TENNIS ROUNDUP : Courier, Sampras, Becker Advance at Rome

From Associated Press

Not only does Jim Courier look at home on clay, but Pete Sampras and Boris Becker also showed they can play on the slow surface.

All three advanced to the round of 16 on Wednesday at the Italian Open at Rome.

Courier, the defending champion, defeated Paul Haarhuis of the Netherlands, 6-3, 2-6, 6-0.

“I got a bit tentative in the second set but recovered for the third,” Courier said. “I feel like I’m hitting the ball well. I’m moving well and feeling confident.”

Sampras, seeded No. 1, swept Spanish qualifier Alex Corretja, 6-4, 7-5. But he had to save two set points at 4-5 in the second set. Then he broke for 6-5 and held serve at love to close out the match.


“The first time I played here four or five years ago, I felt completely clueless on clay,” Sampras said. “Now I’m getting better, more patient. I’m trying to go out with the attitude that I can win the French Open.”

Becker, seeded third, overpowered Hungarian qualifier Sandor Noszaly, 6-3, 6-2.

The French Open is the only Grand Slam tournament Becker has never won. The victory over Noszaly marked the first time in four clay-court events this spring that Becker has gotten past the second round.

“If I can win 6-3, 6-2, in the second round in Rome, I’m happy,” Becker said. “It’s a pleasure.

“Clay will always be trouble for me. I have to work harder on it than any other surface.”

Sixth-seeded Michael Chang rallied to defeat Italian qualifier Andrea Gaudenzi, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

Gaudenzi had a break point at 2-1 in the final set, but Chang came up with a service winner, a forehand winner and a backhand lob to hold for 2-2, then got the decisive break in the next game.

Several other seeded players advanced, including No. 4 Goran Ivanisevic, No. 7 Sergi Bruguera, No. 8 Andrei Medvedev and No. 10 Karel Novacek--all in straight sets.


But four lower-seeded players were eliminated: No. 13 Thomas Muster, No. 14 Cedric Pioline, No. 15 Carlos Costa and No. 16 Fabrice Santoro. Costa lost to Courier in last year’s final.


At Berlin, defending champion Steffi Graf rallied to defeat fellow German Sabine Hack, 0-6, 6-3, 6-2, and reach the quarterfinals of the German Open.

Also struggling was fourth-seeded Jennifer Capriati, who stopped Germany’s Wiltrud Probst, 6-2, 4-6, 6-0.

Capriati dropped the second set when Probst broke her serve at 5-4. In the third set, passing shots down the line allowed Capriati to break the German in her first two service games.

Second-seeded Gabriela Sabatini overpowered Marketa Kochta of Germany, 6-1, 6-0, and No. 3 Mary Joe Fernandez beat France’s Isabelle Demongeot, 6-0, 6-3.

A crowd of 4,000 was stunned as Hack routed Graf in the first set. Graf was last blanked in a set by Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the 1991 French Open semifinals.


“I played a terrible first set,” Graf said. “I wanted to do too much at first.”

But in the second set, she regained control of her forehand to break Hack’s serve in the fifth game.


Fourth-seeded Richey Reneberg was upset at the America’s Red Clay Championships at Coral Springs, Fla., losing in the second round to Mikael Pernfors of Sweden, 6-4, 6-2.

Second-seeded David Wheaton advanced to the quarterfinals with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory over Todd Woodbridge of Australia.