Hard graft for Sampras

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The Independent Online
Pete Sampras, who made an uncertain start to the defence of his Wimbledon title against Richie Reneberg yesterday, is well aware he is in sight of joining Reggie Doherty, Tony Wilding and Rod Laver as a four- times winner of the men's singles.

Laver, who won in 1961, 1962, 1968 and 1969, is well known to most tennis buffs. Messrs Doherty and Wilding may be more obscure. Doherty, a Briton, won the men's singles four years running from 1897 to 1900, while Wilding, a New Zealander killed in active service during the First World War, also won four in succession from 1910 to 1913.

But in the days of Doherty and Wilding being champion was a languid affair. Apart from the year they first won, the title holder merely waited until the last day and then played the chap who had come through the field for the crown. Sampras, however, will have played four times as many matches if he wins again this year.

Meanwhile, John Feaver, the tournament director at the Lawn Tennis Association, and a former British Davis Cup player, will have an anxious fortnight. He holds the Wimbledon record of 42 aces in one match, when he played three-times champion John Newcombe in 1976. But Feaver still lost. His problem is that Goran Ivanisevic, the big-serving Croat, might break the record he holds dear.

Ivanisevic served up a record 206 aces in seven matches at the 1992 Wimbledon before losing to Andre Agassi in the final, and he regularly delivers 30 or more aces in any five-set match. So he must be in line to beat Feaver's mark.

Thomas Muster, the World No 2, was lucky to be injured a few days before the start of Wimbledon. He has probably been saved considerable embarrassment. Muster was more than a little annoyed when seeded only seventh for the men's singles. He called it a joke, which it may have been: he should have been seeded far lower, if at all.

The 28-year-old Austrian has played four times at Wimbledon and has lost in the first round on all four occasions. Cynics might say his injury grew worse when he was drawn in the same 16 as Sampras.