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Sampras and Hewitt Through

March 30, 2000

Pete Sampras had to work a little harder than the 6-4, 7-6, score suggests in breezy conditions under a broiling sun before he could secure a semi-final berth at the Ericsson Open.

Sampras beat the powerful Ecuadorian Nicolas Lapentti despite double faulting twice in the tie break. A double fault on match point may have cost Tim Henman victory over Andre Agassi the day before but Sampras knew how to deal with momentary blips and it was Lapentti who faltered in the end, making costly errors at the net.

Sampras: "We're going to see Nicolas for many years."

Sampras, however, was impressed with Lapentti who is coached by the former Chilean No 1 Patricio Rodriguez who guided the career of Argentina's Jose-Luis Clerc.

"He's not just one dimensional," said Sampras. He's got the big forehand and he'll come in. He serves well. He's pretty creative. He's got a good future. Nicolas is definitely one of the young guys we're going to see in the top ten for many, many years."

Lapentti knew he had missed his opportunities, few as they were. "I only had two break points in the whole match and on one, I had my chance on a second serve and I didn't convert it. Against a tough player like Pete you only have a few chances and you have to take them."

Later, under the lights, Lleyton Hewitt defeated Jan-Michael Gambill by an identical score of 6-4, 7-6 but had to work even harder to subdue the young American who has made great strides in this tournament.

Chasing everything in sight, Hewitt seemed to have the match under control when he broke for a 4-2 lead in the second set but Gambill came back at him with a series of blistering winners off his double handed forehand and, for a while, threatened to snatch the set away from the wiry South Australian.

But Hewitt's ability to turn on a mark and chase back after being drawn wide was never more in evidence as the blond American searched for areas of the court that Hewitt could not reach. But there weren't any and the 19-year-old who will move into the world's top ten on the ATP Entry List system on Monday took the tie break 7-3.

On Friday night (Miami time), after Andre Agassi tries for his fifth win in seven meetings over Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten, Hewitt will face Sampras to whom he has lost twice -- once very narrowly last year in the Stella Artois Championships at the Queen's Club.

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