Tennis: Sampras mulls over long and short of it: Henman and Petchey show further promise but succumb to the power of seeded players

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The Independent Online
IN the wake of Jeremy Bates's win against Boris Becker there was an odd British feel to the Stella Artois Championships here yesterday when Pete Sampras walked on to the Centre Court wearing a pair of baggy khaki shorts straight out of It Ain't Half Hot Mum.

The world No 1's Whispering Grass look - it is called 'Swoosh' - is part of a deal with Nike reportedly worth pounds 12m over three years. He has the same style in white for the defence of his Wimbledon title. 'I am not much of a fashion consultant, but they are different and they are comfortable,' Sampras said after settling his feet on the lawns for the first time in a year and winning his opening match against Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. 'It wasn't pretty,' Sampras added, with reference to the tennis.

Sartorial considerations aside, Sampras was required to address two important issues - his defeat in the quarter-finals at the French Open last week, when he was hoping to win a fourth consecutive Grand Slam title, and his failure to turn up to receive his award at the world champions dinner after losing to his compatriot, Jim Courier.

'After losing, I just wanted to sit in my hotel room and not really be bothered,' he said. 'I just wanted to be left alone for a while. Maybe it's a decision I'll regret, but there's nothing I can do about it now.

'I was very disappointed about losing, and more disappointed still the day after. Winning four Grand Slams in a row would have been something to go in the history books.'

Though Britain's tennis glories are in those history books, the old country could at least claim to have a player and a half through to the third round here, Greg Rusedski, the Canadian with a Yorkshire mother and a British passport, joining Bates, Solihull's own.

Rusedski, a tall left-hander ranked No 50 in the world, defeated Norfolk's Chris Bailey yesterday,

6-4, 6-7, 6-3. Having so far resisted Canada's advances concerning the Davis Cup, the 20-year-old from Montreal is ready to move to London. 'I'm planning to live here for sure, regardless of anything else,' he said.

The Lawn Tennis Association's position concerning Rusedski's nationality is that he would be considered for representative honours if he based himself here and played a full part in British tennis.

Players born and bred here continue to show promise, the 19-year- old Tim Henman posing problems for Todd Martin, the world No 9, before the American won, 6-4, 6-4, advancing to meet Rusedski for a place in the quarter-finals.

Henman, who had a break point in the first set, recovered from losing his serve in the opening game of the second set to level at 4-4, only to be let down by his forehand volley in the following game.

Martin, none the less, was impressed. 'He's not going to need a wild card much longer. He has a ton of shots. He needs to play a lot of matches and get used to situations and also grow into his height. I was faced with the same thing when I was a year or two younger than he is,' he said.

It seemed possible that Mark Petchey would also make further progress, but after recovering from 2-5 to take an opening set tie-break and leading in the second set, the Essex player lost to the American MaliVai Washington, 6-7, 6-4, 6-1.

(Photograph omitted)

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