Sampras back on top of the world

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The Independent Online
Pete Sampras reclaimed his status as No 1 in the world thanks to a hard- fought 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory over the defending champion, Michael Chang, in the final of the Hong Kong Open yesterday.

Sampras trailed Thomas Muster in the world rankings by just 72 points at the start of the week, and despite the Austrian's performance in the Estoril Open Sampras's victory was enough to take him back to the top.

Sampras, the top seed, who had struggled on the way to the final, raised his game against his fellow American but was still pushed all the way by the favourite with the local fans.

Sampras won the first set with almost casual ease but Chang, famed for his fighting spirit, came into the net more in the second. His tactics worked in the sixth game when he broke Sampras to love for a 4-2 lead and he held on to win the set 6-3.

Both players hit several aces and some blistering ground strokes in the deciding set and the match went with serve until Sampras upped the tempo at 5-4. He earned a match point with some sizzling passing shots and won the match with a volley after a six-stroke rally at the net.

"Michael played really well and the match came down to a couple of points," Sampras said. "He gave a good indication of his quickness and how tough he is."

"Certainly it is nice to leave Hong Kong back on top [of the world rankings]," added Sampras, who first reached the top by winning in Hong Kong in 1993. "But it is the end-of-the-year rankings that matter. I hope I can come back to Hong Kong next year still as No 1."

Chang, winner of the Hong Kong Open in 1994 and 1995, said he was beaten by a better player on the day. "I am not too disappointed as Pete played some great tennis today," the world No 4 said."

Thomas Enqvist, of Sweden, quelled a late rally from Byron Black, of Zimbabawe, to win the Indian Open yesterday.