Anna Kournikova, the teen queen of the French Open, reached the third round Thursday in a match showcasing her athleticism and star qualities.
The 16-year-old Russian with the waist-length blonde braid defeated Katarina Studenikova of Slovakia 6-2, 7-6 (6-2).Kournikova had little trouble in the first set then made a string of errors in the second and was taken to a tiebreaker. But her ability to run down shots helped her pull out the victory. She returned a difficult drop shot to set up match point, then hit a crisp forehand to close the match.
On another rainy Paris day, former French Open champion Thomas Muster advanced with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 win over Germany's Nicolas Kiefer. Also advancing was the women's No. 4 seed, Aranxta Sanchez Vicario.
But the buzz at Roland Garros was still over the previous night's stunning ouster of Pete Sampras at the hands of a 97th-ranked Paraguayan. It was yet another setback for the world's No. 1 player in his quest to win the one Grand Slam title to elude him.
Still, Sampras insists that winning the French Open has not become an obsession.
"You look at Lendl with Wimbledon, that was an obsession," he said. "I can't be obsessed. It's not my personality."
But he added: "Every year I come back here I am a year older. Every year, you feel like it's a missed opportunity."
Each time Sampras falls to a low-ranked player, whether it's at Roland Garros or the U.S. Open, a new name hits the headlines: Magnus Norman. Jaime Yzaga. This time the name was Ramon Delgado, a 21-year-old from Paraguay. He was the lowest-ranked player Sampras has ever lost to in Paris.
"I worked all my life for a victory like this," a dazed Delgado said.
He won 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 6-4 on a cold and soggy day that included three long rain delays.
Sampras fans might have thought an inspiring comeback was in the cards. All the way through, there were quick flashes of his familiar brilliance: a few on-the-run passing forehands, a leaping overhead.
His fans may have been thinking about that 1996 U.S. Open match against Alex Corretja, when a faint and sickened Sampras vomited on court in the middle of the fifth-set tiebreaker, yet still managed to find the strength to win.