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Pete's Path to the French Open

May 8, 2000

Pete Sampras has approached the French Open - the one blemish on an otherwise illustrious career - in an number of different ways. Over the years, he has come to Paris on the back of a frenzy of European clay-court tournaments, fuelled by the burning desire to maintain his place at the top of the ranking system. On other occasions, he has played very little at all before the tournament. This year, he has a different concern: merely managing to stay healthy. After a painful quadriceps injury, sustained during last month's Davis Cup tie, Sampras will be taking a cautious approach, making sure he does no further damage to his infamously fragile body. He will not play the Masters Series event in Rome, one of the most important clay court tournaments, in order to ensure the maximum resting time for his injury.

During a conference call he said: "It has just taken a little while to get over this injury, and it is something that has been my situation over the past few months with some of these inuries." Although he was able to practice, he confirmed, he was avoiding energetic work or explosive movements. "Obviously I am trying to stay in shape somehow, but I am not able to really play sets. And if you can't do that at this point, you are not going to be ready to play."

It is well known that Sampras has struggled at Roland Garros having failed to reach beyond the third round in his last three attempts. However, his performance here has not been an unmitigated disaster. Often forgotten is the fact that he reached the semi-final in 1996, losing to the eventual champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov. His French Open record also includes three more quarter-final appearences between 1992 and 1994. In other words, Sampras can play on clay and has consistently competed on a high level, even if he has not matched the heights he has achieved on other surfaces.

"Hopefully, I can just play well," he says of his next attempt. "Last couple of years, I haven't played too well at the French for a number of reasons. But this year, I am going over to the clay in a couple of weeks' time and hopefully get into a good groove out there."

Sampras will only play two warm-up events before Roland Garros. But if this means he is fresher when he steps out on court in Paris, this could work to his advantage.

Based upon "Sampras Path to Roland Garros" by Mike Lurie, Sportline


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