Tennis: Sampras tunes up for Paris: American outclasses Russian as he aoms to extend Grand Slam run

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

PETE SAMPRAS' final preparations for the French Open, which starts on Monday, a shot at the most remarkable achievement in tennis for a quarter of a century continued smoothly when he beat Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov on Tuesin the World Team Cup in Dusseldorf yesterday.

day when he defeated one of the hottest new properties in the game.

The world No 1, number one, warming up for next week's French Open where he will bid to who is aiming to become the first man to win four consecutive Grand Slams since Rod Laver in 1969, thrashed one of the finest prospects in the game destroyed Russian 6-3, 6-3. insHe is already the only player to have won three consecutive Grand Slams since Laver. end

at the World Team Cup.

His victory also gave defending champions the the United States, the holders, a 2-0 winning lead over Russia in their opening match of the round-robin team tournament in which many of the world's top players are tuning their game on clay before the grand slam event in Paris. More importantly, it gave the reigning Wimbledon, US and Australian Open champion another confidence-boosting victory on European clay after his triumph at last week's Italian Open.

Kafelnikov, who was won two titles this season as well as being runner-up in the German Open earlier this month, is tipped to reach the very top. He has already beaten Michael Stich, Goran Ivanisevic and Andre Agassi on clay recently and last January took Sampras to five sets at the Australian Open.

This time Sampras power, mental toughness and touch, were too much for the 20-year-old who wilted in the sun on the Duesseldorf centre court.

The world number one, whose strong serve-and-volley game is best suited to faster surfaces, showed patience, waiting at the back of the court before picking his moment to move forward and kill off the rallies with deadly volleys. The lesson was over in 67 minutes.

Sampras's build-up to play five-set matches in Paris has included interval training sessions of eight 400-metre sprints with a minute to rest in between, a schedule which belongs to the daily routine of most top middle-distance track athletes.

Sampras is giving little thought said Yet the 22-year-old American said that he had not even thought about the history he could make in Paris. 'I am just thinking about getting through my first match at the French Open,' he said. 'I have the other three Grand Slam titles at home. I want to win the French because all the great players have won it. . . but it doesn't matter if it happens when I am 22 or 32.' Laver achieved his four victories in one calendar year. Although Sampras's four victories would be in different years if he won in Paris, Stich said the achievement would be on a par with Laver's.

'For me there is no difference if it is in one year if he wins four grand slams,' said Stich, whose 6-4 2-6 6-2 victory over Cedric Pioline clinched Germany victory over France in their opening match.

But Stich said Sampras was not invincible on clay. Asked who was capable of beating him at Roland Garros, Stich said: 'Me. I have always had close matches against him.' The winners of the two four-team groups in Duesseldorf qualify for Sunday's final.

Guy Forget, of France, the top French player until a knee injury sidelined him for a year, withdrew from the French Open yesterday. Forget had been given a wild card after he had dropped more than 600 places in the rankings following a knee injury that kept him out of the game for a year, but . He had been as high as No. 4. According to the French Tennis Federation, Forget pulled out outpped asked to be taken out of the tournament because he feels he is not ready sufficiently recovered to play five sets. He will remain stays in the doubles event.

(Photograph omitted)