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Malisse Advances at Red Clay

May 8, 1998

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) _ Xavier Malisse’s future is as bright as his yellow hair. His personality also radiates a confidence beyond his 17 years.

Malisse, of Belgium, advanced to the quarterfinals of only his second ATP Tour event with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 victory over No. 5 seed Mikael Tillstrom on Thursday at America’s Red Clay Tennis Championship.

The youngest player in the field, Malisse had to advance through qualifying into the 32-man draw.

In February, Malisse played the world’s No. 1 player, Pete Sampras, close. He’s ranked 631st in the world, while Tillstrom is 79th. His first ATP victory came against John van Lottum earlier this week.

``I didn’t even know he was No. 5,″ Malisse said. ``I go out and play my game, and if they beat me it’s because they’ve been better.″

Tillstrom, 26, wasn’t better Thursday. Malisse succeeded in frustrating him by forcing the Swede into numerous unforced errors on forehand returns.

Steve Campbell and Wayne Black each lost in straight sets, leaving only one seed _ No. 8 Davide Sanguinetti _ remaining.

``I’ve been playing good,″ Malisse said. ``They are scared of me because I’m 17. They’ve got to win. There’s no pressure on me to win. If I don’t, I just go on to the next tournament.″

His hair is a natural light-brown, but Malisse has made a habit of changing colors to whatever suits his mood. He had been green, but went back to yellow, the color he had when he played Sampras.

``Maybe it brings good luck,″ he said.

After the Red Clay, Malisse will return to Belgium for three weeks. He also hopes to be a part of his country’s Davis Cup team.

His results against Sampras, a three-set loss in Philadelphia, and at Coral Springs have done nothing to diminish his confidence.

``It gives me a lot of confidence for the future, even when I lost to Sampras,″ Malisse said. ``I’m still young and I’m having a lot of fun on the tour.″

Campbell, 27, lost to Belgium’s Johan Van Herck 7-5, 6-0 in the completion of a second-round match that was suspended a night earlier due to lightning.

Campbell, the No. 6 seed, was behind 5-6 in the first set Wednesday night, and Van Herck made quick work of him when play resumed. The second set lasted just 21 minutes.

Black, the No. 4 seed, lost to Justin Gimelstob of Key Biscayne, Fla., 6-1, 6-2.

Andre Ilie, the Australian qualifier who defeated two-time Red champion Jason Stoltenberg, also advanced to the quarterfinals with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Haiti’s Ronald Agenor, who at 33 was the event’s oldest player.

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