Originally created 07/04/97

Sampras sends Becker to Wimbledon exit - for good



WIMBLEDON, England (AP) - The match was billed as worthy of the final. It turned out to be the final appearance of Boris Becker.

After losing to fellow three-time winner Pete Sampras in the quarterfinals today, Becker delivered a jolt, bidding farewell to the Grand Slam tournament where he first made his name in 1985 as a 17-year-old champion.

``That was it for me,'' Becker said. ``This was my last time at Wimbledon. I think it's a very good moment right now. I just don't feel I have it any more what it takes to win a Grand Slam.''

Becker broke the news to Sampras when they met at the net after the American completed a 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-4 victory that established him as a strong favorite to win his fourth title.

``He had sort of a shock in his eye,'' Becker said.

Sampras was taken aback.

``I walked off the court and felt a little bit strange,'' he said. ``Wimbledon and Boris went together. This is where he made his mark as a 17 year old. It was like his living room out there. It's a bit of a somber feeling. I felt honored in a way that I was his last match.''

As he left Centre Court for the last time, Becker twice bowed deeply to the crowd with arms outstretched.

Becker won Wimbledon in 1985, 1986 and 1989. At age 29, he felt this was his last legitimate chance at another Wimbledon crown.

``I feel very relieved,'' he said. ``I feel I've come to the end of the road with my head up high. And I feel I'm still playing good tennis. It's not like I'm losing to people I shouldn't lose to. I feel like I'm on the top of the mountain and I can only go down.''

Becker said he may still play the U.S. Open and would continue in tour events, but would not enter any Grand Slam tournaments next year.

In the semifinals, Sampras will face unseeded Todd Woodbridge of Australia, who beat 19-year-old German Nicolas Kiefer 7-6 (9-7), 2-6, 6-0, 6-4.

The other semifinal will pit 1991 champion Michael Stich against Cedric Pioline - two unseeded players who dented British hopes by ousting Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski.

In women's play, Martina Hingis and Jana Novotna advanced to the final with straight-set victories. Hingis, 16, is the youngest women's finalist at Wimbledon since Charlotte ``Lottie'' Dodd won the title in 1887 at the age of 15 years, 285 days.

Becker said he would stick to playing only one-week tournaments from now on.

``For a two-week tournament where you sometimes play back to back, my body just doesn't take it anymore,'' he said.

Becker, bothered by a neck problem, said he couldn't do anything to stop Sampras, who won Wimbledon three years in a row (1993-95).

``He didn't have any weak moments,'' he said. ``He just served incredible throughout the whole match. I was under pressure to hold serve. That pressure at the end was a bit too much too handle.''

Sampras never lost his serve, saving the only three break points against him. Except for the second-set tiebreaker, Sampras played nearly flawless grass-court tennis, never giving Becker a chance to get any momentum.

Stich, playing in his last Wimbledon before retirement, overwhelmed Henman 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Pioline outplayed Rusedski 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

``I didn't come here to retire,'' said Stich, who was never broken and lost only three points on his serve in the third set. ``I came here to win the championship.''

Said Henman: ``It was probably the worst experience of my life on a tennis court.''

The Henman and Rusedski defeats ruled out the possibility of a British player making the men's semifinals for the first time since Roger Taylor in 1973, as well as the chance of the first all-British semifinal since 1922.

Hingis, who won the Australian Open in January, maintained her perfect record against Anna Kournikova, winning the battle of the 16-year-olds.

In an error-filled match that failed to meet expectations, Kournikova held serve only once and Hingis labored to a 6-3, 6-2 victory in 62 minutes before a muted Centre Court crowd.

Later, Novotna trounced Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 6-4, 6-2 to reach the final for the second time. The two players, former doubles partners who fell out last year, exchanged an icy handshake without making eye contact after Novotna hit an overhead on match point.

Novotna is remembered for sobbing on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent after blowing a 4-1 lead in the third set against Steffi Graf in the 1993 final.

``I'm a different person from 1993 and I will play much calmer,'' she said.

It was the fourth time Hingis and Kournikova have met, and the fourth time the Swiss star has won easily in straight sets. Hingis won twice in junior competition, and last month at the French Open, she beat Kournikova 6-1, 6-3.

``It's not such a big rivalry,'' Hingis said. ``Until now, I've always been better, I've always beaten her. She still has some to improve, but she's getting better.''