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Philippoussis Tops Sampras

January 14, 2000

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) _ Australian Davis Cup hero Mark Philippoussis seized his chances during two tiebreakers Friday and beat Pete Sampras 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5) to advance to the final of the Colonial Classic.

Deft passing shots were the key in both sets as Philippoussis advanced to Saturday’s final against top-ranked Andre Agassi in the eight-man invitational warm-up for the Australian Open.

He also could meet Agassi again in the fourth round of the Australian Open, which starts Monday. The draw was announced Friday.

Against Philippoussis, ``It always comes down to a couple of points here and there. ... He managed to hit the right shot at the right time in the tiebreakers,″ said Sampras, who slipped from No. 1 to No. 3 last year, partly because of a back injury that kept him out of the U.S. Open.

Philippoussis, who won the key victory in Australia’s Davis Cup triumph over France last month, served 15 aces and allowed only six points on service against Sampras.

``With his serving capability, he’s going to be very tough to break″ on the faster courts for this year’s Australian Open, Sampras said.

Meanwhile, Philippoussis threatened Sampras with three break points in the second set’s sixth game and one more in the 10th.

That was the first of four match points. The Australian finally won with a serve that Sampras sent long.

In the first-set tiebreaker, Philippoussis gained a quick break with a passing shot on the first point and jumped to a 5-0 lead with the help of two volley misses by Sampras.

He took a 4-2 lead in the second tiebreaker with a crosscourt pass, and then made no mistakes on the rest of his service points.

Sampras had some trouble with his ground strokes, at one point slamming a ball high into the stadium seats in frustration after he missed a backhand long.

He said, however, ``I feel good, I feel like I’m where I want to be. I should be all right for next week.″

Philippoussis said, ``It’s always nice to play Pete. This is the perfect preparation″ for the Open. He has a 3-7 record against Sampras.

Sampras meets big-serving Australian Wayne Arthurs in the Open’s first round, and could meet Agassi in the semifinals.

``You’re going to see a lot of big servers making a lot more of a threat this year″ because of the faster courts, he said, also mentioning players like Richard Krajicek, who narrowly lost to Sampras in the Colonial Classic on Wednesday.

Sampras said Philippoussis, the 1998 U.S. Open runner-up, ``has all the weapons″ to win a Grand Slam tournament. ``It’s just a matter of putting it all together at the right time.″

In his last warmup match for the Australian, Sampras will meet 1999 runner-up Thomas Enqvist on Saturday for third place.

Last year’s Australian Open champion, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, lost his third consecutive match this week, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3 to Wayne Ferreira, and finished last in the eight-man field.

``I feel like I’m playing well,″ Kafelnikov said. ``Hopefully it will start Monday with a win, and keep going.″

Kafelnikov said that with Agassi, Sampras, Enqvist, Philippoussis and Krajicek all in the other half of the Australian Open draw, ``it couldn’t be any better.″

``I’m not going to face any of those guys who have big serves up until probably the semifinals or final, but I’m not going to look that far ahead. I have to take one match at a time,″ he added.

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