Sampras turns back on olympics

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Pete Sampras only has eyes for the U.S. Open and the Davis Cup. The Sydney Olympics do not enter his radar screen.

Pete Sampras only has eyes for the U.S. Open and the Davis Cup. The Sydney Olympics do not enter his radar screen.

That's how Sampras listed his priorities on Wednesday after advancing to the third round of the Tennis Masters Series-Canada at Toronto's National Tennis Center.

"(The Olympics) are something that I never really planned on playing, especially with my commitment to Davis Cup this year," Sampras said. "I mean, the schedule is tough."

So tough that he turned down an invitation to compete at Sydney, forcing the U.S. Tennis Association to replace Sampras with Jeff Tarango when the team was announced on Tuesday.

Sampras, however, didn't rule out the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

"If I'm going to go to the Olympics, it might be when I'm done playing. But not right now," said Sampras, who competed at the 1992 Barcelona Games. "I know the next one's in Athens and - being a Greek - that's a possibility."

Making only his second appearance in competition since winning his seventh Wimbledon - and 13th Grand Slam - title last month, Sampras is gearing up for the U.S. Open starting later this month.

And Sampras looked much better in beating Karim Alami 7-6 (3), 6-2, a day after the No. 2 seed struggled through three sets to defeat Michael Llodra.

Never losing his serve, and serving 18 aces, Sampras said things went a little smoother.

"It was kind of touch and go there in the first set, but once I got it, I felt pretty good," said Sampras, who faces Sargis Sargsian - ranked 78th in the world - in Thursday's third round. "It's a good one to get through. Yesterday (his first-round match) was a struggle, but I feel my game is where I want it to be."

That could spell trouble for everyone left in a field that's suddenly depleted of top seeds. Besides Sampras, only four - No. 5 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, No. 6 Thomas Enqvist and No. 8 Marat Safin - are left among the top 10 seeds.

A day after No. 1 Andre Agassi and No. 3 Magnus Norman were knocked out in the first round, two more top seeds were defeated.

No. 4 Gustavo Kuerten was upset 7-6 (4), 6-4 by Canadian wild-card entry Sebastien Lareau, while No. 7 Lleyton Hewitt lost 6-3, 7-6 (5) to Sebastien Grosjean. No. 11 Nicolas Kiefer lost 6-2, 7-5 to Jiri Novak.

A discouraged Hewitt noted the number of upsets, including his own, saying: "Obviously, it's a bit of a shock to the draw. But you can't take any of these matches easy."

Lareau's victory charged up the Canadian crowd.

"I was just so happy," Lareau said after beating the defending French Open champion. "It was just a great feeling to get my biggest accomplishment here in Canada. I was happy, relieved all of that at the same time."

Kafelnikov beat Max Mirnyi 6-4, 6-4. Enqvist beat Andrew Ilie 6-3, 6-2. Safin defeated Andrei Pavel 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0.

Other top seeds advancing were: No. 12 Juan Carlos Ferrero, who beat Gaston Gaudio 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3; No. 14 Patrick Rafter, who beat Karol Kucera 6-3, 7-5; and No. 17 Nicolas Escude, who beat Cyril Saulnier 7-6 (5), 6-7 (8), 6-2.

Sampras, the Masters Series' career leader with 11 titles, never trailed after going up 3-2 on Alami in the second set, giving up only four points the rest of the way.

Planning to compete in one or possibly two more events, Sampras said the best way to gear up for the U.S. Open is to get on a roll.

"When you win, it helps confidence. It builds an aura about yourself, and guys know you're playing well so there's a little more fear in my opponent's eyes," he said. "That's my goal, to try to win here."

In other action: Wayne Ferreira defeated Thomas Johansson 6-4, 6-3; Marcelo Rios beat Arnaud Clement 6-4, 7-6 (5); Jerome Golmard beat Paradorn Srichaphan 6-3, 6-2; Richard Krajicek defeated Michael Chang 6-2, 7-5; Harel Levy beat Stefan Koubek 6-1, 6-3; and Sargsian beat Simon Larose 6-3, 6-2.

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