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Thursday, 22 June, 2000, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Sampras heads for 'home'

The green, green grass: Sampras at Wimbledon
In times of trouble, people like to head for home - and that is exactly what Pete Sampras is doing as he prepares for Wimbledon.

The six-times Men's Singles champion has been plagued by back injuries this year and has only played in seven tournaments, but he is in good spirits as he prepares to defend his title.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the Centre Court again," he said. "It's my favourite court in the world, and when I go back there on Monday as defending champion it will be like going home.

"There has always been a special place in my heart for Wimbledon. It is unique in the world of tennis. There are no horns and whistles, no sponsors."

Sampras is just one win away from breaking Roy Emerson's record of 12 Grand Slam titles, and says: "Wimbledon has played such an important part in my career that I would love to do it there."

Injuries

In the final of the Stella Artois tournament at Queen's, however, he looked anything but on his way to surpassing Emerson's mark as he lost in straight sets to Australian teenager Lleyton Hewitt.

At the age of 28, injuries are becoming more frequent, and his only title so far this year has been the Ericsson Open in Miami in March, where he beat Gustavo Kuerten in the final.



I'm looking forward to seeing the Centre Court again. It's my favourite court in the world, and when I go back there on Monday at 2pm as defending champion it will be like going home.

Pete Sampras
The men's top seed for Wimbledon did reach the semi-final of Australian Open in January before his back started to play up in the fifth set of an epic battle against Andre Agassi.

Sampras then went out of the French Open, admittedly on his least favourite surface on clay, in the first round.

But not too many people are writing off his Wimbledon chances.

Sampras, who faces the Czech Jiri Vanek in the first round, said: "I can look at my performance at Queen's as a good week.

"I have had mixed results there over the years and have still won Wimbledon. Physically I am fine and that is a good sign. I am where I want to be right now. I can play better and I can be sharper.

"I'm not too worried about who I get in my half of the draw. There are a lot of guys who are going to be dangerous but if I am playing well it does not matter who the opponent is."

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See also:

22 Jun 00 | Wimbledon2000
Safin could be a Wimbledon smash
22 Jun 00 | Wimbledon2000
Hewitt ready for Wimbledon challenge
21 Jun 00 | Wimbledon2000
Wimbledon no fun for Pierce
20 Jun 00 | Wimbledon2000
Men's singles draw
19 Jun 00 | Wimbledon2000
Wimbledon: Men's seeds
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