Sampras still the man to beat

Pete Sampras suggested he is still the man to beat at Wimbledon with a straight-sets victory over Spain's Francisco Clavet to open his defence of the men's title on Centre Court.

Without ever really touching the peaks of his supreme grasscourt talent, the 29-year-old American took just over two hours to defeat the 53rd world-ranked player 6-4 7-6 6-4, opting for a policy of economy in his early search of an eighth crown at the All-England Club.

Sampras, in fact, slightly alarmed his army of fans by losing 32-year-old Clavet's opening service-game to love, but he soon warmed to the task, making the early breakthrough for a 2-1 lead that effectively decided the first set.

Clavet has still to win a match in eight attempts at Wimbledon but is a formidable rival on clay, winning seven titles during his career on that surface, and his pride was never going to let the top seed have it all his own way.

The second set went to a tie-break and Sampras needed a dubious decision, which ruled in favour of his long-looking backhand return at a vital stage, to move into a two-set lead.

But once more he was content to bide his time in the third, pouncing on any slackness by his opponent and efficiently wrapped things up after breaking serve again in the ninth game to secure a second round meeting with Britain's Barry Cowan.

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