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Sampras offended by comments

| Wednesday, June 12, 2002

HALLE, Germany — Pete Sampras found his winning touch in Germany, then issued an angry response to the Queen's Club tournament director who said the slumping star was "fighting demons" and looking for easier matches.

"I was pretty appalled by his remarks," Sampras said Tuesday after defeating Andrei Stoliarov in three sets in the first round of the Gerry Weber Open. "He's done a good job of making sure I won't come back."

With the start of Wimbledon less than two weeks away, Sampras chose the grass courts and retractable roof at the Gerry Weber event over the uncovered grass at the Queen's Club in London.

Despite success at Queen's, Sampras chose to play elsewhere, prompting tournament director Ian Wight to criticize the decision.

"Whatever personal demons Pete is fighting at the moment, I suspect that, more than anything else, he feels he needs a couple of wins under his belt," Wight said. "I guess he feels those are more likely at Halle than at Queen's."

Sampras, missing the Queen's Club for just the second time since 1989, has won Wimbledon seven times. But he hasn't won any tournament since taking Wimbledon in 2000, and said he wanted to change tuneup events to try to help his game.

"I've heard a lot of good things about this tournament from other players," Sampras, ousted in the first round of the French Open two weeks ago. "I just wanted to try something different.

Rain has plagued both events in recent years, but the retractable roof at center court was a big help Tuesday.

When Sampras stepped onto the court under the closed roof, it was pouring rain outside. "If it wasn't for the roof, I'd still be in the locker room waiting," he said.

After his four-set loss to Italy's Andrea Gaudenzi in the French Open, Sampras was distressed with the sagging state of his game.

"I went home down and was deflated. Not just the French, but the whole disappointing year," Sampras said. "I just sat around home — I feel sorry for my wife, she had to live with it."

Sampras — formerly No. 1 in the world but now No. 26 in the ATP champion's race — did not have it easy against his Russian opponent Tuesday, looking shaky in his first set on grass this year. But he came back and won 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

"It's always nice to play a close one," Sampras said. "I thought he played well, came out swinging and broke my serve right away."

Sampras left the court to loud cheers from the 3,000 spectators, and that buoyed his confidence as his favorite tournament approaches.

"I feel like I'm one of the guys to beat," he said "I'm just looking for that first title to turn it around and Wimbledon is one of the places I turn it around."

Sampras wasn't the only player to choose the 10-year-old German tournament over the more traditional Wimbledon tuneup at the Queen's Club.

Swiss player Roger Federer, Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson and Yevgeny Kafelnikov are also competing in the German event this year.

  • Former champion Lindsay Davenport withdrew from Wimbledon after failing to fully recover from knee surgery. Davenport, who won in 1999, had surgery on her right knee in January and has missed the Australian Open and French Open, causing her to drop from No. 1 to No. 6 in the WTA world rankings.

    COLLEGE FOOTBALL

  • Washington & Jefferson, which split two games in the NCAA Division III playoffs last season, announced a 10-game regular-season schedule for next season. The Presidents, who defeated Western Maryland, 24-21, and lost to Widener, 46-30, in the postseason, will open Sept. 1 at Ursinus. Their home opener is Sept. 8 against Allegheny.

    TRACK AND FIELD

  • Pitt announced it will not renew the contract of longtime coach Steve Lewis, who recently completed his 20th season with the Panthers. Lewis joined Pitt as an assistant in 1982. He was named women's coach in 1985 and added the role of men's coach in 1994.

    VOLLEYBALL

  • West Virginia signed two 5-foot-11 recruits for next season. Kelly Mullins, an outside hitter and defensive specialist from Scottsdale, Ariz., and Melissa Zapiain, a middle hitter from Irvine, Calif., are the latestplayers to join the Mountaineers.

    HIGH SCHOOLS

    Ken Lessig was hired as the girls varsity basketball coach at Burrell High School. Lessig leaves St. Joseph's where he was the athletic director and golf coach. He replaces Shaun Reddick who coached the Buccaneers for one season leading them to an 8-15 record (6-8 Section 1-AAA).

  • Thomas Jefferson has offered Tom Berich its boys basketball coaching job. Berich, who coached at Norwin last season, hasn't accepted the position yet, but if he does, he could be voted on by the school board at its next meeting Tuesday. Thomas Jefferson originally hired Keystone Oaks coach Ben O'Connor to replace long-time coach Tom Sharkey, but O'Connor decided to stay at his alma mater. Thomas Jefferson went 6-17 last season and finished sixth in Section 4-AAA.

    OFF THE FIELD

  • Pitt-Johnstown named Mike Castner athletic director, succeeding Ed Sherlock, who resigned. Castner, who was serving as interim athletic director, was chosen from a list of more than 50 applicants. He has been employed by the university for 23 years, during which time he has served as head athletic trainer, Sports Center facility manager and women's cross country coach.

  • The trial of Donald Dykes, one of four former Notre Dame football players charged in a gang rape, is scheduled for Sept. 16. Dykes, Justin Smith and Lorenzo Crawford are charged with raping a 20-year-old female student they knew through her work with the athletic department. The three, along with Abram Elam, also are charged with conspiracy to commit rape.

  • Dartmouth's new athletic director resigned abruptly after questions were raised about his resume, college officials said. Charles Harris stepped down the day before he was to have been officially introduced as the school's new athletic director.

  • WNBA players are threatening to strike next season if a new deal isn't worked out by the start of training camp. Seattle Storm guard Sonja Henning, the president of the WNBA players association, said that 100 players discussed the possibility of a work stoppage. The four-year collective bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15, during the offseason.

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