Kuerten and Rafter Cruise as Injury Doubts Sampras Challenge

Published June 29th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Fourth seed Gustavo Kuerten and Aussie crowd pleaser Pat Rafter, seeded 12, both cruised into round three of the men's singles at Wimbledon on Thursday with straightforward victories. 

While Kuerten and Rafter reached the last 32 defending champion Pete Sampras' dreams of a seventh Wimbledon crown and a record 13th Grand Slam title hung in the balance following treatment for the ankle injury he suffered in Wednesday's second-round victory over Slovakia's Karol Kucera. 

Sampras had a scan on the injury Wednesday night, which revealed inflammation in his left shin and fluid build-up in his left foot. 

ATP Tour trainer Doug Spreen said Sampras, 28, would rest throughout the day but added "Pete fully expects to play" the fellow American on Friday. 

He was to have another round of treatment Thursday, comprising icing and electrical stimulation along with anti-inflammatory treatment. 

Sampras' coach Paul Annacone gave reporters the lowdown on his charge's problems, saying the problem had appeared as soon as he started warming up on court. 

"It's sore, it hurts like heck. He can walk on it but he won't be breaking the 100m record! 

"We'll have to see how it progresses in the next 24 hours. But he's resilient. He's going to do whatever he can to try to play. 

"If he doesn't hit a ball on any of the off days it doesn't faze me at all, as long as he can play. When it comes to major events he tries to do whatever he can to play." 

Sampras missed the US Open last year with a herniated disk problem. 

"That's the first time he'd seen his mortality," said Annacone. 

With seven men's seeds having departed the event already Sampras, if he can shrug off his injury, has an excellent chance of moving through to the final where he is scheduled to face last year's final victim and second seed Andre Agassi. 

Thomas Enqvist of Sweden, seeded nine, is the only other seed left in Sampras' top half of the draw. 

Kuerten, looking to become the first man since Bjorn Borg to add the Wimbledon crown to his French Open triumph, raced past South African qualifier Justin Bower in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 while Rafter dismissed fellow Australian Todd Woodbridge 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. 

Kuerten, storming the net at almost every opportunity and serving 11 aces, will meet the winner of the match between American Michael Chang and Argentina's Gaston Gaudio in the next round – (AFP 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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