Sampras ousted in French Open first round

Monday, May 27th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PARIS (AP) _ Pete Sampras hung his head, tossed his racket in disgust, threw up his arms and smacked a ball toward the sky in frustration during another long, long day on the clay.

Sampras was ousted from the French Open on Monday, losing 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (3) to Italian journeyman Andrea Gaudenzi in the first round of the only Grand Slam he's never won.

The loss extended Sampras' string of tournaments without a victory to 28, going back to Wimbledon in 2000.

This one was particularly difficult for Sampras to handle, with his game seeming to evaporate following a 1-hour, 55-minute rain delay at Roland Garros against a player he'd beaten in all three previous meetings.

Earlier, second-seeded Venus Williams beat Germany's Bianka Lamade 6-3, 6-3.

In other early first-round matches, top-seeded Lleyton Hewitt beat Andre Sa of Brazil 7-5, 6-4, 7-5, while Australian Open champion and ninth-seeded Thomas Johansson downed Franco Squillari of Argentina 6-2, 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Two-time defending champion Gustavo Kuerten finished off Ivo Heuberger of Switzerland 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 in one of several matches interrupted by rain.

Losing in the first round of a clay court event for the third straight time _ he was also knocked out in the opening match at Rome and Hamburg earlier this month_ Sampras seemed caught in the middle against the baseline strokes of Gaudenzi, not sure whether to come in or stay back.

In the fourth set, the 13-time Grand Slam champion showed his emotions again, whacking a ball high in the air after missing a shot long and getting a warning for ball abuse.

Since reaching the semifinals of the 1996 French Open, Sampras has not advanced beyond the third round of the only Grand Slam on clay.

After the first rain delay of their match, Sampras made a beautiful drop shot to end a 21-shot rally and get to deuce. But Gaudenzi won the next two points for a 5-4 lead and then broke Sampras to capture the second set and tie the match.

Broken in the third to fall behind 4-2, Sampras couldn't convert three break points in the next game and the frustration became evident when he flung his racket against a side wall.

Minutes later a Sampras forehand sailed over the baseline and Gaudenzi had a 5-2 lead. Sampras lost his serve again and suddenly found himself trailing two sets to one.

Play was suspended again at 3-3 in the fourth set for another 45 minutes. Sampras won the first two games but Gaudenzi broke back two games later when Sampras slammed an overhead into the net for 5-5.

In the tiebreaker, Sampras took a 3-2 lead but Gaudenzi won the final five points and went to the net to shake the hand of the dejected Sampras.

The match finished more than five hours after it started because of the rain delays.

Williams, ousted by Barbara Schett in her first match last year, managed to get in just 43 percent of her first serves, had six double faults and made 35 unforced errors.

``The first set I felt good and then for some reason I started to be tight. Maybe I was thinking about last year,'' Williams said. ``The rest of the match I was just trying to hold on.''

Williams breezed through the first four games, yielding just five points, but lost two straight service games before regrouping and taking the first set in 27 minutes.

Her serve bogged her down in the second set, but she was able to save seven break points. Trailing 3-2 and love-30, she came up with an ace and service winner in a four-point run, then took the final four games against Lamade, who'd won just two main-draw matches all year.

In other matches Monday, third-seeded Tommy Haas beat Michal Tabara 6-3, 7-5, 6-4; No. 18-seeded Alex Corretja, last year's runner-up, downed Bohdan Ulihrach 6-1, 6-4, 6-1; and No. 16 Younes El Aynaoui eliminated American Jan-Michael Gambill 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

No. 10 Amelie Mauresmo beat Camille Pin 6-4, 6-1; No. 11 Daniela Hantuchova defeated Cara Black 6-2, 6-3; No. 13 Elena Dementieva defeated Adriana Gersi 7-5, 6-3; No. 16 Barbara Schett beat Marlene Weingarten 6-2, 2-6, 6-0; No. 23 Anne Kremer downed Janet Lee 6-1, 7-6 (5); former champion and 29th-seeded Iva Majoli beat American Kristina Brandi 6-4, 6-3; and No. 31 Rita Grande ousted Marianna Diaz-Oliva 6-4, 6-4.

No. 8 Sandrine Testud was the first seeded player to lose, falling 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 to Paola Suarez.