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Top Seeds Fall in Pilot Pen Matches

August 21, 1998

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Pete Sampras, Patrick Rafter and Petr Korda, the top three seeds at the Pilot Pen International, all made a third-round exit.

Sampras, the reigning Wimbledon champ, lost 6-3, 6-4 to qualifier Leander Paes of India, Frenchman Guillaume Raoux ousted U.S. Open defending champion Rafter 7-6 (10-8), 6-3, and Bohdan Ulihrach of the Czech Republic beat Korda 7-6 (8-6), 6-3.

Rafter beat Sampras in the Cincinnati tournament final Sunday, and four days later both men said they were ready for a break.

``I felt very flat. Playing three weeks in a row has taken its toll emotionally. You can’t afford to be flat in this league,″ said Sampras, who plans to return home to Orlando, Fla., to recharge for the U.S. Open.

``Losing before the Slams is not as bad as losing in the Slam,″ Sampras said.

Rafter, whose loss snapped a career-high 11-match winning streak, including victories in his last two tournaments, said he also felt drained.

``You can lose to anyone any given day,″ said Rafter, the tournament’s No. 2 seed and the third-ranked player in the world.

The losses will help Chile’s Marcel Rios hold onto his No. 1 world ranking if he makes it to the semifinals this week in Indianapolis. If he does not, Sampras returns to the top spot from his current No. 2 ranking.

Paes, a doubles specialist ranked 100th in the world in singles, saved five break points in the 74-minute match. He ran Sampras all over the court and used his quick feet and net skills to play a dominating serve-and-volley game. Paes also out-aced Sampras 7-4.

The win was Paes’ first against a player ranked in the top five of the ATP Tour. Paes, who won the Pilot Pen doubles title last year with Mahesh Bhupathi, said his strategy was to ``chip and charge″ and get to the net.

``I think that he served under-par today, and that allowed me to get to the net,″ said Paes.

``My main thing was to take the match to him. If you let Pete Sampras dictate the match, you pretty much have no chance,″ he said.

It was somewhat of a bittersweet day for Paes. Hours after the Sampras match, Paes and Bhupathi lost their second-round match to Australians Wayne Arthurs and Peter Tramacchi.

``I am a little down right now,″ he said after losing the title defense.

Raoux, the tournament’s No. 16 seed, is ranked 48th in the world. He used a strong baseline game, consistently passing Rafter at the net and effectively stopping Rafter from volleying sharply.

``He was really too good for me today,″ said Rafter, who dropped a 4-1 lead in the tiebreaker. ``There was no way to really penetrate him.″

Raoux said Rafter seemed focused on defending his U.S. Open title.

``My coach said, `He has to take a break before the U.S. Open, why not today?‴ he said.

The Ulihrach-Korda match was the third meeting between the two, but the first since 1996. Going into Thursday’s match, Korda had 2-0 edge, beating his countryman on both clay and hardcourt. Ulihrach advances to play defending Pilot Pen champ Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

Kafelnikov beat Gustavo Kuerten 6-4, 6-4, in part by avoiding the Brazilian’s powerful backhand.

Kafelnikov had won the French Open in 1996 and lost last year to Kuerten in Paris when he took away the clay court title.

``I’m glad I’m still on a roll, we’ll see what happens,″ Kafelnikov said.