Originally created 02/09/02

Sampras opens with U.S. victory



OKLAHOMA CITY -- Pete Sampras had a tougher time than expected but gave the United States a 1-0 lead over Slovakia by beating Karol Beck in four sets in a first-round Davis Cup match Friday.

Sampras, playing Davis Cup for the first time since April 2000, lost a second-set tiebreaker and trailed 3-5 in the fourth set before rallying to win 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-1, 7-5.

"It's always a little tricky playing someone who you have no idea how he plays," Sampras said. "He came out swinging away like I thought he would. He had nothing to lose."

Andy Roddick played Jan Kruslak in Friday's other singles match.

The 19-year-old Beck has played in just 11 tournaments in his career - two fewer than the number of Grand Slam singles titles for Sampras. But he gave Sampras a workout and threatened to extend the match to five sets.

"Before the match, I was thinking when I make a good result, like break him or take a set, will be unbelievable," Beck said. "Then I was on the court and was like, 'Yeah, I can play when him."'

After Sampras broke Beck twice in the first set, the two stayed on serve throughout the second. Sampras had a chance at a break in the fourth game, but Beck rallied from love-40 to win. In the tiebreaker, Beck won the first four points and won it easily.

He then won the first five points of the third set before Sampras got going and won 24 of the next 28, including the final 11.

"I don't know what happened. I lost my mind or something," Beck said.

Beck had five aces in his first two service games of the fourth set, then used a nice return of serve to break Sampras in the fifth game.

Trailing 3-5, Sampras held serve at love and then broke back in the 10th game to make it 5-all. In that game, it was 30-all when Beck hit a forehand into the net, then followed that with a forehand that just missed.

Sampras won the next game at love to go ahead 6-5. Beck won just one point in the final game, netting a backhand at 15-all and then hitting his final two forehands wide to give Sampras the victory.

"I felt he was going to have to close it out there, and maybe a little inexperience would come into play and it did," Sampras said. "He missed a couple shots here and there and I was able to capitalize on some of his errors."

The Americans came in as heavy favorites, particularly after Slovakia's top two players, Karl Kucera and Dominik Hrbaty, pulled out because of injuries.

Sampras was playing his 27th Davis Cup match but his first since April 2000. He is 19-8 in Davis Cup, 15-7 in singles.

Elsewhere in world group play, Sebastian Grosjean and Arnaud Clement won their singles matches to give defending-champion France a 2-0 lead over the Netherlands.

Grosjean beat Davis Cup rookie Edwin Kempes 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-2 on clay in Metz, France, and Clement rallied to defeat Sjeng Schalken 7-5, 2-6, 6-7 (7), 6-4, 6-2.

In Birmingham, England, Britain and Sweden ended the first day tied at 1.

Tim Henman, held off a late charge by Jonas Bjorkman, who beat Henman in the fourth round of the Australian Open last month, to win 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 7-5. Thomas Enqvist evened the score by beating Greg Rusedski 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5), 6-2.

In other matches, the Czech Republic leads Brazil 2-0. The Spain-Morocco, Russia-Switzerland, and Croatia-Germany matches all ended the first day tied at 1.

In Moscow, Roger Federer stunned Australian Open runner-up Marat Safin 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 on the clay of the Olympic Indoor stadium to help Switzerland gain a tie.

Australia and Argentina also played Friday.