Sampras Wins at U.S. Open

Tuesday, August 29th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — For everyone else, Pete Sampras' No. 4 seeding at the U.S. Open was stunning. For Sampras, four-time winner of this Grand Slam event, it was no big deal.

``It's just what I'm ranked on the computer,'' Sampras said. ``They just went off the computer, which I have no problem with.''

But No. 4?

For the man with 13 Grand Slam victories, the most in history?

``The seeding is just the seeding,'' Sampras said. ``I mean, I think we all know I'm one of the strongest contenders here. I don't think it's a big deal, the seeding. I don't think the players really look at the seedings. If I'm seeded four, eight, or not seeded, I still like my chances.''

Sampras waited out a nearly two-hour rain delay on Monday that pushed his day match into early evening and came through with a 7-6 (3), 7-5, 6-4 victory over Martin Damm that seemed more difficult than it should have been.

``I knew it was going to be tough,'' he said. ``It was a tough time of day. It was a long day with the rain, getting late The atmosphere was not great.''

And neither was the tennis.

There were times when Sampras seemed sluggish and struggled with his game. Damm noticed.

``Maybe he was a little bit slower on returns,'' Damm said. ``I really didn't put any pressure on his serve.''

And that can be deadly, no matter where the other player is seeded.

``I felt good out there,'' Sampras said. ``It was a tough match. Before the first match, it's a new court. You can practice all you want but it's always a little bit different when you play. You do feel the jitters a little bit.''

Sampras sat out the Open a year ago, knocked out of the tournament on the first day by a cranky back. That made his first match this year even more significant.

``I've been here a week practicing,'' he said. ``I feel like, if anything, I appreciate it more playing this year, because last year it was tough watching the U.S. Open unfold the way it did.''

The injury delayed Sampras' march into tennis history — the 13th Grand Slam victory. He broke Roy Emerson's record this summer at Wimbledon. That victory was emotional, Sampras said, and took a load off his shoulders.

Now he comes into the Open healthy and relaxed, equipped with an easier seed than ordinary.

Does that mean he could sneak up on the field?

Sampras smiled.

``I think we're making too big a deal out of the seedings,'' he said. ``Since I'm four doesn't mean I'm less of a favorite.''

Certainly not to his first-round opponent.

``You know, he's really a top player,'' Damm said. ``It doesn't matter if he's No. 1 seed or No. 4. From 1 or 2 to 4 still is not bad. He's just a great competitor. You know, especially at the Slams, if he's on his best, it's really tough to put any challenge on him.

``It's always tough to play against him, especially his serve. It's always big. If he's really healthy, concentrating well, it's really very difficult to play him.''

No matter where he's seeded.