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Sampras Back to Defend Masters Crown

November 27, 2000

Lisbon, Portugal - Having been beaten in straight sets by Marat Safin in the US Open, and having not played for nearly three months since then, one might not expect Pete Sampras to be the favourite to win the Masters Cup again this year. But of course Sampras is no ordinary player. As Yevgeny Kafelnikov, another of the world’s top eight players in Lisbon to contest the event, stated:

“We all know what he is capable of and how quickly he can re-group. Pete is number one. He has overcome every situation you can possibly imagine.”

During his absence from the courts, Sampras married actress Bridgette Wilson and they honeymooned in Mexico. But the defending champion was quick to make sure that no-one thought he had been neglecting his tennis.

“I may not have been playing tournaments since the US Open, but I sure haven’t been sitting around just watching tv. I have been working out and I’ve been on the practice court. I am as prepared this year as I was in 1999”, he warned.

This is Sampras’ first trip without his new wife. The formerly tunnel-visioned Sampas as family man is a new concept, but he seems happy with it and ready to return to his tennis.

“Sure it’s hard when you love somebody to be away from them, but this is a big week for tennis and a big week for me” he insisted. “I took time out to get married, time to enjoy that. I only intend to get married once, you know, so I wanted to enjoy it. I have been practising hard, been on court for about three weeks now. The majors are the tournaments I live for.”

Sampras has won this year-end event five times, a record that he shares with Ivan Lendl. But Sampras is not content with merely sharing records and is obviously keen to rack up another victory here.

“Yes, that would be nice”, he said in his customary under-stated way. “I admired Lendl. He was a great player.”

Sampras is not worried about not being match fit. He explained:

“The round robin format means you can afford to lose a match – I did last year. But I’m sure I will soon regain my game and my confidence. At times it can be difficult to get yourself motivated, but that was also a reason why I wanted to have a break. I wanted to be hungry for this and I am.”

Another player not under-estimating Sampras is Marat Safin.

“Of course I don’t want to have to play him”, said the US Open champion. “That match [the US Open Final last September] was just one time. I don’t think it will happen again because I don’t think he will let me. I am not looking forward to it at all.”

What an added advantage this gives Sampras: not only does he have the requisite skills and experience, but some of his opponents’ comments show that he has a psychological edge too.

Red Group: P Sampras, M Safin, L Hewitt, A Corretja.
Green Group: G Kuerten, M Norman, Y Kafelnikov, A Agassi.

Sources: Reuters, John Parsons, Christopher Clarey (New York Times)


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