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Sampras and Becker win in straight sets

October 21, 1997

STUTTGART, Germany (AP) _ Top-ranked Pete Sampras and defending champion Boris Backer won in straight sets Tuesday, while three lower-seeded players were knocked out of the Eurocard Open.

Sampras, looking a little rusty after not playing for more than three weeks, beat Magnus Gustafsson 6-3, 6-4 to reach the third round.

The top-seeded Sampras returned to Germany after winning the Grand Slam Cup at Munich Sept. 28, his last tournament match. He skipped the following week’s tournament at Basel, Switzerland, because of a shoulder injury.

``I am pretty happy with the way I hit ball today, but I felt I could have played better,″ Sampras said. ``My timing isn’t quite there.″

Becker, who beat Sampras in the Eurocard final last year for his last title, beat German compatriot Marc-Kevin Goellner 6-2, 6-4 in a first-round match.

Tenth-seeded Alex Corretja, 12th-seeded Thomas Muster and No. 14 Felix Mantilla all were eliminated in the $2.05 million event that has drawn the world’s top 19 players. Mantilla lost 7-5, 6-4 to David Prinosil. Muster was beaten 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2 by Paul Haarhuis, and Corretja was upset 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) by Magnus Larsson.

Sampras, who like all 16 seeds had a first-round bye, broke Gustafsson in the second game and again in the third game of the second set.

He struggled to put the match away, wasting a match point, then had to save two break points, both with volleys. But Gustafsson then put a return wide and Sampras won in 73 minutes.

``I managed to raise my game on the big points,″ Sampras said. ``But I’ll have to play better in the next match.″

Becker has retired from Grand Slam tennis and is playing only selected tournaments as his career winds down.

He recently become head of the German Davis Cup team, which has included Goellner.

``We’ve practiced together, so I knew his weak points and I used them,″ Becker said after his 69-minute victory.

Goellner never threatened the three-time Wimbledon champion.

Becker still plans to continue playing, at least in the opening Davis Cup round next year against South Africa.

``At least indoors, I can still be a factor,″ Becker said.

On fast indoor carpets, Becker is still among the best in the world. But he hadn’t played an ATP tournament since July, and this was only his 25th singles match of the year, not counting the Davis Cup.

He lost in the opening round of the Grand Slam Cup last month, then played an exhibition tournament last week in Hong Kong, reaching the semifinals.

``I had three singles and one doubles match in Hong Kong and it helped my game and my confidence,″ said Becker, who will be 30 next month.

Becker’s next opponent is big-serving Richard Krajicek, another former Wimbledon champion, with the winner to meet Sampras.

Becker intends to play the upcoming indoor tournaments in Paris and Stockholm. ``I want to play Davis Cup next year so I need some competition,″ he said.

Another of Becker’s prospects, Tommy Haas, lost to Tim Henman of Britain 7-5, 3-6, 6-4. Haas was overwhelmed by Henman’s 15 aces, the last coming on his second match point.

Fabrice Santoro, who won his first ATP title by beating Haas at Lyon, France, defeated Mark Philippoussis 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 in another first-round surprise.

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