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Tennis-Todd Martin shakes off "choker" tag

Tennis-Todd Martin shakes off "choker" tag

American Todd Martin finally answered the critics who have labelled him a big-match "choker" with a 6-7 6-3 6-4 6-4 win over Pete Sampras at the Australian Open on Sunday.

Martin has won eight singles titles, made two grand slam finals and reached a career-high ranking of four in a distinguished professional career but is still best remembered for the matches he has thrown away.

"Today proved to me that I could serve out a match," Martin said.

"Nothing feels better than to know that I did something today that I've never done before."

Martin's record of throwing away leads is as famous as any match he has ever won.

He lost the 1999 U.S. Open final to Agassi after leading by two sets to one and was beaten by Sampras in straight sets in the 1994 Australian Open final.

But his most memorable collapses both happened on the hallowed grass turf at Wimbledon.

Martin squandered a 5-1 fifth-set lead in the 1996 semifinals to hand Malivai Washington a place in the final.

And he did it again last year when he self destructed to blow a 5-2 final-set lead and two match points against Andre Agassi in a second-round match.

"It wasn't the greatest experience, I lost a match that I had a great chance to win. It's not the first time it's happened and not the last time it'll happen, though hopefully not to that extent.

"That memory is gone as far as anything other than realising that it can happen and to try to be better prepared for it if it does.

"If I thought about the past, I'd be retired by now."

Martin had never beaten Sampras at a grand slam event in six previous meetings and had lost each of their last 13 encounters.

It looked as though Sunday's match was going to follow the pattern when Martin lost the first set in a tiebreak after getting an early break.

But this time the 30-year-old Martin did not panic and stuck to his original game plan.

"This is the best he's played against me in many years," Sampras said.

"He returned and served about as well as he's ever done."

Martin recovered from dropping the first set to win the next three in a row, breaking Sampras's serve once in each set while giving him just one chance to break, which he saved with an ace. He will play Agassi in Tuesday's quarter-finals.

"Every time I've ever played Pete, I kept on making adjustments along the way rather than sticking to my guns and really having a shoot-out with him," Martin said.

"I've had much more emotional wins but as far as satisfaction of doing the job the right way, it was up there. It was a very well-shaped match on my part.

"I was very committed to doing it the right way and today I did it the right way. If I would have lost, I still would have felt pretty good about it."


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