Sampras battles to beat Black

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The Independent Online

Pete Sampras, seeking an end to his lean spell, battled past Byron Black with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win to reach the quarter-finals of the Newsweek Champions' Cup here.

Sampras won this tournament in 1994 and 1995, but has struggled here over the last two years. After he scraped a three-set win over South Africa's Wayne Ferreira on Wednesday, Sampras had to work hard against the Zimbabwean qualifier, Black. "I'm just trying to stay positive out there," Sampras said. "I do struggle here, I have over the last couple of years. It's not mental, it's there. The conditions are pretty quick. You've just got to deal with it."

Sampras appeared to be on the brink of joining a parade of upset victims, led by the top seed, Andre Agassi, when Black took a 0-40 lead on the American's serve in the third game of the second set. "Exorcise the desert demons, that's my goal," Sampras said of his thoughts at that point.

"Just try to stay positive. I still have the best serve and volley in the game, use that. Get a good rip at some forehands and hopefully get a break."

After two close calls, Sampras still seemed wary of his chances, despite the fact that only six of 16 seeds remained heading into the third round. "I'm still struggling a little bit with my range," he added. "I'm getting through these matches, which is nice. I just hope I can play a little bit better."

Hicham Arazi, who stunned the world No 1 Agassi on Monday, also reached the quarter-finals with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 victory over the qualifier Max Mirnyi, of Belarus. He was due to meet Ecuador's Nicolas Lapentti, who defeated unseeded Frenchman Nicolas Escude 3-6, 6-4, 7-6.

The defending champion, Mark Philippoussis, seeded 12th, encountered little resistance from Tommy Haas, beating the German 6-2, 6-3.

Philippoussis, the winner of the ATP Tour event in San Jose last month, is playing his first tournament since withdrawing from a third-round match in Memphis the following week because of inflammation in his left knee.

"I was extremely happy the way I played," he said. "I hit the ball clean on my groundstrokes. I think my serve wasn't 100 per cent, but my groundstrokes have got better and better."

The Australian Open champion, Lindsay Davenport, secured a place in the women's final with a 6-2, 6-1 win over the 18-year-old Russian Elena Dementieva.

Davenport, whose victory in Australia gave her a third Grand Slam singles title, has not dropped a set since losing to France's Amelie Mauresmo in the final of the WTA Tour event in Sydney in January. In the final she will face either the world No 1, Martina Hingis, or France's Mary Pierce, who were due to meet in the second semi-final late last night.

Men's singles, third round

Pete Sampras (U.S.) beat Byron Black (Zimbabwe) 4-6 6-3 6-2 Magnus Norman (Sweden) beat Sebastien Grosjean (France) 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 6-1 Nicolas Lapentti (Ecuador) beat Nicolas Escude (France) 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) Thomas Enqvist (Sweden) beat Mariano Zabaleta (Argentina) 6-4 7-5 Mark Philippouissis (Australia) beat Tommy Haas (Germany) 6-2 6-3 Sjeng Schalken (Netherlands) beat 14-Albert Costa (Spain) 6-2 6-3 Hicham Arazi (Mor) beat Max Mirnyi (Belarus) 7-5 3-6 6-4 Alex Corretja (Spain) beat Fabrice Santoro (France) 7-6 (8-6), 6-1

Women's singles, semifinals

Lindsay Davenport (U.S.) beat Elena Dementieva (Russia) 6-2 6-1