For Stich, 'Bad Day' Is Constant

DUSSELDORF, Germany -- Michael Stich's run-up to next week's French Open was frustrated by a defeat at the hands of Russian Alexander Volkov at the World Team Cup which clearly annoyed the German world No. 2. "I did everything wrong you can do on a tennis court. I played crap," Stich said bluntly after a 6-4, 7-6 defeat on Thursday that set the Russians on their way to victory in the blue group round-robin clash. "I am pissed off," Stich said. "I served badly, I hit the ball badly. I should not have lost against him. It was a bad day." Stich has been through a difficult time as he approaches the prestigious clay-court grand slam event in Paris. He was forced to pull out of the Italian Open last week with a back injury and was swept aside by young Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov on his home soil in Hamburg 12 days ago. Although the German former Wimbledon champion said he had felt no pain from his back, he looked completely out of touch on the slow clay surface against Volkov, ranked 22nd in the world. Stich, 25, had won five of their previous six encounters and last lost to the Russian back in 1989. "He is probably a bit disappointed because he lost to a Russian player before and I am also a Russian," Volkov said. "Maybe because he beat me when we played so many times he was a bit lazy on court." The Russians clinched a 2-0 winning lead in the best-of-three rubbers tie when Andrei Chesnokov beat Bernd Karbacher 6-2, 6-2 in the second singles. Stich now faces a formidable clash with world No. 1 Pete Sampras in Germany's last group match on Saturday. Sampras showed why he is ranked No. 1 in the world by coming back from 4-1 down in the second set to beat Cedric Pioline 6-3, 7-6 in the Americans' clash with France, also in the blue group. Sampras has looked sharp and determined on his least favorite surface after his triumph at the Italian Open and looks likely to become the first man in 25 years to win four consecutive grand slams. Despite Sampras's victory, the defending champions lost the tie after Michael Chang was beaten 6-4, 7-6 by Arnaud Boetsch and Boetsch teamed up with Olivier Delaitre to beat Patrick McEnroe and Richey Reneberg 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in the deciding doubles. The result left the issue wide open in the blue group, all four teams having won one match. Saturday's final round of ties will decide who goes through as group winners to Sunday's final.