Pete Sampras began the defense of his IBM-ATP Tour World Cha
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ Pete Sampras began the defense of his IBM-ATP Tour World Championship title and his No. 1 ranking with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Yevgeny Kafelnikov today.
Sampras, the Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion, could lose his ranking to Thomas Muster if he fails to reach the final of the $3.3 million tournament and Muster wins the title undefeated.
Against sixth-ranked Kafelnikov, Sampras fired 18 aces and breezed in one hour, 6 minutes. Sampras won the title here last year and in 1991 and the American is the only of the eight players here with two titles.
``It was a great start. I started off playing good tennis. At times you walk out there and you are not used to the conditions, but I was ready to go,″ Sampras said.
Kafelnikov agreed. ``His game is extraordinary, especially his serve. From the beginning he was on top of my game. All the time I was under pressure, I didn’t know which way to go when he was serving,″ the Russian said.
After round-robin play in two groups, the two top finishers advance to the semifinals.
In a later White Group match, Boris Becker, the 1992 winner, played Wayne Ferreira, while Muster battled Michael Chang in a repeat of the French Open final in a Red Group group match.
Jim Courier and Thomas Enqvist, who are in the Red Group, had a rest day today.
Muster, who won the French Open title in the summer _ the premiere tournament on clay _ won his first career indoor title last month in Essen, Germany.
With 12 titles _ all of them but Essen on clay _ Muster has the most tournament victories this year on the tour. At one point, he compiled a 40-match winning streak in winning seven tournaments.
After winning the French Open, Muster reached a career-high No. 3 in the rankings.
Muster was upbeat about his chances on the carpet of Frankfurt’s Festhalle, which is not considered among the faster indoor surfaces.
``It suits me pretty well, the groups suits me, the balls are fair, the surface is pretty fair and I think I have good chances of making the semifinals. I don’t know about more,″ he said.
``No. 1 wouldn’t be that important, except that when I stop I could say that I was No. 1.
``But winning the French Open, winning 40 matches in a row, winning in Monte Carlo, Rome and Paris (last done by Ilie Nastase in 1973), that was an achievement.
``Winning a Grand Slam, that puts you in a different category of players, it puts you up there with Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe,″ Muster said.
His left knee smashed by a drunk driver in Miami in 1989, Muster is now at the pinnacle of a remarkable comeback. ``It took me six years to get back where I was in 1989.″