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Sampras returns with defeat

Pete Sampras, the world No 1, suffered a surprise 7-6, 2-6, 6-3 defeat by Bohdan Ulihrach of the Czech Republic in Dusseldorf yesterday, in his first match since the death of his coach and close friend, Tim Gullikson.

The result of the rain-interrupted World Team Cup round-robin group match gave the Czechs a winning 2-0 lead over the United States.

Petr Korda had earlier beaten Todd Martin 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 to give the Czechs an early lead in the best-of-three sets match before Ulihrach, the world No 38, produced his success.

It was Sampras' first appearance since Gullikson died of brain cancer on 3 May at the age of 44. The American pulled out of last week's Italian Open because he did not feel mentally ready to play after the death of the man who guided him through some of the most important moments of his career.

The Wimbledon champion, who last played a tournament a month ago in Japan, has only this week's competition in which to tune his game before the French Open. Because the tournament is a round-robin team event, Sampras will have at least two more matches on red clay before travelling to Paris.

Thomas Muster, the French Open champion and winner of last week's Italian Open, breezed past Nasser Al-Khulify of Qatar 6-0, 6-1 in the first round of the Raiffeisen ATP tournament in St Polten, Austria yesterday. Muster finished the match in 34 minutes, one of the shortest in the history of the ATP Tour. It was Al-Khulifi's first appearance on the Tour. "I've never seen such an opponent in my 12-year career," Muster said. "The first two forehand strokes were still quite in order," he added with a chuckle. But Muster tried not to poke too much fun at his completely inexperienced opponent. "He pursues tennis as a hobby and plays like a club player," he said of Al-Khulifi, who was a wild-card entry.