NEW YORK (AP) -- A bad year and bad luck conspired to leave four-time champion Pete Sampras with a daunting path to the U.S. Open final.
Sampras, assigned to the toughest quarter of the draw Wednesday, could face consecutive matches against Patrick Rafter, Andre Agassi and Marat Safin, all former champions.
Sampras, 30, hasn't won a tournament since Wimbledon last year. As a result, he's seeded 10th, which made him more susceptible to the luck of the draw.
The seeding is his lowest at the U.S. Open since he won the first of his four titles in 1990.
"Sampras has had a miserable year by his standards," U.S. Davis Cup captain Pat McEnroe said. "He's seeded where he deserves to be seeded, based on his play."
A first-time U.S. Open finalist is likely to emerge from the other half of the draw. Contenders include top-seeded Gustavo Kuerten, No. 7 Yevgeny Kafelnikov and rising American star Andy Roddick, who is seeded in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time at No. 18.
"Obviously, I think that I'm playing pretty well right now, and I just want to keep that up," Roddick said. "If I play well, I think I should have a good chance in most matches."
The Williams sisters, hoping to win the family's third consecutive U.S. Open title, face a potential prime-time showdown in the women's final Sept. 8.
No. 10 seed Serena Williams, the 1999 champion, was assigned to the toughest quarter of the women's draw. It also includes 1998 champ Lindsay Davenport, seeded third, and this year's Wimbledon runner-up, Justine Henin.
Defending champ Venus Williams, seeded fourth, finds herself with an easier path to the women's final, which will be played in prime time for the first time.
No. 2 Jennifer Capriati, who won the first two Grand Slam titles of her career this year at the Australian and French Open, could meet Venus Williams in the semifinals. Top-seeded Martina Hingis is in the other half of the draw.
The tournament doubled the number of seeded players this year to 32 men and 32 women, meaning fewer marquee early matchups. Venus Williams, Agassi and defending men's champion Safin open against qualifiers.
Sampras finds himself in the toughest quarter of the men's draw, which also includes No. 2 Agassi and No. 6 Rafter. At least two of those three players will be eliminated before the semifinals.
Also in that quarter is No. 13 Roger Federer, who upset Sampras at Wimbledon this year.
Sampras may be hard-pressed to reach the second week. His opening opponent is Frenchman Julien Boutter, a dangerous left-hander with a strong serve.
Potential men's quarterfinal matchups include Agassi against Rafter or Sampras; Kuerten against Kafelnikov; Safin against No. 8 Sebastien Grosjean; and No. 4 Lleyton Hewitt against No. 5 Juan Carlos Ferrero.
Possible quarterfinal matchups on the women's side include Venus Williams against No. 5 Kim Clijsters; Capriati against No. 8 Amelie Mauresmo; Hingis against No. 7 Monica Seles; and Davenport against No. 6 Henin.
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