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Sampras Sent Packing Again

June 1, 1995

Pete Sampras's recent schedule may have swelled his air miles account but it did little for his French Open hopes which ended in disaster yesterday.

The world No. 2, resuming with a slender overnight lead, was beaten 7-6, 4-6, 6-7, 6-4 by Austria's Gilbert Schaller, thus abruptly ending his stop-start clay court campaign for the season.

Sampras had originally planned to spend the last two months in Europre to prepare for an assault on the one major prize within the game so far to elude him. Instead, he ended up as a frequent flyer, going home to America four times because of either injury or homesickness.

He will be back on the Concorde today, homebound again to try to regroup in time for Wimbledon where a third straight title looks beyond him, given an apparently confused state of mind at present.

"I had my chances today and came up a little short, which is the way my whole clay season went. The injury (a strained ankle in Monte Carlo) set me back but I've been struggling a bit anyway,' said Sampras, who still has to live with the concern about his coach Tim Gullikson, undergoing treatment for a brain tumour.

His Atlantic commuting has been indicative of an underlying lack of purpose and against the 23rd ranked Schaller, a classic clay court counter-puncher, that was always likely to spell trouble.

Restarting at 3-1 up in the third set after overnight suspension, Schaller went straight back to work on his opponent's backhand, hitting heavy top spin to it and exposing its lack of penetration on the slower surface.

It was not a pretty sight, seeing a supreme stylist broken down by a utilitarian, although there was no doubting the latter's efficiency which yielded 99 unforced errors from the American. Sampras's salvation would have lain in his serve and big forehad, but those, like the rest of his game, are simply not quite what they were at this time last year.

Schaller, quick and gutsy if aesthetically displeasing, finished off Sampras's first opening round Grand Slam defeat in five years two minutes after the four hour mark, having been hauled back from 4-1 to 4-4 in the decider. The Californian will be delighted to forget the clay and see the green grass of home and then London.

Roland Garros witnessed two other exceptional men's five-setters yesterday, eighth see Wayne Ferreira beating twice champion Mats Wilander 8-6 at the death and unknown Australian youngster Andrew Ilie ousting No. 15 Richard Krajicek 6-4 in the decider.

A pleasant, if occasionally irritating feature of the French Open is when the decibel levels rise on the first Wednesday each year as thousands of tickets are set aside for children. And it could not have been more fitting that the best women's match on Children's Day was played by 14-year-old Martina Hingis.

The little Swiss girl emphasised her potential with a 2-6, 6-4, 8-6 first-round win over Austria's highly experienced Judith Wiesner, who is more than twice her age. Hingis saved three match points and then won a final game that included two brave and ingenious drop shots amid much high-pitched tension.

Nothing could have better demonstrated that she has got what it takes where it matters, between the ears.

Article and photo supplied by Gerogia Christoforou