This wasn’t Pete Sampras’ usual way of winning.
Sampras, who has used a formidable serve-and-volley game to win 13 Grand Slam tournaments, was broken six times before beating Bohdan Ulihrach 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-5 today.
The No. 3 seed advanced to the Australian Open's third round despite 12 double faults and 46 unforced errors in a three-hour match.
Agassi Breezes by Goldstein
Sampras missed on his first match point in the final set's 10th game after some desperate retrieving by Ulihrach.
He had to overcome two double faults to hold for 6-5. Then, on his second match point, he brought the Czech player up to the net with a short volley and then passed him with a backhand volley down the line.
Sampras gave credit to Ulihrach for putting pressure on his service game and pushing him to double fault by trying for too much.
"I felt like I was serving well, but he was returning and passing me great," said Sampras, who converted six of nine break points, matching Ulihrach's figure.
"I also felt like I was playing well enough from the back of the court to break him."
In contrast, defending champion Andre Agassi needed just one hour, 17 minutes to sweep fellow American Paul Goldstein 6-1, 6-3, 6-1.
"I really believe that if I continue striking the ball and moving like I am and concentrating like I am, I'll do all right," said Agassi, the No. 6 seed.
Davenport Survives, Martinez Falls
Women's defending champion Lindsay Davenport, meanwhile, needed her serve to pull her through a frustrating match with a batch of missed chances in the second set. She won 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 against German qualifier Greta Arn.
Spain's fortunes suffered a big blow with losses by its only two seeds — women's No. 5 Conchita Martinez and men's No. 9 Juan Carlos Ferrero.
Martinez, women's runner-up in 1998 and a semifinalist last year, fell 5-7, 6-3, 8-6 in the second round to Switzerland's Emmanuelle Gagliardi, ranked 93rd on the women's tour.
Ferrero, vexed by the scrambling and spinning of Australia's Andrew Ilie, lost 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-2.
Safin, Rafter Win Tough Matches
Sampras wasn't the only men's seed who found progress difficult.
No. 2 Marat Safin, the U.S. Open champion, overcame initial floundering and beat Romania's Andrei Pavel 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (5).
"I didn't know what to do, where to return, what I had to do. … He was playing great tennis," Safin said. "Finally I found my game in the second and third sets."
No. 12 Patrick Rafter, a two-time U.S. Open winner, finally overcame Russian qualifier Nikolay Davydenko 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4). He failed to serve out the match at 5-4 in the fourth set, but reached match point in the tiebreaker with a drop shot and won three points later with a tough serve.
"I never hit the ball well from the word go," Rafter said. "He sort of kept me on the back foot a lot. … I definitely saw defeat there at some stages."
Rafter said he needed a quality workout ahead of his next match Friday, but added, "I did what I had to do today, so that was a good thing."
No. 13 Cedric Pioline struggled through some rough patches before beating Czech player Slava Dosedel 7-6 (6), 1-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Ferrero, the hero of Spain's victory over Australia for the Davis Cup last month, appeared to be back on track when he took advantage of errors by Ilie and won the fourth set easily.