Sampras powers past Becker

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Pete Sampras humiliated Boris Becker in front of his adoring German public in Frankfurt yesterday while confirming his position as favourite to win the ATP Tour World Championship.

In an arena just a short drive from his home town of Leimen, Becker was outsmarted and outplayed in a demoralising 6-2, 7-6 defeat which gave Sampras his second victory of the tournament.

The triumph effectively secures the Wimbledon champion a place in the semi-finals after the round-robin stage.

More importantly, it gave the American a confidence-boosting victory over the player he regards as his fiercest rival at the year-ending championship.

The capacity 9,000 Festhalle crowd was hoping for a party for Becker a week before his 28th birthday but many of the fansbehaved in an ill- mannered way, hardly applauding any of Sampras's superb groundstrokes and serves, shouting during points and roaring Becker's name in football style.

Sampras ignored all the distractions with a superb display from the front and back of the court. He departed after one hour and 21 minutes, leaving marks on the carpet where his 125 mph aces had left Becker swiping at thin air.

"The first 25 minutes were the best anyone has played against me in this hall," Becker said. "He was on fire. I have never seen something like that. It was like a freight train hit me. I have just got beaten up and I'm bruised all over."

Sampras added: "It is always different playing Boris. It is one thing to try to beat him because he is a great player - another thing dealing with the crowd."

In the red group, Sweden's Thomas Enqvist opened his account with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over former the world No 1, Jim Courier, of the United States.