Originally created 03/10/99

Kafelnikov, Rafter tumble out of Champions Cup



INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Pete Sampras can breathe a little easier.

Two players who could have replaced Sampras atop the ATP Tour standings this week were bounced from the $2.45 million Champions Cup tennis tournament in second-round matches Tuesday.

Australian Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the second seed, was upset by Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil 0-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3. Fifth-seeded Patrick Rafter, who has won the last two U.S. Opens, was ousted by 21-year-old Nicolas Kiefer of Germany 7-6 (7-2), 3-6, 7-5.

Sampras, who was bounced in the second round last week, doesn't play his first match here until Wednesday.

In the $1.3 million Evert Cup women's tournament, being played concurrently at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort, fourth-seeded Jana Novotna and No. 5 Steffi Graf both advanced to the quarterfinals, where they will face each other. Novotna beat Brie Rippner 6-1, 6-4 and Graf eliminated Ai Sugiyama of Japan 6-0, 6-1.

The women's top seed, Martina Hingis, of Switzerland will face Chanda Rubin in another quarterfinal.

Kafelnikov, ranked second in the world, had to reach the semifinals this week to overtake Sampras for the No. 1 spot in the ATP Tour rankings. Two weeks ago, when he could have moved up, the Russian was overcome with nerves and fell to Thomas Johansson in the quarterfinals of a tournament in London.

"I can't really explain what happened," Kafelnikov said. "I just lost focus for a little while. That was the reason that I lost five games in a row. Don't get me wrong, I was trying as hard as I could. It's not many times you get an opportunity like that to win the tournament and become No. 1 in the world."

Rafter committed 41 unforced errors against Kiefer as he lost for the third time in his last four matches. The Australian could have passed Sampras by winning this hard court tournament.

"Maybe he wanted to make a big serve," Kiefer said of Rafter's double fault on match point. "But that's his fault. For me, it was perfect. I didn't have to do so much."