Pete Sampras returned to his favorite stage, Centre Court at Wimbledon, and looked right at home.
Seeking a sixth Wimbledon title and a record-tying 12th Grand Slam championship, Sampras began his bid by beating Scott Draper 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 today.
The top-ranked Sampras won the first three games, never faced a break point and eliminated the 63rd-ranked Australian in 88 minutes.
Â"In your first match out, you feel a little bit vulnerable because you've got the early-round jitters,Â" Sampras said. Â"I played quite well and couldn't ask for a better start.Â"
The victory was Sampras' 15th in a row at the All England Club, where his record since 1993 is 40-1.
In women's play, Steffi Graf beat Ludmila Cervanova 6-1, 6-4. Graf, who capped a career comeback by winning the French Open this month, is bidding for her eighth Wimbledon title.
Monica Seles, seeking the only Grand Slam title to elude her, defeated Cristina Torrens-Valero 6-3, 6-1. Venus Williams beat Miriam Oremans 6-1, 7-5.
Â"It was highly significant for me to go out there and play good tennis,Â" Williams said.
Anna Kournikova survived a dangerous first-round opponent, defeating Barbara Schwartz 7-6 (7-2), 4-6, 6-2. Schwartz upset Williams in the fourth round at the French Open three weeks ago.
Kournikova, seeded 17th, reached the semifinals in her only previous appearance at Wimbledon two years ago.
Also advancing was Mark Philippoussis, a quarterfinalist last year, who slammed 28 aces and beat Xavier Malisse 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
Philippoussis, seeded seventh, started slowly and missed an easy overhead that cost him the first set. But after receiving a code violation for throwing his racket in the second set, Philippoussis regrouped and won in two hours, 22 minutes.
Jim Courier, a U.S. Davis Cup hero in England earlier this year, swept wild-card entry Barry Cowan 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
The 113th Wimbledon began with sunny skies and mild weather. Tennis' most prestigious tournament has been plagued by rain in recent years, but the forecast was good through Tuesday, with plenty of sunshine expected.
Play began simultaneously on 16 outer courts. Two hours later, in keeping with tradition for the defending men's champion, Sampras took Centre Court for the opening match there.
Â"Once I got out and started getting into the match, I felt like I was back home on that court,Â" Sampras said.
Sampras, who shook a long slump this month by winning at Queens for his first title of the year, served and moved well on the familiar Wimbledon grass. He closed the match with perhaps his slickest shot of the day, a backhand half-volley drop shot.
Â"I can do that sometimes,Â" he said.
Sampras hasn't won a Grand Slam since Wimbledon last year. He needs one more major title to match Roy Emerson's record.
Â"I've raised the bar so high over these past three r four years that I'm expected win every major I play,Â" Sampras said. Â"And I'm not going to.Â"
His foremost challengers include Andre Agassi, who plays his opening match Tuesday. Agassi will try to become the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year.
Â"It can happen,Â" said Agassi, seeded fourth. Â"I've stopped telling myself things can't be done.Â"
This could be Agassi's best shot at Wimbledon since he won the tournament for his first major title in 1992.
Â"Obviously he'd like to join Borg,Â" said Agassi's coach, Brad Gilbert. Â"That's incredible company. Hopefully, his performance in Paris will inspire him.Â"
London oddsmakers listed Agassi as a 16-1 choice. Those with lower odds included Sampras, Richard Krajicek, Patrick Rafter and two Brits, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski.
Among the women, Martina Hingis was the 6-4 favorite, followed by Graf, Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Seles and defending champion Jana Novotna.
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