Pete Sampras' preparations for next month's French Open - the only grand slam to have eluded him - suffered another setback when the world No 2 player was forced to pull out of the Monte Carlo Open yesterday after badly twisting his ankle halfway through his second-round match against the Dutchman, Paul Haarhuis.
The American sustained the injury while trying to catch a forehand winner from Haarhuis. It was only Sampras' second match on clay this season following a first-round defeat against Germany's Oliver Gross in Barcelona earlier this month.
The American had taken the first set 6-4 and was in the third game of the second set when the incident occurred. He limped back to his seat, asked for the doctor and conceded the match.
"It all happened so quickly. I think he had just hit a forehand winner. At the end of a slide my right foot just got caught to the court, so I twisted my ankle,'' Sampras said. "I felt pain all over my foot up to the ankle."
Sampras, whose push to regain his world No 1 ranking from Andre Agassi must now go on hold, was not the only seed to bow out in his first match at the $1.8m (£1.2m) event.
Michael Stich also discovered how difficult it is to adapt to the clay- court game. The German, seeded sixth, lost in straight sets to the in- form Austrian, Gilbert Schaller, 7-6, 6-1.
Stich's compatriot, Boris Becker, was far more impressive. The second seed dismissed the Swede, Jonas Bjorkman, 6-3, 6-1. Becker was runner-up in this event in 1991.
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