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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sampras Digs Deep to Stay Alive in Australia




MELBOURNE, Australia -- alling on all his reserves of experience, Pete Sampras clawed his way back from the brink of defeat Friday to topple Zimbabwean qualifier Wayne Black in the third round of the Australian Open.


The American, who is striving to become the first man in history to win 13 Grand Slam singles titles after matching Roy Emerson's 12 at Wimbledon last year, recovered from a sluggish start to win 6-7 (9-11), 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.


He will next meet Slava Dosedel of the Czech Republic.


Black, ranked 151st in the world at the end of 1999, looked on the verge of sending the third seed to an early exit as he raced to a two-set lead.


But Sampras, already a two-time winner at Melbourne Park, slowly fought his way back and found his range with his booming serve, although he did not begin to look near his best until the final set.


"It's hard to say what's going to happen ... but I'm still in it," Sampras said.


"I hung in there and my serve kind of saved me. He played smart and kept me on my heels and made me do a lot of running."


While Sampras struggled, hometown hero Mark Philippoussis confirmed his place as a genuine contender with an emphatic straight sets win over fellow Australian Andrew Ilie.


The "Scud," serving at speeds reaching up to 221 kilometers per hour, blasted his way into the last 16 with a 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 win that took just 95 minutes. Russia's Anna Kournikova, named by local newspapers as his new girlfriend, watched on approvingly from the stands.


Philippoussis never once faced break point on his own serve and just picked his moments to attack his Davis Cup teammate. The former U.S. Open finalist will play either world No. 1 Andre Agassi or Argentinian Mariano Zabaleta in the next round.


"I never look ahead, I never look at the draw but obviously I know he's [Agassi] the seed I was going to play if I reach that stage," Philippoussis said.


"Every match I'm getting better and better. All I'm trying to do is trying to keep my concentration going."


Tim Henman kept British hopes alive with a workmanlike 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (8-6) victory over Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean, reaching the fourth round for the first time in five years.


The 11th seed's serve and volley tactics were well suited to the lightning fast Rebound Ace courts but he lost his way in the middle stages with Grosjean winning the third set and taking a 3-0 lead in the fourth when rain interrupted play.


The showers provided the Englishman with the break he needed and when play resumed, he erased the deficit to force the set into a tiebreak which he won to earn a fourth-round meeting with American Chris Woodruff.


Kournikova also had to fight hard to reach the fourth round of the women's draw, the 11th seed downing Czech Kveta Hrdlickova 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.


The 18-year-old picked up her game in the second set, where she reeled off the first three games against the 47th-ranked Hrdlickova.


Kournikova sealed the match with an ace to set up a fourth round meeting with second seed Lindsay Davenport of the United States, who effortlessly pushed aside Russian qualifier Alina Jidkova 6-0, 6-1 in a lopsided Center Court match Friday.


"I like to play against [Davenport]. We've had some good matches in the past," Kournikova said.


"But definitely it's going to be a tough match," Kournikova, who lost to Davenport last week in Sydney, said.


Frenchwoman Julie Halard-Decugis, the ninth seed, also came back from a set down to beat Yelena Dementieva 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.


Women's fourth seed Mary Pierce appeared much more comfortable as she posted a 6-2, 6-4 win over 99th-ranked Miriam Oremans of the Netherlands.


Pierce, Australian Open champion in 1995 and a finalist three years ago, will play Japan's Ai Sugiyama.


Former teen prodigy Jennifer Capriati produced her best Australian Open performance since reaching the quarterfinals in 1992 and 1993 when she beat China's Yi Jiang-Qian to set up a fourth round match against Switzerland's Patty Schnyder.


Schnyder downed Russian Nadejda Petrova 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 6-2.