Pete Sampras moved closer to regaining his No. 1 ranking on Wednesday, getting a big assist from losses by Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Pat Rafter.
Sampras, ranked No. 3, defeated Todd Woodbridge in the Queen's Club tournament following yet another setback by No. 1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov. In Germany, No. 2 Rafter lost to Jan Siemerink in three sets in the Gerry Weber Open.
That means Sampras most likely will ascend to the top ranking with another victory at Queen's Club, a grass-court tuneup for Wimbledon. He next plays Australian qualifier Wayne Arthurs.
"I'm back on the green stuff which is a nice feeling," Sampras said. "For me it's a mental right now, trying to put what happened pretty much this whole year behind me."
Sampras struggled past Woodbridge 6-4, 6-7 (8-10), 6-4 in the second round.
Kafelnikov lost 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to Sargis Sargsian, an Armenian ranked 74th. Kafelnikov has failed to win his first match in seven of his last 10 tournaments.
Sampras was forced to come up with five big serves to pull out of trouble, trailing 0-40 at 1-1. He then double faulted, giving Woodbridge a break point to lead 5-4 and serve out for the match.
Sampras took the opening set with a break in the seventh game when Woodbridge double faulted. After a break of serve each in the second set, Sampras held match point at 8-7 in the tiebreaker but Woodbridge saved himself with a forehand volley. Sampras then double faulted to force the deciding set.
Sampras said he was glad to be back on grass, having an opportunity to turn around what has been an indifferent start to the year for him.
"I was in this position last year, struggling up to this point, and then at Wimbledon everything clicked," he said.
"But you can't rely on that every year. I need to go in there feeling good and winning matches because it always helps to have the other guys know I'm on top of my game."
Kafelnikov served 10 double faults in his loss. After breaking serve to lead 3-2 in the second set he dropped the next six games.
"I lost focus for a short period of time and basically that cost me the match," Kafelnikov said. "When I broke him in the fifth game of the second set I thought I had control of the match, but I played a loose game and that was enough for him to come back."
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