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Sampras Upset in World Team Cup Opener

June 26, 2000

It was plain sailing for Pete Sampras as he began not only his defence of his Wimbledon crown, but an attempt at beating Roy Emerson's record of 12 Grand Slam titles, a record he had equalled the previous year!

He defeated Jiri Vanek from Prague, making his debut at Wimbledon in 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

The match played at the custom time of precisely 2pm on the opening Monday afternoon under an overcast London sky. It was a record breaking 7th time in which Pete Sampras had opened proceedings on Centre Court, and he did not make any elaborate or extravagant displays during his win, in fact he seemed to be taking care of how his movements were as the courts were fresh and had not been played on yet.

"Sure, Centre Court is a comfortable surrounding for me. But nobody "plays in" Centre Court beforehand, so it is always green and greasy to begin with, so it was tough moving out there, you couldn't push yourself."

Despite this admission of how the courts playing conditions were, he did give out a warning to his opponents, "My fitness levels are fine, my muscles are loose, and my game is in pretty good shape." This was obvious as he swept aside the challenge of the tall blond, Czech; at least this match provided a first round warm-up for the reigning champion.

The media were keen to discuss Pete Sampras' personal life, following the news that he was now engaged to Hollywood film actress Bridgette Wilson. It was common knowledge that Sampras' agent had organised the couple's first date.

"We are told you made a very romantic proposal on one knee, Pete?" Was just one of many questions, "Sure, romantic, you know me," a grinning Pete said, "So, I'm not such a boring person after all eh?" He also, admitted that he hopes to continue playing professionally for at least another 3-4 years, "one more Wimbledon win and I'll be ready to begin this new crucial chapter in my life."

In yesterday's gloomy weather there was hardly a trace of the Pete Sampras everyone had seen on this very same court 12 days less of the 12 months ago when he illuminated the Centre Court stadium, beating Andre Agassi in straight sets in a match in which Agassi also displayed his full array of stroke making.

That, victory against Agassi in the 1999 Wimbledon final, destroying him 6-4, 6-3, 7-5, was one of the most exhilarating matches in tennis history, in which the spectators were treated to a masterful display of precision, power tennis by Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

By comparison yesterday's return to same lush, green grass courts was more like a dance scene out of a Jane Austin novel, lots of delicately placed shots, and hardly any of the explosive and ferociously competitiveness of the final the previous year. The defending champion served 15 aces, and it seemed that those were being struck at a fraction of his normally rocket like speed. Sampras got 70% of his returns in the court; Vanek on the other hand only managed 5 aces and 40% returns in. That is all that can be said about Pete Sampras' first round demolition of Jiri Vanek from Prague!

Based on "The Quiet American Tiptoes Through" by Frank Keating, The Guardian

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