Originally created 06/19/02

Agassi and Sampras in same half of draw



WIMBLEDON, England -- Lleyton Hewitt's title chances at Wimbledon will be tested early.

The top-seeded Australian was drawn Tuesday to face veteran Jonas Bjorkman in a potentially tricky opening-round match at the grasscourt Grand Slam, which starts Monday.

In the women's draw, sisters Venus and Serena Williams are seeded 1-2 and could meet in a Grand Slam final for the third time in 10 months.

Bjorkman, who was ranked as high as No. 4 in 1997, is a solid grasscourt player who has twice reached the fourth round at Wimbledon.

But the 30-year-old Swede has slipped to No. 60 in the rankings, making him one of the most dangerous floaters in the draw.

On Tuesday, Bjorkman beat Andy Roddick in the first round of the Nottingham grasscourt tournament, where the American was seeded No. 1. Roddick is seeded No. 11 for Wimbledon.

"It's nice to get a win under my belt," said Bjorkman, who had not won a match since March. "I was struggling for a long time and nearly mentally giving up on winning some matches again.

"Next week is another tough draw for me but Hewitt will probably feel that it's a tough draw for him as well. He knows he will have to bring his 'A' game in the first round."

Hewitt strengthened his status as Wimbledon favorite by winning the Queen's Club tournament Sunday for the third year in a row. And if he gets past Bjorkman, he has a relatively easy draw to the later stages.

Hewitt, last year's U.S Open champion, reached the fourth round at Wimbledon last year after losing in the first round in 2000 and the third round the year before.

The highest-seeded player in Hewitt's half is No. 4 Tim Henman of Britain. The two could meet in the semifinals.

Henman drew a qualifier in the first round - and his relatively easy draw helped him to be picked as a 9-2 co-favorite by bookmakers William Hill, along with Hewitt and No. 3 seed Andre Agassi.

Henman hopes to be the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win Wimbledon. He's come close many times - notably his drawn-out semifinal loss to eventual champion Goran Ivansevic last year. He also reached the semis in 1998 and 1999.

But Henman has an obstacle in Hewitt. The Australian has a 5-0 record over Henman since 2000, including wins in the last two Queens finals.

The bottom half of the draw is much tougher, with No. 2 Marat Safin, Agassi, No. 5 Yevgeny Kafelnikov and No. 6 Pete Sampras, the seven-time champion.

The bottom half also has Mark Philippoussis, the big-serving Australian who is coming off a long injury layoff and earned a wildcard for the event.

Sampras, who is seeded in his lowest spot since 1991, will face British journeyman Martin Lee - ranked No. 94 - in the first round.

Agassi, the 1992 champion, will open against 76th-ranked Harel Levy of Israel, while Safin takes on France's Cedric Pioline, the 1997 runner-up who has slipped to No. 98.

Sampras and Agassi are in different brackets and could only meet in the semifinals. Kafelnikov has a potentially dangerous opener against Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia.

Roddick was drawn against Bohdan Ulirach of the Czech Republic, but could meet big server Greg Rusedski, seeded 23rd, in the third round. Rusedski reached the fourth round last year.

"Thank God lots (of players) pulled out," said Rusedski, who plays a qualifier in the first round. "Being seeded makes life a bit easier because you know that for your first two matches you have got a chance of getting opponents who are beatable on grass."

Venus Williams, the two-time defending women's champion, should have an easy opener against British wild card Jane O'Donoghue.

"This is a dream, everything I've worked for," the 19-year-old O'Donoghue said. "She's the greatest player in the world."

Serena Williams plays Australia's Evie Dominikovic.

No. 3 Jennifer Capriati was drawn against Janette Husarova of Slovakia, while No. 4 Monica Seles was paired against Eva Bess of Spain.

Belgium's Kim Clijsters, No. 5, and Justin Henin, No. 6, are both on Venus Williams' side of the draw.

The Belgians both drew American first-round opponents - Clijsters playing Samantha Reeves and Henin facing Brie Rippner.

Anna Kournikova, unseeded this year, will face a tough first-rounder against No. 21 Tatiana Panova of Russia. Panova lost in three sets Tuesday to Martina Navratilova at Eastbourne, the 45-year-old American's first singles match in almost eight years.