Pete Sampras's hopes of quickly regaining the world No 1 position suffered a setback when he was beaten by the unseeded German, Oliver Gross, in the first round of the Spanish Open in Barcelona yesterday.
Sampras, now ranked No 2 behind his American compatriot, Andre Agassi, lost 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 in an hour and 43 minutes. The defeat also means that Sampras has lost valuable clay-court practice in his attempt to win the French Open for the first time.
"It means a lot to me beating Sampras. It's my best win ever,'' Gross said. "He made easy mistakes and he gave me a lot of points. I like these balls because I beat Sampras.''
Earlier, another unseeded player, Gilbert Schaller of Austria, upset the No 2 seed and French Open champion for the past two years, Sergi Bruguera of Spain, 7-5, 6-1.
Agassi ensured that he held on to the No 1 ranking when he beat another American, Tommy Ho, 6-3, 6-2 in the second round of the Japan Open in Tokyo. Agassi's margin of 187 points is so small that Sampras could have gone back to the top if their fortunes had been different this week.
"I feel pretty good. But the important thing is to maintain and finish the year the number one,"Agassi said.
The US and Australian Open champion stressed the importance of his rivalry with Sampras, whom he overtook after winning two of the three finals against him this season.
"To be number one is the accomplishment. But without the rivalry [with Sampras], I think it's not quite as special."
In the third round, Agassi faces Canada's Sebastian Lareau. Michael Chang, the second seed from the United States and the South African, Wayne Ferreira, who is seeded third, also had easy second-round matches.
Chang recovered from a 4-1 deficit to beat Japan's Shuzo Matsuoka 6-4, 6-2, while Ferraira trounced the Ukrainian, Dmitri Poliakov, 6-1, 6-3.
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