Tired of fooling around, Andre Agassi swatted a two-fisted backhand. Had the ball been a weapon, it would have beheaded his fearless young foe at the net.
Still, it sent him somersaulting backward onto his bottom.
Message sent and match point delivered, Agassi smiled with a hint of malevolence toward the chastened Alberto Martin before smacking a 125-mph ace to end matters Saturday, 6-2, 6-0, 2-6, 6-3.
"The sets can sneak away rather quickly on grass," Agassi said of his lapse in the third set when he seemed more like a spectator than a player.
Agassi hadn't lost a set in the tournament until then, and he said he was startled to see the 20-year-old Spaniard make a couple of good shots after rolling over so easily in the first two sets.
"All of a sudden he was taking a rally shot and kind of hitting a short chip, almost like a drop shot," Agassi said. "I found myself behind, and he was running with a little bit of confidence there."
Agassi punctured that confidence with a couple of key shots in the fourth set, most tellingly a big, gutsy second serve when he had break point against him at 3-3.
"The last thing I wanted to do was just kind of serve a (soft) second serve in there and let him get a whack at it," Agassi said. "Because the worst case scenario is he's going to gain a lot of confidence from having me on the ropes. I'd rather do the missing in those situations."
Agassi closed out the game with an ace, broke for 5-4 and polished off the match with his hardest serve of the day.
Agassi, seeking his second Wimbledon title a few weeks after winning his first French Open, caught a big break when 28-year-old Australian qualifier Wayne Arthurs served 28 aces to knock off No. 14 Tommy Haas in three straight tiebreakers. Haas bumped Agassi out of Wimbledon in the fourth round last year.
Though Arthurs hasn't been broken on serve in the tournament, and has faced only six break points in three matches, the No. 163-ranked player hasn't faced anyone who can return like Agassi.
"I refuse to be broken," Arthurs said, not entrely facetiously. "It's my goal."
"It doesn't matter who it is. If I'm serving this well, then I could beat anybody. I could beat Agassi."
A bold statement, indeed, from a player who was ranked 1,200 a couple of years ago and has never been ranked higher than No. 135 in seven years as a pro.
As it turned out, Arthurs' victory wasn't even the biggest upset of the day. That came courtesy of Switzerland's Lorenzo Manta, a qualifier ranked No. 196, who ousted 1996 champ and No. 5 seed Richard Krajicek 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) 4-6, 4-6, 6-4 on Court 2, the so-called "Graveyard of Champions."
Five-time and defending champion Pete Sampras had the day off, but he surely applauded Krajicek's loss. The big Dutchman has four consecutive wins against Sampras and is the only player to beat him at Wimbledon since 1992.
But it won't happen this year. Manta sent a pair of backhand returns whistling down the line in the final game to finish off Krajicek, who lost despite serving 23 aces.
Manta, a 24-year-old a doubles player for Switzerland's Davis Cup team, came to Wimbledon with a career singles record of 0-11 in Grand Slam, ATP Tour and Davis Cup events.
Three-time champion Boris Becker, eager to delay his farewell to Wimbledon as long as possible, notched another Centre Court victory by beating Australian 18-year-old Lleyton Hewitt 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).
But Becker may face a tougher challenge in the fourth round against another Aussie, No. Patrick Rafter, who beat Thomas Enqvist 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-2. Rafter is a serve-and-volleyer like Becker, but hasn't had nearly the same success on grass, losing in the fourth round at Wimbledon the past three years, and the first, second and third rounds the three years before that.
Alexandra Stevenson is still living out her fantasy in her Wimbledon debut.
The 18-year-old Californian qualifier ousted No. 11 Julie Halard-Decugis 6-3, 6-3 to reach the fourth round on a good day for American women. Lisa Raymond beat 1994 champion Conchita Martinez 6-3, 6-1, and No. 3 Lindsay Davenport downed Laura Golarsa of Italy 6-3, 6-2.
"I have a goal to win this tournament," Stevenson said. "Actually, I set the goal when I was 9 to win Wimbledon at the age of 19, so ... it'll be really cool if I beat my goal by a year."
Stevenson entered the tournament as an amateur. Though she is turning professional, she will not be eligible for Wimbledon prize money. She's also putting off a college education.
"I don't want to go to college anymore. I want to go later in my career, maybe when I'm 30 or 35, but not right now."
Stevenson has gotten coaching from Don Budge, Tracy Austin and Pete Sampras' sister, Stella. Bobby Riggs once put $100 bills under cones on the court, and Stevenson got the money if she knocked over the cones.
Now Stevenson works with Craig Kardon, who guided Martina Navratilova until her retiremet, and it's all paying off.
She graduated from high school on May 28, flew to England the next day and reached the quarterfinals in a Wimbledon tuneup three weeks ago in Birmingham.
Defending champion Jana Novotna beat Maria Antonia Sanchez Lorenzo 6-4, 6-3. Jelena Dokic, the 16-year-old Australian qualifier who upset Martina Hingis in the first round, rallied past Anne Kremer 6-7 (7-9), 6-3, 6-4.
No. 9 Mary Pierce and No. 14 Barbara Schett also advanced in straight sets.
In other men's matches, Gustavo Kuerten, the 1997 French Open champion, became the first Brazilian man to reach Wimbledon's fourth round in the Open era, which began in 1968. The 11th-seeded Kuerten, who had a lifetime record on grass of 0-4 until this week, swept past qualifier Nenad Zimonjic 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
No. 8 Todd Martin also advanced and will meet three-time runner-up and No. 10 seed Goran Ivanisevic in the fourth round.
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