INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Pete Sampras has a high toss, a high ranking and high expectations, but he also has a high arch.
"That's not a good foot for a tennis player," Sampras said.
At dusk Thursday in the Newsweek Champions Cup, Sampras lost by two sets and a sore foot to Alexander Volkov, who stepped all over the second-seeded player and won their third-round match in a walk, 7-5, 6-4.
For Sampras, it was a 90-minute lesson on what it feels like to play in pain. He managed to slug his way past Luiz Mattar in his opening match but didn't seem able to play his normal hard-charging game in his first tournament since straining ligaments in his right foot.
Even though Sampras didn't use his sore foot as an excuse, he couldn't deny that he has the kind of feet his toes would probably abandon if they could find another place to go.
"I was just a little bit off today," said Sampras, who served nine aces to go along with three double faults, but got in only 49% of his first serves.
Sampras thought he was rushing his serves, but Volkov had a different theory: "He nervous too much and he lost."
That losing feeling continued to be shared by many big names. As the quarterfinals begin today, seven of the top 10 seeded players are gone.
Sampras left without limping, but he clearly favored his right foot several times during the match. He did not second-guess himself about playing in spite of his injury.
"If I would have come here and not (practiced) like I wanted, I would have pulled out," he said. "But I was able to play on it and I think it was the right move."
Moving swiftly into the quarterfinals, top-seeded Jim Courier power-stroked past wild-card Todd Martin, 7-5, 6-2, bothered only by the lighted advertising panels on either side of the scoreboards on the court.
Courier asked the lights to be turned off, then turned off the lights for Martin.
Volkov served out the first set after scoring a key break at 5-5, then held his serve for 3-3 after falling behind in the second set, 0-30. This was a marked improvement over Volkov's match with Sampras last year in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, when the 26-year-old from Kaliningrad, Russia, went out, 6-4, 6-1, 6-0.
Michael Chang's day was full. This is his first tournament since he turned 21, so he was sort of worried when he had to call for the trainer.
"You get a back strain, you wonder if it's because of old age," Chang said.
Chang needed 2 hours 39 minutes to defeat Mal Washington, 6-7 (7-4), 6-3, 6-1, and move a step closer toward defending his year-old title at Hyatt Grand Champions.
Chang's suddenly supersonic serve has vaulted him into a position of unexpected prominence this week. His top serve of 119 m.p.h. put him in the top 10 in speed. In the meantime, Michael is in the quarterfinals, which isn't a first. Last year, he got to the finals and beat Andrei Chesnokov in straight sets, then followed it up the next week by defeating Alberto Mancini in the final of the Lipton International Players Championship.
So for Chang, this is sort of a crucial period, since he needs something close to a repeat performance to protect his No. 5 ranking.
"Surprisingly, I don't feel that much pressure," Chang said. "I don't know why. I'm actually pretty excited. For me, it's a good opportunity."
Chang made the most of what opportunities he had against Washington, thanks to a serve that produced four aces. Of course, Chang also had even double faults.
"If I'm going to go for serves a little bit more, that's going to happen," Chang said. "You know, like Goran and Pete Sampras."
Marc Rosset defeated Brad Gilbert, 6-4, 6-2, after Gilbert pulled a stomach muscle in the first set. Rosset meets Jim Courier in the quarterfinals. Rosset has won the last two meetings, at the Olympics and in the Davis Cup final. "I think Jim is playing much better playing for himself than if he is playing for his country," Rosset said. . . . The remaining U.S. Davis Cup team lost. In addition to Gilbert's defeat, Jim Grabb was beaten by Alberto Mancini and Richey Reneberg was beaten by Wayne Ferreira. . . . The annual IBM/ATP Tour Awards Gala will be held tonight at the Stouffer Esmeralda Resort. The event benefits the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS, Inc., as well as the Desert AIDS Project and the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR).