WIMBLEDON, England -- Score one for the Charlie Brown of tennis.
Vince Spadea, forever optimistic even as he lost and lost and lost again, ended the longest losing streak in tennis history at 21 matches Monday with a five-set upset of Greg Rusedski in the opening round at Wimbledon.
In a six-hour ordeal, including two hours for a rain delay, Spadea showed all the stubbornness and resilience that has carried him through the merciless drubbings of the past eight months as he carved out a 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (8), 9-7 victory over the 14th-seeded Briton.
On a day when Pete Sampras played big to begin his quest for a seventh Wimbledon title, and Anna Kournikova captivated the crowd with a 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 upset of No. 10 Sandrine Testud, Spadea came up with the biggest shots, the gutsiest effort and most dramatic triumph.
Not only did Spadea conquer his losing streak, but the 25-year-old Floridian did it on his worst surface at a Grand Slam tournament where he had won only a single match in five years. He did it, moreover, in the face of a packed, partisan crowd in the Court 1 stadium, where shouts of ''C'mon, Greg'' rang out on nearly every point.
When it finally ended in chilly, gathering darkness at 9:03 p.m. after Rusedski's final volley sailed long on the fifth match point, Spadea raised his arms, looked around at the crowd to take in the moment, then smiled at the heavens as if he had just won Wimbledon.
''It was worth the wait, huh, people?'' Spadea said. ''It doesn't ever come until the time when you're not ready for it. Then all of a sudden you're just, like, 'Oh, my gosh, what's happened to me?' But it was outrageous. I thought I won 16 times, man. I felt like freaking. The guy got every first serve in.''
Rusedski, who reached the fourth round last year and the quarterfinals in '97, was widely considered one of a handful of players capable of challenging Sampras on grass.
Spadea joked that he just wanted to wait for a big occasion to break his streak, but the truth is any occasion would have suited him. Even his parents, who follow him all over the globe, deserted him this week once they found out he was playing Rusedski in the first round.
''My parents went home two days ago,'' he said. ''I think they saw the draw and said, 'Vince, man, good luck to you, boy. Just use that racket speed, but I don't know if that will help you.' They're in Miami, on the Internet, breaking that keyboard.''
Instead of his dad hugging him, John McEnroe gave Spadea a big hug in the locker room.
''It's been a rough patch in my life in tennis,'' Spadea said. ''It didn't really faze me so much. I was trying to enjoy my life a little more, trying to improve my tennis game, not going in the right direction. Everything wasn't clicking.
''I can do anything if I put my mind to it. Hey, man, you've just got to go out and do it. I'm not scared of anyone, you know. I can lose to anyone, but I can go out and battle. Because I got game.''
Sampras obviously still has game, too, even if he acknowledges he's on the downslope of his career as he approaches his 29th birthday in two months.
Showing little sign of the back troubles that bothered him in practice last week, Sampras cruised to a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Jiri Vanek. It was a performance that underlined Sampras' dominance in the grass-court tournament in which he has lost only once in the last seven years.
''Pistol Pete -- Playing for History'' read a big yellow sign held up by fans on Centre Court, referring to Sampras' chase for a record 13th Grand Slam singles title.
Vanek, a Czech ranked No. 84 in the points race and playing his first match at Wimbledon, put up a strong effort but was no match for the man considered perhaps the greatest grass-court player. Monday's win extended Sampras' record to 47-1 dating to 1993, including 32-1 on Centre Court.
''It's always nice to be back on that court,'' Sampras said. ''It's comfortable surroundings for me, a court that over the years I have grown to love.''
As for his pursuit of the Grand Slam record, he said, ''When you're on the battlefield, you don't think about breaking records.''
Following Sampras on Centre Court was Kournikova, who pulled off the first upset of the tournament by knocking out Testud.
The 19-year-old Russian was a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 1997 but is ranked only 19th this year because of an ankle injury that has restricted her play.
Kournikova appeared to be sailing to an easy victory, leading 5-2 in the second set. But Testud rallied, saving two match points at 4-5 and winning five straight games to force a third set.
The pattern was repeated in the third, with Kournikova going up 5-2 and Testud saving a match point. The Frenchwoman battled back to 5-4 but committed a double-fault at deuce to give Kournikova another match point. This time, Testud hit a short backhand into the net. Kournikova shouted ''Yes!'' pumped her fist and waved to her entourage in the guest box.
Martina Hingis, top-seeded among the women, opened with an easy victory, but she needed eight match points in the final game before putting away Spain's Angeles Montolio 6-1, 6-2.
''I just couldn't finish it off,'' Hingis said. ''She played so well on those match points. She always came up with an amazing winner. I was like, 'OK, not much I can do about that.' As long as I always won the deuce points, I was fine.''
Hingis, who lost in the first round at Wimbledon last year to qualifier Jelena Dokic, relished playing the opening match of the tournament on Court 1.
''That's pretty much the way you want it,'' she said. ''Nobody has played on that court before. It's very soft, like a carpet.''
Also advancing were sisters Venus and Serena Williams. Injuries have limited their schedules this year, but both appeared in top form.
Venus, seeded No. 5, is playing only her fourth tournament since last November because of tendinitis in both wrists. She dispatched 41st-ranked Czech Kveta Hrdlickova 6-3, 6-1.
No. 8 Serena, playing her first match in more than 2 1/2 months because of tendinitis in her left knee, scored a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Sweden's Asa Carlsson.
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