Sampras set to take advantageas seeds make exit

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The Independent Online

Pete Sampras' bid to tune up for the US Open, which starts later this month, went much more smoothly yesterday. A day after the No 2 seed had struggled through three sets to overcome the 142nd-ranked Michael Llodra, Sampras defeated Karin Alami 7-6, 6-2 in the second round of the Masters Series at the National Tennis Center in Toronto.

Pete Sampras' bid to tune up for the US Open, which starts later this month, went much more smoothly yesterday. A day after the No 2 seed had struggled through three sets to overcome the 142nd-ranked Michael Llodra, Sampras defeated Karin Alami 7-6, 6-2 in the second round of the Masters Series at the National Tennis Center in Toronto.

Only two of the series' top five seeds - Sampras and the No 5 Yevgeny Kafelnikov - remain after the top-seeded Andre Agassi and the No 3 Magnus Norman were knocked out in the first round.

Sampras said yesterday that he is too busy to compete in the Olympics next month, but he said he might play in the 2004 Games in Greece. "[This year] was never a consideration," Sampras said. "If I'm going to go to the Olympics, it might be when I'm done playing. But not right now. I know the next one's in Athens and - being a Greek - that's a possibility."

The only drawback to that is that the tennis at the Athens Games is scheduled to be played on clay - a surface Sampras does not enjoy - and it will be held just before the US Open, which is played on hard court. Sampras' only Olympic competition came when he reached the last 16 at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Against Alami, the Moroccan ranked 43rd in the world, Sampras looked in control throughout the match, never losing service and hitting 18 aces. Sampras, who said he has recovered from the shin splints that troubled him at Wimbledon, pulled away early in the second set. At 1-1, Sampras broke Alami'sservice when the Moroccan double- faulted. From 3-2, with a break, Sampras then lost only four points in the remainder of the match.

The latest to seed to make his exit was the Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten - the No 4 - who lost 7-6, 6-4 to Sebastien Lareau, of Canada, yesterday. After falling behind 5-2 in the first set, Lareau - a wild-card entry playing before a supportive Canadian crowd on centre court - rallied against Kuerten, who had won the Tennis MastersSeries event at Hamburg in May.

Agassi, the top seed, went out in the opening round on Tuesday. The American, having his first match since suffering a back injury in a car accident after being beaten by Rafter in the semi-finals at Wimbledon, lost two tie-break sets to Jerome Golmard, of France, in a match carried over from Monday because of a rain delay.

Rested and ready after a breakfollowing her quarter-final defeat at Wimbledon, Martina Hingis opened defence of her title at the WTA Acura Classic in Carlsbad, California, by beating Dominique van Roost, of Belgium, 6-2, 7-6 on Tuesday to book a place in the quarter-finals. Anna Kournikova, of Russia, powered past the hard-hitting American Alexandra Stevenson 6-2, 6-3 in just 61 minutes.

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