Pete Sampras' route to another Grand Slam title was made easier yesterday when two of his main rivals, Mark Philippoussis and Carlos Moya, were both eliminated from the Australian Open.
Moya, the No 7 seed and last year's losing finalist, was beaten in the second round by the Australian Richard Fromberg. Fromberg, the world No 56, won 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-4 to topple the Spaniard, the biggest of the seeds to go out.
Home favourite Mark Philippoussis, the 15th seed, became the second big casualty of the day when he was knocked out by the inspired Moroccan Hicham Arazi, No 47 in the world.
Philippoussis never seemed confident against his 26-year-old opponent despite an emphatic start, eventually falling 1-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 9-7.
Arazi out-aced the big-serving Australian 21-19 and took greater advantage of break point chances, winning six to Philippoussis's four.
In stark contrast, Sampras powered his way into the third round with a straight sets victory over Italian Davide Sanguinetti. Sampras won 6- 2, 6-1, 6-2 as he stayed on course for an 11th Grand Slam title.
Sampras now meets Sweden's Magnus Gustafsson and the departure of Moya and the big-serving Australian means the American will not come up against another seed until his projected semi-final match with another Swede, Jonas Bjorkman.
Bjorkman also nearly went out but eventually produced the comeback of the day as he rallied from two sets down to beat the South African Wayne Ferreira.
Another Grand Slam title for Sampras would move him equal with Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver, his boyhood hero, on 11 and just one behind the 12 titles of the Australian record holder, Roy Emerson. "Breaking Emerson's record is something I think about a lot," Sampras said. "It would mean a lot to me. There is not a lot else I could do in the game, apart from winning the French Open.
"It's a realistic target, but in many ways it's just a number. Laver couldn't play majors for six or seven years so he could have won 20 and Emerson won six of them in Australia on the grass."
In the women's singles, the family encounter was won by unseeded Venus Williams who beat her younger sister Serena in straight sets in the second round. The 17-year-old American overcame her sister, 15 months her junior, 7-6, 6-1 in their first meeting at senior level.
Venus, expected to be one of the main contenders for the title, showed far too much experience for Serena who had defeated the No 5 seed, Irina Spirlea, in the first round.
The Florida duo, who practise together, clearly knew each other's game too well as service was broken five times in a row in a first set which went to the tie-break. Venus took it by 7-4 before romping to victory in the second 6-1.
Venus said: "Even though it was my little sister I had to be tough because she would have done the same to me. I don't think we were nervous out there, but we know we didn't play as well as we could have.
"But she is a great player and has been taking people out left right, and centre. I am just glad I've won."
Australian Open organisers have fined Goran Ivanisevic pounds 3,300 for refusing to attend a press conference after losing in the first round to Dutchman Jan Siemerink. Another player who is no stranger to controversy, American Jeff Tarango, may also face action after his first-round match against Australian world No 2, Pat Rafter. Officials will study tapes of the stormy match, in which Tarango was given a code violation for abusing the English umpire Mike Morrissey. Tarango was banned from the 1996 Wimbledon and fined for his default the previous year, when he harangued a French umpire whom he had earlier accused of corruption.
There was some British success with Julie Pullin and her Australian partner, Trudi Musgrave, who defeated Chanda Rubin and Helena Sukova, the fifth seeds, in three sets.Reuse content