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Sampras pulls out, but U.S. beats Croatia

May 21, 1997

DUESSELDORF, Germany (AP) _ Top-ranked Pete Sampras pulled out of the World Team Cup Wednesday because of a muscle injury, but said he expects to be fit for the French Open, which starts Monday in Paris.

While Sampras is struggling, so too was Michael Chang, who lost to Goran Ivanisevic 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.

That was the only loss for the United States as it beat Croatia 2-1.

Alex O’Brien, filling in for Sampras, scored an emphatic 6-1, 6-2 victory over Sasa Hirszon to even things out at 1-1, and then played a part in the deciding doubles when he joined with Jonathan Stark to defeat Hirszon and Ivanisevic 6-3, 7-6 (8-6).

Sampras said he pulled out on doctor’s orders.

``The doctor’s recommendation is that it’s best if I don’t play. If I come back too soon there’s a chance I could do it (the injury) again,″ Sampras said.

Sampras suffered a muscle injury in his left leg during the opening-round match Monday. Earlier, he had hoped to play again in the round-robin event.

``But the injury is feeling better. I can’t feel it when I walk, and hopefully I’ll hit a few balls Thursday or Friday, and I’m planning on playing next week,″ Sampras said.

Chang was undismayed at his poor clay court form, although since winning in Orlando, Fla., last month, he has won just one of four matches on clay.

``I feel like things are coming along. Even though I lost I feel I played a better match than against Mark (Woodforde) on Monday. Overall, I feel on course for next week. Physically I’m feeling good,″ said Chang.

Australia established itself as the favorite in its group to reach the final when the Aussies defeated the Czech Republic 3-0.

Mark Woodforde took a 2-0 lead, only to see Petr Korda take six of the next seven games to claim the opening set. But Woodforde fought back to take the match 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.

Mark Philippoussis also struggled against Bohdan Ulihrach, but emerged with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory. Olympic champions Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde then scored a predictable 6-4, 6-3 win over Martin Damm and Daniel Vacek to give Australia a clean sweep.

The $1.9 million World Team Cup consists of two groups of four teams. In the Red Group, the United States and Australia are matched with the Czech Republic and Croatia. In the Blue Group, Germany and the Netherlands are matched with Spain and Sweden. Teams play each of the three others in their group, with the winners of each group advancing to Sunday’s final. The winning team receives $500,000.

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