Sampras, Agassi Storm Through

Defending champion Pete Sampras resumed normal service at Wimbledon on Monday, crushing Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman 6-3 6-2 7-5 to reach the quarterfinals.

Andre Agassi — second seed and last year’s runner-up -— stayed on track to meet him in Sunday’s final, beating Germany’s David Prinosil in equally convincing fashion 6-4 6-3 6-3.

In Wednesday’s quarters, Agassi will face 10th seed Mark Philippoussis after the Australian extinguished hopes of a home victory by beating eighth seed Tim Henman 6-1 5-7 6-7 6-3 6-4.

Sampras is yet to meet a seed in four rounds and could well make it to the final after playing only unseeded players.

Not since John McEnroe 19 years ago has a men’s champion played a seed for the first time in the final.

Sampras’s next opponent is fellow American Jan-Michael Gambill who beat Thomas Enqvist of Sweden, the last seed left in Sampras’s half of the draw, 7-6 6-3 6-3 6-4.

A painful leg injury had threatened the American’s bid for a seventh title in eight years last week, but it was not the wounded bear of Saturday but the Sampras of old who prowled Centre Court against Bjorkman.

Trademark Jumps

The top seed crashed down 17 aces, pulverised the ball on both sides of the court and showed off his trademark jumps — a sure sign Sampras’s game has returned to near 100 percent efficiency — to smash anything high and loose.

“I felt better about the way I played today. I had more energy,” Sampras said afterward. “The injury is sore, but it’s OK and I’m going to go out there and try my best under the circumstances.”

Top women’s seed Martina Hingis set up a mouth-watering quarterfinal against Venus Williams after both won in straight sets and Serena, the younger Williams sister, gave away just two games as she thrashed Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand 6-1 6-1.

U.S. Open champion Serena now plays fellow American Lisa Raymond who beat Olga Barabanschikova of Belarus 6-4 6-2.

The 18-year-old has lost just 11 games in four matches and, along with her sister and Hingis, has yet to lose a set.

Defending women’s champion Lindsay Davenport swept past fellow American Jennifer Capriati 6-3 6-3 on centre court and she now plays Monica Seles who defeated her old rival Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-3 6-4 in their first meeting on grass.

Hingis beat 11th seed Anke Huber for the 10th time in succession, 6-1 6-2. “I was playing well, just kept the pressure on her all the time,” Hingis said. “I’m looking forward to it (playing Venus), it is now the tournament begins.”

Venus went on a mental “walkabout” when leading 5-1 in the second set and with three matchpoints to her credit.

Clawed Way Back

She let Belgium’s Sabine Appelmans claw her way back into the match before eventually closing out a 6-4 6-4 win.

“Yeah, it is really annoying. But I can raise the level of my game. I just have to get my mind there,” Williams said.

“There is no way these girls should be competing like that against me in these sets unless of course I let them.”

Hingis has never beaten both sisters in one tournament and the way Serena is playing, she will find it difficult here.

“I’m ready to play Venus or Hingis or whoever it will be,” said Serena. “I think I’m definitely playing better here than I was at the [U.S.] Open.”

Sampras suffered from acute tendinitis after beating Karol Kucera on Wednesday and lost the first set against Justin Gimelstob in abject fashion on Saturday.

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