Tennis: Sampras sent packing after sluggish display: World No 1 yearns for home after first-round fall

THE road to Wimbledon is narrowing ominously for the leading Americans. Pete Sampras, the world No 1, was defeated in his opening match in the Stella Artois tournament here yesterday; Jim Courier is in Florida, recovering from the loss of the French Open title; and Andre Agassi's prospects of defending the All England Club championship do not appear to be improving.

Sampras's fragile return of serve was savaged by Grant Stafford, a South African ranked No 110, and the American joined Goran Ivanisevic, who defeated him in the Wimbeldon semi- finals last year, in looking for the practice courts.

Stafford, 22, worked hard for two hours and 20 minutes and thoroughly deserved his win,

5-7, 7-5, 6-4. He lost to Britain's Chris Bailey in the semi-finals at Beckenham last week, but looked far more comfortable on the grass than Sampras, who has yet to make the tricky transition from the slow clay of Paris.

Sampras's heart did not seem to be in his work, and he spoke of homesickness. 'American guys don't dread Europe, but it's not like home and I've been away for five weeks,' he said. Realising how tame this sounded, he added: 'That's a bad excuse. I played like an idiot. Lethargic, that's the word.'

If Agassi feels lethargic, it is probably because he has been unable to play since losing to Sergi Bruguera in Barcelona in April. Even if he materialises on the Centre Court at Wimbledon at 2pm on Monday week, it seems increasingly doubtful that he will be able to make more than a token defence of the title.

According to Agassi's physician, Dr Richard Westbrook, a decision will be taken tomorrow whether or not to allow him to start hitting tennis balls for the first time in two months.

Agassi has gone home to Las Vegas after receiving treatment for tendinitis of the right wrist in Seattle. He is due to play in the new grass court tournament in Halle, Germany, next week.

'It will be Saturday at the earliest when I would allow Andre to go on the court,' Dr Westbrook, an orthopaedic surgeon, said from his practice in El Paso, Texas, yesterday. 'We are letting the wrist settle. In effect, he hasn't hit a ball since Barcelona. If the pain has gone away on Saturday we are going to see if he can play.' Asked to rate the patient's prospects, the doctor said: 'We are just going to have to wait and see.'

Michael Stich, the 1991 Wimbledon champion, whose serving was too potent for Britain's Jeremy Bates yesterday, expressed doubts that Agassi would be a factor. 'If you are a serve and volleyer you might say, 'OK, I'll give it a try', but with his kind of game he has to work really hard for every match. If he is not 100 per cent I don't think he will play.'

Bates was defeated, 6-3, 6-2, on the Centre Court almost back-to-back with Ross Matheson, one of the previous day's British heroes. Matheson, on Court One, was also out-served. Having startled the 13th seed, Jakob Hlasek, on Tuesday, the Scot, whose ranking, No 563, conveys his experience at this level of the game, was unable to cope with David Witt, a fellow- qualifier, ranked No 191.

Witt, a 20-year-old from Highpoint, North Carolina, who hits the ball accordingly, won, 6-3, 6-4. He now plays another Briton, Chris Wilkinson, the conqueror of Ivanisevic. 'What can I say to Chris?' Matheson said. 'Witt nearly knocked me off the court, and I just hope he doesn't serve that well.'

Results, page 39

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
Life and Style
love + sex
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot