His socks and shoes caked with red clay and his face bathed in sweat, Andre Agassi hopped in his chauffeur-driven car and rode away a loser at the French Open on Wednesday.
Impatient and undermined by a slew of unforced errors and double faults, the No. 3 seed was eliminated in the second round by journeyman Chris Woodruff 4-6, 6-4, 6-7 (9-7), 6-3, 6-2.
Pete Sampras, meantime, had his own slugfest to contend with - only he came out a winner. The top-seeded Sampras squandered a two-set lead, then battled fatigue in the fifth set before overcoming two-time champion Sergi Bruguera 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (7-2), 2-6, 6-3.
“This is the best clay court victory I’ve had in my career,” said Sampras, who has never advanced past the quarterfinals at the French, the only Grand Slam title to elude him. “This win certainly gives me a lot of confidence.”
Other men’s winners included No. 6 Yevgeny Kafelnikov and No. 7 Jim Courier. No. 12 Carlos Costa, considered a strong title contender, was ousted 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (8-6) by fellow Spaniard Francisco Clavet.
Among the women, Monica Seles scraped through a first-set tiebreaker and beat Japan’s Naoko Sawamatsu 7-6 (7-4), 6-2. Also advancing were No. 4 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and No. 12 Mary Pierce.
Agassi seemed to have a chance of making a run at his first French Open title. But on this day at Roland Garros, with temperatures in the 80s, he folded in the fifth set.
He didn’t stick around to explain his defeat. Agassi walked straight off the court, got into into his chauffeur-driven courtesy car and rode off with fiancee Brooke Shields.
For skipping the obligatory postmatch news conference, Agassi was fined $2,000 - mere pocket change for a man who has won more than $12 million in career prize money.
“Obviously, he has a lot of money, can do what he wants,” said Woodruff, a 23-year-old former NCAA champion from Tennessee who almost gave up tennis last year. “The way he lives, the flamboyance, that’s not my style.”
After Agassi slapped a backhand service return into the net on match point, Woodruff threw his arms in the air, dropped his racket and grabbed his head in disbelief. Then he cried.
“I never really thought about winning or losing,” he said, “so all of a sudden all my emotions just came out.”
While Woodruff played steady, smart tennis, Agassi committed 63 unforced errors and 12 double faults.
“I thought he was pretty impatient sometimes,” Woodruff said. “He was pretty determined to drive the ball through me after four or five shots. It seemed like he was always trying to play offense and he had no real defense.”
Agassi unraveled to give Woodruff the decisive break in the fifth game of the final set, serving two double faults and dropping the game at love. Agassi looked flat-footed and demoralized as Woodruff broke again in the seventh game and served out the match in the eighth.
Sampras used the kind of aggressive tennis he has rarely displayed on clay - a far cry from the tentative player who lost to Bruguera in the 1993 quarterfinals.
This was not the same Bruguera, either. Still not fully recovered from foot and ankle injuries, the 1993 and 1994 champion is ranked No. 23 and was unseeded this year.
Both players had 14 aces, but Sampras also had 43 service winners. He repeatedly served himself out of trouble, saving 18 of 20 break points.
Sampras won the first two sets in less than an hour, but tired at the end of the third set and lost the tiebreaker. .
Sampras won seven straight points to open the final set, kissing his racket after hitting a forehand volley winner that helped him break serve for a 2-0 lead.
When Bruguera hit a backhand serve return out on match point, Sampras looked more relieved and exhausted than elated.