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Safin denies Sampras again in LA

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:39

He claimed at a set this time, but Pete Sampras could do nothing to prevent Marat Safin repeating his 2000 US Open victory against the 14-time Grand Slam champion at the LA Tennis Open.

The American, still capable of serving at 120mph and enjoying a rare chance to utilise the new challenge technology, rallied after dropping the first set to level the match, only for Safin to pip him in a champions tie break to win 6-4 3-6 10-6.

The ‘Millennium Challenge’, an exhibition match at UCLA’s Los Angeles Tennis Center, was the first in a string of exhibition matches to be played by legends and former winners in LA. Michael Chang, Jim Courier and Stefan Edberg will also be taking to court throughout the week.

Despite admitting that he had not played much tennis leading up to the match – “I don’t play at this pace that often, with somebody like Marat” – Sampras was modestly confident about holding his own, describing his serve as “okay, but I’m not sure if it’s going to go in or not.”

Safin, who added the 2005 Australian Open to his New York victory in 2000, is set to retire at the end of the season. That win over Sampras nine years ago, he said, is one of his happiest memories from life on the tour.

“We’re kind of looking backwards, and it’s really a warm feeling – an achievement like beating Sampras in the final of US Open,” he said.

The Russian now faces a tough task of his own in the main draw proper, with Indianapolis champion Robby Ginepri awaiting him in the first round.

Meanwhile, the man who knocked Safin out of Wimbledon, Jesse Levine, defeated Bobby Reynolds 6-3 6-2 to set up a tie with top seed and sometime training parrtner at the Bolletieri Academy, Tommy Haas.

“Today my first serve percentage was pretty high, I didn’t really give Bobby a chance to get a look at too many second serves,” Levine said.

Since reaching the third round at Wimbledon, Levine has been play well. A second round showing at Indianapolis followed a quarter-final appearance in Newport.

“I think at Wimbledon I liked the grass and I kind of took some confidence from that tournament,” Levine said. He has played Haas once before, at Indianapolis last season, and lost 7-6(4) 6-2.

Fellow American Kevin Kim fell at the first, defeated by Chris Guccione 6-1 6-4. The Australian reached the main draw after winning the Wild Card Shoot-Out on Friday, a tiebreak-style tournament that gave the winner a spot in the main draw.

Guccione now faces No.2 seed Mardy Fish, while Robert Kendrick whitewashed Vince Spadea 6-0 6-0 to face Dudi Sela.

In the final qualifying round, Carsten Ball, Josselin Ouanna – another player to beat Safin at the slams this year – Ryan Sweeting and Somdev Devvarman all reached the main draw.

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