Sampras offended by comments
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.
TRACK AND FIELD
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).
OFF THE FIELD