Tennis: Sampras confirms his superiority over Courier

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PETE SAMPRAS confirmed his position as the new world No 1, when he beat his American rival, Jim Courier, the man he deposed last week, 6-3, 6-7 7-6, in the final of the Hong Kong Open yesterday.

Sampras's victory was his second tournament title in as many weeks, following last week's Japan Open, and he also extended his domination over Courier to 7-2 in their meetings.

Sampras, who served 15 aces, took the first set courtsey of a break of serve in the sixth game. In the second Courier, the top seed, squandered two break points but went on to win the tie-break easily.

Courier was back on the defensive in the third set, saving a match point in the 12th game of the final set but finally succumbed in the second tie-break of a match lasting nearly three hours.

'The last time I played Courier we played two tie-break sets and I lost,' Sampras said. 'So I really didn't want to go into a tie-break. I was pretty fortunate to win and just got lucky at the end. The match could have gone either way. I hit some good shots in the tie-break.'

Courier, by his own high standards, is going through a slump and he has lost his way in three tournaments. In Japan, he was beaten in the semi-finals in Osaka and the third round in Tokyo. With his defeat by Sampras he failed to retain the title he won last year.

'I want to get back to the States soon,' he said. 'I've been in Asia three weeks and there's no place like home.'

In Nice the former world No 1, Ivan Lendl, was on the receiving end of superb performance by German qualifier, Marc Gollner, who won his first career title by coming from behind to beat the veteran 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, in the final of the clay-court championship.

It was Gollner's first final on the ATP Tour. He became the first qualifier this year, and only the 21st in the history of the professional game, to win a tournament.