Originally created 05/31/97

Sampras, Muster upset at French Open



PARIS (AP) - An ailing Pete Sampras was knocked out of the French Open today by Sweden's Magnus Norman, losing another chance to win the one Grand Slam title that eludes him.

Norman, the world's 65th-ranked player, beat the top-ranked American 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

Former champion Thomas Muster was another upset victim.

Sampras' match had been rescheduled for later in the day at his request, after he apparently came down with a stomach bug. Earlier in the week, the top-seeded American had sailed through the first two rounds.

"It's hard, I feel like I played very well my first couple of matches," Sampras said. "But it seems like something always comes up."

"It wasn't meant to be this year."

But he said he didn't want to blame his loss completely on the illness. "I just didn't play well. He was the better man today, and I just have to accept that."

This was Sampras' eighth year playing in the French Open. He has won a total of nine Grand Slam titles, but none on the red clay of Roland Garros.

Norman, playing on his 21st birthday, had never won a Grand Slam match before this tournament.

Sampras had defeated him in their one previous meeting, in Tokyo in 1996.

A listless-looking Sampras lost the first set 6-2. In the second he was up 4-1, but then lost five games in a row to lose the set at 6-4.

Sampras was sweating heavily and looked exhausted. Occasionally he would take a new racket from the courtside refrigerator, where he's been keeping them to preserve the tension, and hold it against his forehead to cool down.

In the third set, Sampras came back with an early break, and broke again to take the set 6-2. He seem revived, hitting more winners and moving well.

Serving to open the fourth set, he fired three aces and a service winner to win the game at love. He broke Norman for 2-0, but then the match shifted again. Norman broke back for 2-1 as Sampras double-faulted on break point. At 3-3, Sampras made four straight forehand errors to give Norman the break at 4-3.

In the next game, Norman saved three break points - two of them with aces - to go up 5-3. He then served out the match.

Muster was ousted by the world's 66th-ranked player, Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil.

Kuerten defeated the fifth-seeded Austrian in five sets, 6-7 (3-7), 6-1, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, to advance to the fourth round.

Muster, the 1995 champion, dominated clay court tennis in both 1995 and 1996, losing only five matches on the surface.

But this year, he had struggled. He seemed to have slumped after winning his first major hardcourt title, the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla., in March.

Muster was up 3-0 in the final set, but the Brazilian won six of the next seven games. The key break came in the ninth game when Kuerten hit a series of spectacular backhand winners to break Muster for 5-4. He then served out the match at love.

"I had my chances and I didn't take them, especially in the fifth set," Muster said. "Losing today was disappointing. I should have won that fifth set."

Today's loss was Muster's seventh on clay this year. He had struggled in his first two rounds, winning one in five sets and one in four sets.

Defending champion Steffi Graf overcame a shaky start to advance to the fourth round with a 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 victory over Magui Serna of Spain.

Graf, the No. 2 seed, looked sluggish in the first set and made 17 unforced errors, netting balls and often hitting long.

But she recovered to win the tiebreaker with a couple of blazing forehand winners. She then rolled through the second set, 6-1.

Alex Corretja, the eighth-seeded Spaniard who could have faced Sampras in the quarterfinals, was up 6-1, 3-0 when his opponent, Thierry Champion of France, retired with a knee injury.

The men's 15th seed, Marc Rosset of Switzerland, defeated Frenchman Lionel Roux in four sets, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-3.

Among the women, fifth-seeded Lindsay Davenport defeated Patty Schnyder of Switzerland 4-6, 6-3, 9-7, and seventh-seeded Conchita Martinez beat Caroline Dhenin of France, 6-2, 6-1.

The ninth seed, Iva Majoli, beat Ann Grossman 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, and 11th-seeded Amanda Coetzer of South Africa defeated Meike Babel of Germany, 6-4, 6-2.

But the 15th seed, Karina Habsudova of Slovakia, was knocked out by Ruxandra Dragomir of Romania, 6-3, 6-2.