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Humphries has a long climb

Scott Humphries has been on the ATP Tour for nearly two years, but it hasn't taken him long to discover the obvious: the pro tour is nothing like college.

Humphries was quite the rage on the junior and college circuits. While living and training in Tampa, he won the Wimbledon Junior title, then starred at Stanford before leaving after just one season.

But, as with most athletes who leave college early for the pros, it is taking Humphries a while to find his way. After getting to No.

260 in the rankings late last season, he has slipped to No.

410, mostly because of inactivity.

He injured his elbow late last year and hadn't played until getting into the Lipton Championships qualifying rounds last week (he was eliminated before reaching the main draw).

With more fitness training under Saddlebrook's Mike Nishihara, who also trains Pete Sampras and Jennifer Capriati, Humphries hopes to work back up the ladder.

"It's a tough road out there," Humphries said during a break from his training. "I've had a lot of close matches that if I'd won, I'd be right in there. It's not that far off."

STAT OF THE WEEK: Michael Chang, who was eliminated in the third round at the Lipton, has reached the quarterfinals there only once since he won the title in 1992.

SISTER, SISTER: When teen phenom Venus Williams was asked if she and fellow 16-year-old Martina Hingis would be battling for the No. 1 ranking in the future, Williams offered another name as her potential chief rival.

"I think it will be my sister (Serena, 14) and I fighting to be the two best players in the world," Williams said.

MORE VENUS: Williams is scheduled to play in Amelia Island, April 7-13, then make her Grand Slam debut at the French Open, followed by Wimbledon.

Let's hope she is prepared for the British tabloids, who may have a field day because she doesn't celebrate her birthday due to religious reasons and once had Los Angeles gang members as friends.

DID YOU KNOW?: The men's locker room at the Lipton Championships has been dedicated to the late Tim Gullikson, Sampras' former coach.

A plaque hung inside the room reads: "To Tim, who treated a locker room as his living room on the road _ a place to meet and greet friends, offer moral support to, and enjoy the camaraderie of, his fellow tennis players."

Said Gullickson's wife, Rosemary, who attended the ceremonies Saturday with Sampras: "I know he'd love this."

THAT'S MY DAD: Guess who showed up uninvited at the joint tour awards last week in Miami?

Jim Pierce.

Seems Pierce finagled a ticket and went to see his daughter, Mary.

She promptly excused herself to go to the ladies' room, then gave dear old dad the slip. When Pierce spotted her again, she was flanked by bodyguards.

By the way, Jim Pierce is sort of coaching Vince Spadea. However, WTA TOUR officials, who have banned him indefinitely, won't allow him to attend events like Lipton where the men and women play jointly. He showed up for one of Spadea's practice sessions last week and was asked to leave.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: This one comes from Andre Agassi, who was asked if he underestimated how tough it would be to end his slump, which has reached five straight defeats.

"I haven't anticipated it being an easy road, by any means. I certainly don't think it's going to get any easier. But I've got to start somewhere."

Top 10

ATP LEADERS: 1. Pete Sampras, 2. Thomas Muster, 3. Michael Chang, 4. Yevgeny Kafelnikov, 5. Goran Ivanisevic, 6. Richard Krajicek, 7. Thomas Enqvist, 8. Carlos Moya, 9. Marcelo Rios, 10. Wayne Ferreira.

WTA LEADERS: 1. Steffi Graf, 2. Martina Hingis, 3. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 4. Jana Novotna, 5. Monica Seles, 6. Conchita Martinez, 7. Lindsay Davenport, 8. Anke Huber, 9. Irina Spirlea, 10. Iva Majoli.

_ Information from other news sources was used in this report.

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