SAMPRAS meets Clavet; Agassi faces Wessels in opening round - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

SAMPRAS meets Clavet; Agassi faces Wessels in opening round

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) _ Pete Sampras will open his bid for an eighth Wimbledon title Monday against Francisco Clavet, a Spanish clay-court player ranked 53rd.

The 29-year-old American has won four straight Wimbledon titles and was last beaten on the grass at the All England Club in the 1996 quarterfinals by eventual winner Richard Krajicek.

The toughest potential opponents for Sampras in his section of the draw are No. 6 Tim Henman of Britain and No. 23 Todd Martin of the United States, both possible quarterfinal opponents.

In the draw Tuesday, No. 2 Andre Agassi of the United States was paired against Peter Wessels of the Netherlands in the opening round. Wessels defeated top-seeded Marat Safin last week in the Queen's Club tournament, the traditional grass-court warm-up for Wimbledon.

In the women's draw, top-seeded Martina Hingis will open against Virginia Ruano Pascual, a Spaniard ranked 84th. Second-seeded and defending Wimbledon champion Venus Williams of the United States will open against Shinobu Asagoe of Japan.

Fellow American Jennifer Capriati, seeded fourth and halfway to a Grand Slam sweep after winning the Australian Open and French Open, begins against Maria Alejan Vento, a Venezuelan ranked No. 110.

Wimbledon seeded 32 men and women for the first time and, as a result, there are few marquee matchups in the first round. None of the 10 top-seeded players will face any opponent ranked higher than 53rd in the first round.

Three top clay-court players have withdrawn from Wimbledon citing injuries: three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil, French Open runner-up Alex Corretja and fellow Spaniard Albert Costa. Costa withdrew just before Tuesday's draw.

Spain's other top clay-court player, Juan Carlos Ferrero, had threatened not to show up. But he has decided to play Wimbledon for the first time.

``I will play,'' he said. ``I'm already practicing on grass.''

Three dangerous floaters in the men's field _ American Andy Roddick, Briton Greg Rusedski and Croatian Goran Ivanisevic _ are in the same quarter of the draw along with the No.4-seeded Safin.

Ivanisevic, a three-time Wimbledon runner-up who made the field as a wild card, could face the 18-year-old Roddick in the third round.

In other possible quarterfinal matchups: Agassi against No. 5 Lleyton Hewittt of Australia, who won the Queen's Club tournament Sunday; No. 3 Patrick Rafter, the losing finalist a year ago, against No. 7 Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia.

Also in Rafter's quarter of the draw are dangerous floaters Max Mirnyi of Belarus and Wayne Arthurs of Australia, as well as No. 16 Valdimir Voltchkov, who reached the Wimbledon semifinals last year.

Also in Agassi's quarter of the draw are No. 9 Sebastien Grosjean, who upset Agassi in the French Open, and Frenchman Cedric Pioline, a former Wimbledon runnerup.

Potential women's quarterfinal matchups include: Hingis against Justine Henin of Belgium; Capriati against No. 5 Serena Williams of the United States; No. 3 Lindsay Davenport of the United States against French Open runner-up Kim Clijsters, a Belgian seeded No. 7; and Venus Williams against No. 6 Amelie Mauresmo of France.
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