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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

From Brink of Defeat, Sampras Salvages Pride

SYDNEY -- World number one Pete Sampras was forced to negotiate a spot of local difficulty before squeezing into the quarterfinals of the New South Wales Open on Wednesday.


The top-seeded American, having been one set and 4-0 up against Australian Jason Stoltenberg, saw his opponent storm back into a 4-2 lead in the decisive third set and was ultimately happy to escape with a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 win.


Top women's seeds Conchita Martinez and Gabriela Sabatini also reached the quarterfinals, although Martinez had to scramble for her 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 win over Germany's Wiltrud Probst. There were 16 service breaks, including nine in the second set alone, in a mistake-ridden match.


Stoltenberg had recovered from a set and 5-0 down in his first-round match against compatriot Richard Fromberg and Sampras later admitted he had feared a repeat performance at his own expense.


"I couldn't believe what happened. I was down a break in the final set and thought 'I'm pretty much history,'" said Sampras. "I completely lost my confidence but he got a little tight. I was a bit lucky."


The defending champion was also unimpressed by an inflatable plastic airplane, painted in sponsor's colors, which was regularly blown into view above the court by the wind.


"The plane was driving me nuts. Whenever I tossed the ball up, I didn't just have the sun to deal with but also a bloody balloon."


Stoltenberg rightly suggested that people would have "started talking" if Sampras had followed up his first-round loss in Qatar last week with another confidence-sapping defeat.


Austrian Thomas Muster and Marc Rosset of Switzerland, seeded third and seventh respectively, both went out. Muster went down 7-6, 5-7, 6-4 to big-serving Czech Daniel Vacek while Rosset lost in straight sets to American Aaron Krickstein.


Muster's defeat means that three of the top four men's seeds in the tournament have already dropped out. Fifth seed Petr Korda almost joined them, recovering from 5-4 down in the final set to beat Japan's Shuzo Matsuoko in a tiebreak.


Ivan Lendl needed five match points before completing a 6-3, 7-5 win over Australian Jamie Morgan.


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Pete Sampras and Gabriela Sabatini joined several other top players in a special night session at the New South Wales Open on Wednesday to raise funds for victims of the state's bushfires.


The players indicated they contributed individually to the disaster fund, as well as going into the crowd with collection buckets to gather extra donations. A minute's silence for victims of the fires was also observed.


"It's unusual for us to be in a city when a catastrophe is so close," said Pam Shriver, president of the Women's Tennis Association. "When you see people's homes and their entire possessions go up, it strikes a chord."