Sampras survives at Open

Posted: Tuesday, August 29, 2000

NEW YORK -- Sometimes surviving to fight another day is good enough.

So it was with Venus Williams, who turned a runaway into an interesting match, and Pete Sampras, who was stretched as the U.S. Open began its two-week run at the National Tennis Center.

Yet both won in straight sets, despite minor struggles.

The third-seeded Williams increased her winning match streak to 20 by beating Anne-Gaelle Sidot of France 6-3, 6-4.

''Even when I'm playing badly, I feel like I'm going to win the match, or for some reasons, one way or another, things are going to go my way,'' Williams said. ''It's a good feeling to have. It's when you know you're confident, when you can play well on most of the big points.''

Sampras, seeded fourth as he seeks to increase his men's record Grand Slam singles title total to 14, pounded out a 7-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Martin Damm of the Czech Republic.

''I knew it was going to be tough,'' Sampras said. ''He serves big, returns quite well. He came out and played great. I was really happy with the way I played.''

Not a single seeded player lost Monday, although No. 5 Yevgeny Kafelnikov fought back from a two-set deficit to outlast Orlin Stanoytchev of Bulgaria 6-7 (5), 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.

And Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, seeded ninth in the women's singles, edged Joannette Kruger of South Africa 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (2).

Lindsay Davenport begins her bid Tuesday to duplicate her 1998 U.S. Open title when she plays Spain's Gala Leon Garcia in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Then, after French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten plays Australian Wayne Arthurs, fifth-seeded Serena Williams begins the defense of her women's championship by taking on Slovenia's Tina Pisnik.

In the night session, No. 12 Anna Kournikova plays American Holly Parkinson and Patrick Rafter, a two-time Open winner, faces Spain's Galo Blanco.

Venus Williams, who has not lost since the French Open and has won her last four tournaments, including Wimbledon, showed off those skills as she broke away from a 3-3 deficit to win eight consecutive games and lead Sidot 6-3, 5-0. Then it was as if the clock struck midnight.

The powerful forehands stopped finding the corners and began sailing long or wide or buried in the net.

Her serve went and she became tentative, allowing her French opponent to climb back into the match.

''I think I was rushing a lot in the match, and then I lost focus out there,'' Williams said. ''I felt a little bit lazy on my serve. It seems when I'm in a big match, I serve a lot better. When I'm in a match like this, I struggle.''

But, just as quickly, Williams bore down and broke Sidot to move into the second round.

In taking a 5-0 lead in the second set, Williams showed off all the speed and groundstroke power that enabled her to win four straight tournaments coming in. And even though she struggled near the end, she still seemed a little more comfortable than Sampras did during his match.

The four-time men's champion mopped his face between almost every point and slogged sluggishly through a slow-motion. As leaden as Sampras looked, he served well enough to overcome an even slower opponent.

''First match out, not an easy one to get through,'' Sampras said. ''A tough opening-round match. I think I can kind of build from this win and hopefully play a little bit better against Justin (Gimelstob).''

To cap off the first day, top-seeded and defending men's champion Andre Agassi had no trouble dispatching NCAA champion Alex Kim of Stanford, a wild-card entry, 6-4, 6-2, 6-0.

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