Pete Sampras' bid for a record eighth Wimbledon crown was destroyed today when the top-seeded American fell in five dramatic sets to Swiss teenager Roger Federer in the fourth round.
Sampras had been beaten just once in eight years at the world's most prestigious tournament, amassing a record-equalling seven men's crowns between 1993 and 2000, but his luck finally ran out as he lost 7-6 5-7 6-4 6-7 7-5 on Centre Court.
"I'm just really disappointed but I lost to a really great player out there.
"It wasn't going to last forever, nothing is going to last forever," Sampras said.
Last year's victory saw Sampras rack up a record 13th Grand Slam title but he was simply outfought today in a nerveless display from 19-year-old Federer.
First Loss in Five-Set Match
Sampras had never lost a five-set match at Wimbledon and looked as though he had saved himself when he won the fourth set in a tiebreak.
But 15th seed Federer, junior Wimbledon champion in 1998, broke Sampras on his first matchpoint in the deciding set with a forehand return before sinking to his knees on the court Sampras calls his "backyard."
Federer, a first round loser here in 1999 and 2000, will play either British sixth seed Tim Henman or American 23rd seed Todd Martin. Martin led 7-6 6-7 6-4 when play was halted because of bad light.
"It feels unbelievable," Federer said. "The best win of my life."
Rounding Out the Quarters
Australian fifth seed Lleyton Hewitt also crumbled in five sets, losing to France's Nicolas Escude 4-6 6-4 6-3 4-6 6-4.
Hewitt, unbeaten on grass this season, extended his win-loss record on the slick surface to 15-0 as he ploughed through the early rounds at Wimbledon but never looked totally at ease in his first three matches, and against Escude he ran out of ideas.
"I've had a great grass-court season but it's over now, though," Hewitt said.
Escude will face Andre Agassi in the quarter-finals after the second seed and 1992 champion beat German 19th seed Nicolas Kiefer 6-3 7-5 7-5.
Three-times runner-up Goran Ivanisevic also thundered into the quarters along with last year's men's finalist Pat Rafter of Australia, seeded three, who beat Russian Wimbledon first-timer Mikhail Youzhny 2-6 6-3 6-2 7-5. Ivanisevic showed Britain's Greg Rusedski no mercy on court one, pummelling his fellow left-hander 7-6 6-4 6-4 with brutal tennis based on a ferocious serve.