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Sampras survives first round test

August 21, 2001

Pete Sampras remembers what it's like to be a young player trying to topple a superstar. That's why he made sure it didn't happen to him.

Sampras beat 20-year-old Olivier Rochus 6-4, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4) in the first round of the Hamlet Cup on Tuesday night.

''Ten or 12 years ago it was Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe or Andre Agassi. I was the young kid trying to knock them off. Now the tables have turned and I'm the target,'' said Sampras, 29. ''That's the way it is. The young guys are good and confident.''

It was in 1990 that Sampras beat those three players he named in winning the first of his record 13 Grand Slam titles. He has 63 singles titles in his career, but he is currently on a streak that hasn't seen him win in 15 tournaments.

''That's what gives these young guys hope,'' he said. ''They have no fear as they did five years ago, and that's fine. I still have more ability to beat them.''

The victory over the 5-foot-3, 130-pound Rochus, one of the smallest players on tour, was the second for Sampras in as many meetings with him. The other was much easier, a 6-2, 6-1 win in the Queen's Club in London two months ago.

The third-seeded Sampras is in the Hamlet field as a wild card and it is his first appearance in the U.S. Open warmup for him since 1990.

''I'm here at the Hamlet to get some tough matches and to be ready for next week's U.S. Open,'' he said. ''Tonight I had a tough match as Rochus stepped it up. However, I responded with some good tennis, good points. I played pretty solid.

''Maybe this tournament is an omen. The last time I played here I went on to win the U.S. Open. However, I just can't turn it on and say that it's now time to come alive. I still have the desire to win Grand Slams. When that disappears, it's time to quit, but that's a long way off.''


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