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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Title Up for Grabs at U.S. Open

NEW YORK -- A trio of Americans -- one seeking to avoid a rare Grand Slam shutout, another aiming to end a seven-year major title drought, and a third basking in the golden glow of Olympic glory -- appear poised for a strong run at the U.S. Open title.


But after a Wimbledon fortnight that seemed to have been planned by Lewis Carroll and the Mad Hatter -- a Richard Krajicek-MaliVai Washington final? -- anything is possible during the toughest two weeks in tennis.


World No. 1 Pete Sampras, third-ranked Michael Chang and Olympic champion Andre Agassi all take summer hard-court titles into the Open.


With Goran Ivanisevic's history of New York misery and Thomas Muster's lack of hard-court success, Dutchman Krajicek, who picked off Sampras en route to his historic Wimbledon win, may be the one player with the confidence to keep an American from claiming the national title -- and he's picking Sampras.


"Sampras is still the favorite, he's on a different level," said Krajicek, who had enjoyed little Grand Slam joy before this year's topsy-turvy Wimbledon.


"I remember last year, he had a terrible summer coming into the Open and he just came here and won. He hasn't won a Grand Slam title this year so ... I think he will be very eager."


Sampras set a remarkable pace for himself in grabbing two of the four major titles in each of the past three years.


But this year he lost to Australian Mark Philippoussis in the third round of the Australian Open, fell to eventual champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia in the semifinals of the French and had his three-year Wimbledon reign halted by Krajicek in the quarter-finals.


Sampras missed the Olympics due to injury, but finally appeared to emerge from the emotional black cloud caused by the tragic death of close friend and mentor Tim Gullikson with his victory at last week's Indianapolis tournament.


That win could signal Sampras is back on course in his quest to equal his idol Rod Laver's total of 11 major singles titles by scooping up career number eight.


The first of his generation of American players to make a Grand Slam breakthrough, at 17, 1989 French Open winner Chang is still waiting for his second major title.


After finishing runner-up at last year's French Open and this year's Australian, Chang comes into the U.S. Open as the hottest player on the ATP Tour.


Ranked a career-high third in the world and seeded second at the Open, Chang won Washington and Los Angles and was runner-up in Cincinnati.


"I like to play in New York. The U.S. Open surface suits me even though I've not been able to crack through. However, every year is a new year," said Chang, who has fallen to the eventual champion at four of the last five U.S. Opens.


Agassi's career appeared to be in free-fall earlier this year with a slew of early exits.


But the 1994 U.S. Open champion and 1995 runner-up finally appears to have his balding head back on straight.


Agassi turned his year around with a gold medal performance in Atlanta that he called "the greatest accomplishment I've ever had in the sport."


Unless Krajicek can somehow pull off his second successive major title coup, this will almost surely mark the first year since 1991 that the Grand Slams go to four different players.


Toshiba Classic. Defending champion and second seed Conchita Martinez of Spain beat Nathalie Tauziat of France 6-3, 6-4 Thursday to advance to the semifinals of the $450,000 Toshiba Tennis Classic.


Fifth seed Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina turned back Sweden's Asa Carlsson 6-1, 7-5 while Katarina Studenikova surprised Slovakian compatriot and seventh seed Karina Habsudova 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, setting up a quarter-final clash with top-seeded Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain.


The du Maurier Open. Unseeded Patrick Rafter upset sixth-seeded American MaliVai Washington 6-2, 6-1.


Todd Woodbridge, who defeated Canadian Daniel Nestor 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-4), and Mark Philippoussis, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Bohdan Ulihrach of the Czech Republic, also advanced and will meet in Friday's quarter-finals.


Third-seeded Wayne Ferreira of South Africa defeated Tim Henman of Britain 6-4, 6-4 after a three-hour evening rain delay and fifth-seeded Thomas Enqvist of Sweden won his third-round match, eliminating Petr Korda of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4.


Ferreira and Enqvist play in a Friday night quarter-final.


Two Americans, seventh seed Todd Martin and unseeded Alex O'Brien, will meet Friday after winning matches Thursday. Martin overcame Cedric Pioline of France 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 and O'Brien beat Mikael Tillstrom of Sweden 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.


Hamlet Cup. Fifth-seeded Andrei Medvedev of Ukraine reached the quarterfinals by beating Jan Kroslak of Slovakia 6-3, 6-2 on Thursday.In other matches, Adrian Voinea of Romania beat qualifier Nir Welgreen of Israel 5-7, 6-0, 6-2; Thomas Johansson of Sweden eliminated Fernan Wibier of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-3; and Jonathan Stark beat Vincent Spadea 6-2, 6-7 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3). Wibier replaced second-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia, who was forced to withdraw Monday with a rib injury.