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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sampras Shows

PARIS -- World No. 1 Pete Sampras enjoyed a perfect start to his latest French Open quest with a first round performance which dispelled any complacency among his specialist clay-court rivals.


Sampras, the top seed, brushed aside the potentially awkward local challenge of Fabrice Santoro on Monday 6-3, 7-5, 6-1 and showed sufficient authority to suggest he could yet collect the only Grand Slam title he has never won.


Santoro has beaten recent French champions Thomas Muster and Sergi Bruguera this year, but was never allowed into his stride by the American who scarcely looked like a man without a prior win on his least favorite surface this year.


On a glorious day at Roland Garros, there were also encouraging early victories for defending champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov, a straight sets winner over Martin Damm of the Czech Republic, and in-form Spaniard Alex Corretja.


The eighth seed beat Moroccan Karim Alami 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 to launch what is expected to be a strong Spanish challenge but, among the early starters, it was Sampras who provided most food for thought.


Back on court after withdrawing from last week's World Team Cup with a thigh injury, the reigning U.S. and Australian Open champion might have wished for an easier start than a center court match against the 57th-ranked Santoro, a semifinalist in Monte Carlo and Prague inside the last month.


The size of the crowd indicated what French spectators thought might happen, but once Sampras had taken the first set in 32 minutes, he grew steadily in confidence and gave his opponent little room for maneuver.


The only real wobble came in the eighth game when a nifty backhand gave Santoro a break point for 5-3 but his failure to take advantage cost him dear.


Kafelnikov, who has missed three months of the year with a broken finger, also expressed cautious optimism after his 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 success against Damm.


In the women's singles, three-time French champion Monica Seles beat Japan's Miho Saeki 6-0, 6-3 while Spain's Conchita Martinez defeated Emilie Loit 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.


The day's most dazzling debut belonged to 16-year-old American Venus Williams, whose shimmering silver tennis dress and strings of white beads in her hair ensured she stood out from the crowd.


When she lost the second set tie-break to Japan's Naoko Sawamatsu, however, it seemed as though Venus might be making only a brief appearance but she dug in to win 6-2, 6-7, 7-5 in two hours 37 minutes.