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TENNIS

Sampras Will Skip Scottsdale

February 22, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

The already murky tennis future of Pete Sampras grew more uncertain Friday when he withdrew from the Franklin Templeton Classic in Scottsdale, Ariz., which starts March 3.

And just who received this unpleasant bit of news? Scottsdale tournament director Gus Sampras, Pete's older brother.

"He's not ready," Gus Sampras told The Times. "He's practicing and training, still doing all of those things. When he's ready to return, he'll be ready. He doesn't feel he's at the level where he can give it his all."

Gus said Pete did not want to talk about the situation with the media now. Sampras' decision to withdraw was not surprising. He pulled out of his last scheduled event in San Jose earlier this month, and Scottsdale officials had approached Lleyton Hewitt, securing his availability should Sampras miss the tournament.

That awareness proved fortuitous when the top-ranked Australian accepted a wild-card spot Friday. So the tournament could end up with a showdown between No. 1 Hewitt and second-ranked and Australian Open champion Andre Agassi.

Sampras, 31, has not played a match since Sept. 8 in New York when he won the U.S. Open title, beating Agassi in the final. It was his 14th Grand Slam singles title. In mid-December, he said he would be back, in no uncertain terms. Resuming at a major event such as Indian Wells or Miami without a warmup event would appear to be a difficult task, as would beginning on the European clay-court circuit in April or May.

So, when will Sampras return? Soon? At all?

"I don't know," Gus Sampras said.

Gus said his brother is "leaving the door open" about returning. The last thing he would want to do is announce his retirement and then change his mind and go back on the decision, Gus said.

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