WASHINGTON -- No one has benefited more from Pete Sampras' absence at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic than qualifier Michael Tebbutt.
Tebbutt, the 145th-ranked player in the world, reached the quarterfinals yesterday by beating 69th-ranked Chuck Adams, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (10-8), in a wild match on Court 1 at the William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Center.
To face Adams, Tebbutt had to defeat Sampras' replacement, Mark Knowles.
"I feel lucky," Tebbutt said of not facing the No. 1-ranked Sampras, who pulled out of the tournament with an ankle injury. "I was disappointed at first because I wanted the opportunity to play him. I'm glad now that I didn't have to."
The 23-year-old Australian is making the second quarterfinal appearance of his career, but he will have a tough time getting to the semis. Tomorrow, Tebbutt has to face one of the hottest players on the ATP tour, David Wheaton.
Wheaton, who won the Hall of Championships at Newport, R.I., on July 10, is returning to the form that got him to the semifinals of Wimbledon in 1992, when he was ranked 12th in the world.
"I'm trying to not think about the rankings," said Wheaton, who has fallen to as low as No. 127 before winning in Newport two weeks ago. "I don't want to think of myself on some comeback trail or anything."
Wheaton defeated former No. 1 player Ivan Lendl yesterday after staving off three match points, two of them in the third-set tiebreaker, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10-8).
The big serving Minnesotan is in for a surprise when he faces Tebbutt, who uses a two-handed forehand and backhand and wields an equally wicked serve. Tebbutt's 43 aces this week are second to Wheaton's 46. The 6-foot-3 Sydney southpaw rattled off 21 aces yesterday against Adams, many coming in clutch situations. Tebbutt's 21st ace set up match point.
"Whenever I need it, it just comes to me," said Tebbutt.
Tebbutt almost came unglued during the third set, when a late line call allowed Adams to break back at 3-2. Tebbutt threw a ball in the direction of the line judge, and he slammed his racket down.
After the match, ATP supervisor Mark Darby fined Tebbutt $1,000. It is a price Tebbutt, with $40,074 in career earnings, cannot afford.
NOTES: In another notable match yesterday, Aaron Krickstein defeated former No. 1 Mats Wilander, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 7-6 (7-5). Rain conveniently halted play when Krickstein faced match point in the third set. Other winners included Stefan Edberg, Jason Stoltenberg, Thomas Enqvist and Byron Black.