WIMBLEDON, England -- The match was so long that Pete Sampras couldn't even remember a turning point.
It was so long he could have charted it with a calendar instead of a scoreboard. He started his warm-up Friday. He got into the second set Saturday before rain washed out play. On Sunday, he and everyone else at Wimbledon rested, as the tournament retained its sacred day off despite a schedule backlog that had players stacked up over courts like planes over an airport.
And yesterday? More rain. Another delay. But finally, a win.
Sampras got out of the third round at Wimbledon by beating Thomas Enqvist, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-3).
"I never had a match last three days," Sampras said. "It was a long, long weekend."
Only at Wimbledon can a three-set match turn into a marathon. That is the beauty -- and curse -- of a tennis tournament played on grass during the height of the unpredictable British summer.
From a distance, Wimbledon appears to be a tournament built on big serves and quick points. But the truth is, Wimbledon requires patience and rewards perseverance.
"It's an emotional roller coaster," Sampras said. "You get up for playing. You have a 20-minute rain delay. You get the highs and the lows. It's not easy."
Around here, even eating is a science, Sampras said. The players have to time their meals between the rainstorms.
But he's accustomed to Wimbledon's weather, history and pressure. The No. 1 seed has won four of the last five Wimbledons and is aiming for Bjorn Borg's modern record of five men's titles.
Before this tournament, there was talk that Sampras was unmotivated and about to be dumped from his perch as the greatest player of his era. Richard Krajicek, the 1996 champion, even said that Sampras was no better than 10th-best on the tour.
"Wake up to what everyone has said, he has to start winning some tournaments," Krajicek said.
Well, Sampras heeded the wake-up call. He didn't even let Enqvist return a serve in the first three games. And in the last set, he saved three set points by blasting serves, even throwing in a sliced second serve that nearly bounced over Enqvist's head.
"I really have no complaints the way I'm playing," said Sampras, who had 29 aces.
Sampras is getting serious now. And so is Wimbledon, as the pretenders give way to the contenders. In the round of 16, Sampras will meet Sebastien Grosjean, who upset No. 16 Felix Mantilla, 6-0, 7-6 (10-8), 6-2. .
Local favorite Tim Henman, the No. 12 seed, became the first man into the quarterfinals, when he defeated No. 6 seed and reigning U.S. Open champion Patrick Rafter, 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-2. Henman's game was solid. Rafter's back was aching.
"I'm delighted to be through," said Henman, into his third straight Wimbledon quarterfinals and bidding to become the first British man to win the tournament since Fred Perry in 1936. "I feel very relaxed about the situation. I surprised myself how relaxed I was. I felt very loose."
Next up for Henman is a test against No. 3 Petr Korda, who overcame a severely sprained left ankle late in the third set to outlast John van Lottum, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).
In the third round, No. 14 Goran Ivanisevic slammed 44 aces and outlasted Daniel Vacek, 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 6-4. He will next face Todd Martin, a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 winner over Todd Woodbridge.
No. 9 Krajicek had 25 aces and outlasted Nicolas Kiefer, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-4), to gain a round-of-16 match with Wayne Ferreira.
With Krajicek on the bottom of the draw and Sampras on the top, expectations are beginning to build toward their possible meeting in the final.
"I know if I stay sharp with my serve like this, then I think I have a good chance of doing something very nice here," Krajicek said. "But I don't want to think too much about the final."
After all, Wimbledon has just begun.
Men's singles, third round
Todd Martin def. Todd Woodbridge, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4; Pete Sampras (1) def. Thomas Enqvist, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-3); Sebastien Grosjean def. Felix Mantilla (16), 6-0, 7-6 (10-8), 6-2; Francisco Clavet def. Thomas Johansson, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-3; Goran Ivanisevic (14) def. Daniel Vacek, 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-4; Richard Krajicek (9) def. Nicolas Kiefer, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-4); Davide Sanguinetti def. Vladimir Voltchkov, 3-6, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.
Tim Henman (12) def. Patrick Rafter (6), 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-2; Petr Korda (3) def. John van Lottum, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).
Women's singles, third round
Virginia Ruano Pascual def. Serena Williams, 7-5, 4-1, retired; Dominique Van Roost (15) def. Sabine Appelmans, 6-1, 6-2; Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (5) def. Sylvia Plischke, 7-5, 6-2; Venus Williams (7) def. Chanda Rubin, 6-3, 6-4; Jana Novotna (3) def. Corina Morariu, 6-3, 6-1; Irina Spirlea (10) def. Surina de Beer, 6-4, 6-4.
Monica Seles (6) def. Sandrine Testud (14), 6-3, 6-2; Nathalie Tauziat (16), def. Samantha Smith, 6-3, 6-1; Natasha Zvereva def. Miriam Oremans, 6-4, 6-2; Lindsay Davenport (2) def. Magui Serna, 6-1, 6-0.
Today's featured matches
Men's fourth round
Pete Sampras (1), U.S., vs. Sebastien Grosjean, France
Richard Krajicek (9), Netherlands, vs. Wayne Ferreira, South Africa
Goran Ivanisevic (14), Croatia, vs. Todd Martin, U.S.
Women's fourth round
Martina Hingis (1), Switzerland, vs. Tamarine Tanasugarn, Thailand
Jana Novotna (3), Czech Republic, vs. Irina Spirlea (10), Romania
Venus Williams (7), U.S., vs. Virginia Ruano Pascual, Spain
Pub Date: 6/30/98