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Cherkasov Remembers Beating Sampras From Two Sets Down at ’92 Olympics

Pete Sampras is considered one of the greatest champions in tennis history, having won seven Wimbledon titles, five US Opens and two Australians.

Besides Roland Garros, where Sampras reached the semifinal in 1996 and three quarterfinals in thirteen overall attempts to snatch the elusive major title, there was one other special tournament where the Hall of Famer was a mediocre force.

Sampras competed in one Olympics Games, 1992 in Barcelona. He won two rounds – besting Jaime Yzaga and Wally Masur – before running into 22 year old Russian Andrei Cherkasov in the round of 16.

At the time Sampras was ranked no. 3 in the world and Cherkasov was no. 26, thirteen notches below his career best 13.

Cherkasov beat Sampras in their first pro meeting in Frankfurt in 1989 and then Pete won the next three meetings. “I won the first meeting and then it was close in Bercy (1990), I lost tiebreaker first set and then one break in second set. And I almost beat him in Munich when he won Grand Slam Cup (1990). I lost to him 5 in the third (75 26 57). And then he won quite easily except that match with Ivanisevic which was three sets.”

“I lost to him three or four times (four) but only once easily at Wimbledon (1992 by a score of 61 63 63) which he was unbeatable. He was great on grass. He played perfect (Sampras lost to Ivanisevic at Wimbledon that year, Agassi won the title).”

Sampras faced Cherkasov in the Olympics just a few weeks later. It was to be the first and final time Pete played for a gold medal.

“It was a tough first set (76). Then he won the second set (61),” remembers Cherkasov. “The in third set it was very close. I won 76 (actually 75). Then in the fourth I won 60. In the fifth set I made one break and that was enough. Against Pete it’s so important to return because I knew after the fourth it’s not over. In the fifth set he was still serving big. And he knew he had a chance with me because of his great serve. But on clay it’s tough to break a good baseline player. I did well on my serve.”

“Eventually I had my chance. I remember it was deuce. I say to myself, He’s probably gonna go wide. And I was there and I returned down the line. That was the key. I remember he served double fault. He was probably frustrated at what happened. Because he hit a very good serve but I was there. It wasn’t probably the perfect match but good memory for me.”

Cherkasov won the fifth set 6-3 and then proceeded to win a bronze medal, losing in the silver medal match to Spain’s Jordi Arresse.

Sampras would never play in the Olympics again. However he did execute revenge on Cherkasov the following year 1993 at Roland Garros in the first round, winning 61 62 36 61 to complete the pair’s head to head rivalry at 4-2.

Cherkasov played until retiring in 2000, Sampras quit in 2003.

Cherkasov was two ATP titles, both in Moscow in 1990 (tournament debut) and 1991. He reached the quarterfinals of US Open, Roland Garros and Australian Open.


  • Wayne Kramer · April 18, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    That’s a great story. Couple of flukey wins on super slow clay courts.
    How about the time Sampras single handedly beat the Russians in Moscow in the Davis Cup finals on what has been described as the slowest indoor red clay court in history…watched it live, they had to carry Sampras off the court after he beat Chesnokov In the first match, he came back to win the doubles, then absolutely annihilated Kafelnikov in the decisive match 2, 4, 6 (this was an absolute slaughtering…score does not represent how badly Kafelnikov was whupped.) Like to get a comment from Cherkasov on these matches….

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 18, 2020 at 2:12 pm

    Wayne, Sampras beating Russia in Russia was one of the all time heroic tennis performances. And the American sports media didn’t even care. I didn’t see this Cherkasov win vs Sampras, very few did. Pete had some painful losses on red clay along with his stunning wins. Gilbert Shaller, Santoro 0 and 1 in Monte Carlo, all the years he lost in Paris. I will ask Andrei about Davis Cup. Pete denied Russia of what would have been their very first Davis Cup. Youzhny and Safin won the first one vs France in France.

  • Wayne Kramer · April 18, 2020 at 2:24 pm

    The Soviets/Russians had some real world class athletes playing tennis during this era, the result of the Soviet sports machine (benefitting from advanced “sports science” no doubt.) it was a matter of national pride and part of the Cold War ideological battle vs the US. Given this background, Sampras going into the belly of the beast and putting the beat down on them in Moscow is simply epic.would enjoy Cherkasov’s perspective…



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