Sampras limps out as Becker strides on

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The Independent Online

Boris Becker beat Byron Black 7-6, 6-1 yesterday to become the first player to reach the semi- finals of the Grand Slam Cup in Munich, but Pete Sampras pulled out because of inflamed muscles in his right leg. The withdrawal of Sampras allowed Goran Ivanisevic to advance to the semi-finals of the richest tournament in the world.

Sampras said his leg had started to give him problems in the aftermath of the cramps he suffered following a five-set victory over Andrei Chesnokov in last Friday's opening singles of the Davis Cup final between the United States and Russia. He then helped win the doubles, with Todd Martin, and clinched the second singles to give the US team a 3-2 victory.

"It's best for me to go home and rest for a few days," Sampras said. "First I felt a bit stiff and then I couldn't straighten my leg. The Davis Cup took a lot more out of me than I thought. I didn't want to finish the year like this, but it was getting worse and I didn't want to take any chances."

In his opening match Sampras suffered a nosebleed but had few other problems beating Patrick McEnroe 6-1, 7-6 on Wednesday. A German doctor who examined Sampras said "the hamstring got inflamed at the joint of the bone to the knee."

Despite his withdrawal from the tournament he won in its inaugural year in 1990, Sampras still collected $762,500 (pounds 500,000) - $500,000 as a bonus for winning two Grand Slam titles this year (Wimbledon and the US Open) and $262,500 for reaching the quarter-finals in Munich.

Earlier, it took Boris Becker one set to adjust to the game of Byron Black. Black, a Zimbabwean ranked No 40 in the world who entered the tournament as a reserve, matched Becker shot for shot in the first set until the tie-break, when he was overwhelmed by the German. From then on, it was plain sailing for the world's No 4 player.

"It took me a while to get used to his style," said Becker, who won the ATP World Championship title in Frankfurt last month. "I started to read his game better at 4-4, when I had my first break point. But he fought well. He played well until the tie-break."

In tomorrow's semi-finals, which will be played under the best-of-five format, Becker will meet Todd Martin. Martin led Andrei Medvedev 6-3, 3-6, 4-0 when the Ukrainian retired with a left-ankle injury.