Nobody, including Australia's Lleyton Hewitt, will be underestimating American Pete Sampras's desire to claim a record 13th Grand Slam singles title in a fortnight's time, a record previously held by Roy Emerson.
Sampras may be lightly wounded after failing to land a second straight Queen's title, but six titles in the past seven years at the All-England Club, and an untouchable 85-15 career mark on grass, tell their own story.
With longtime rival Andre Agassi's form and fitness in some doubt, and with Hewitt nursing an ankle problem which forced his withdrawal in Rosmalen,
Sampras insists anyone wanting to lay claim to his crown will snatch it away, metaphorically speaking, over his dead body.
The 28-year-old has won at least one Grand Slam a year for the past seven years.
"I feel everything is in place, I'm where I want to be and I'm feeling confident," said Sampras despite his defeat by Hewitt, who now lurks tantalizingly in his quarter of the Wimbledon draw.
It brought a fourth title of the year and sent out a clear warning that the Aussie is ready to storm the Wimbledon citadel and bag his first Grand Slam title.
Hewitt had to forego a crack at the Rosmalen title in the Netherlands after a recurrence of an old ankle problem on Tuesday forced his precautionary withdrawal.
AGASSI NEEDS TO ELIMINATE THE DOUBTS
Las Vegan Andre Agassi will always retain a soft spot for Wimbledon's carefully-manicured lawns having won his first Grand Slam crown at the All England Club in 1992.
Yet the former world number one comes into this year's tournament on the back of such a poor run that one may think that the athlete's psychological age barrier of 30 has a bearing on Agassi's current mood. Along with Sampras, he must surely still be classed as a hot tip if he can find the desire to flick his talent switch in time.
Agassi's clay season was hugely disappointing with an early defeat in the Rome Masters Series by Dominik Hrbaty preceding a no-show in Hamburg which won him few friends, and affected his lead-in to Roland Garros, where he promptly slid out in the second round, cursed by blisters, to Karol Kucera.
The second seed's Wimbledon preparations have also suffered a huge setback with a back spasm forcing him out of Queen's prematurely last Thursday while playing Italian Gianluca Pozzi.
Like Sampras, Agassi has the huge advantage over the vast majority of his rivals of knowing just what it takes to win Wimbledon.
That factor, coupled with low expectations given recent form, can reduce the pressure to Agassi's advantage.
As he explained during his brief sojourn in Paris: "You have the luxury of knowing you've won this thing -- that kind of helps you" - (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)