug himself out of trouble with his first serve, saving eight break points during the match - including two crucial set points in the third set.
Sampras also managed to break Martin four times, despite the barrage of aces.
"He has a serve that's very hard to read," Sampras said. "When he serves 29 aces, there's not a lot you can do. You just have to hang around."
Sampras, who has never advanced past the quarterfinals in Paris, came into the tournament without having a single clay court victory this year. But he has survived a nasty draw that included Magnus Gustafsson in the first round and two-time former champion Sergi Bruguera in the second.
"It's been the toughest first week I've had in a major," Sampras said. "To get through these matches gives me a lot of confidence."
The victory took 3 hours, 21 minutes and in his last two matches, Sampras has played 10 sets over 6 hours and 19 minutes.
"He hasn't helped his chances too much by going five sets in the last two matches," Martin said.