Srichaphan takes centre court victory

Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan, who burst suddenly into tennis' upper ranks last year, started center court action at the Australian Open on Monday with power a

updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan, who burst suddenly into tennis' upper ranks last year, started center court action at the Australian Open on Monday with power and precision. The 11th-seeded, Paradorn, who improved his ranking by 110 places in 2002, beat Jurgen Melzer 7-5, 6-4, 1-6, 6-0. Paradorn bowed Thai-style, with folded hands, to the crowd in Rod Laver Arena after forcing repeated errors by Melzer in the final set and watching a forehand volley by the Austrian sail long on the second match point. The honour of starting play in the main stadium went to Paradorn after a year in which he won two titles and scored victories over Andre Agassi – at Wimbledon, Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin. He warmed up for the Open by winning the Indian Open in Madras earlier this month in India. Paradorn's best result at past Australian Opens was reaching the second round in 2000. Against Melzer, he placed his serves effectively, kept the Austrian off balance with a crisp backhand and generally controlled play from the baseline. Costa wins tough match French Open champion Albert Costa needed more than three hours for a 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (5) victory over German veteran David Prinosil, who had to qualify for this tournament. Costa, seeded eighth, reached the top 10 for the first time last year despite skipping Wimbledon to concentrate on romance. He married longtime girlfriend Cristina Ventura five days after winning at Roland Garros. Wayne Ferreira, playing in his 50th Grand Slam tournament, ousted 26th-seeded Tommy Robredo 5-7, 6-0, 6-3, 6-4. Kournikova advances In the women's draw, No 21 Ai Sugiyama of Japan overcame Indonesia's Angelique Widjaja 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. No 5 Justine Henin-Hardenne, a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, defeated 17-year-old Swiss player Myriam Casanova 6-3, 6-4. Anna Kournikova, unseeded after a year in which she lost in the first round at all four Grand Slams, defeated Slovakia's Henrieta Nagyova 6-1, 6-2. She now faces Henin-Hardenne in the second round on Wednesday. Serena slam For Serena Williams, just starting the Australian Open is an improvement from last year. Williams twisted her right ankle chasing a drop shot in a warm up tournament in Sydney. When she recovered, she was just about invincible, winning the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open and moving up to No. 1 in the rankings. In the two weeks starting Monday, she is trying for a "Serena Slam" as reigning champion of all four major tournaments. The last woman to do that was Steffi Graf, who added the 1994 Australian title to her victories in the other majors in 1993. Graf also is one of only three women with a true Grand Slam. She did that in 1988, following Maureen Connolly in 1953 and Margaret Court in 1970. Serena wants to be the fourth. "I want to be undefeated in 2003", she said. That probably would mean more victories against older sister Venus, the runner-up to Serena at three Grand Slam events in 2002. If they meet in Australia, it only would be in the final because Venus - who has four major titles to her credit - is seeded second. Neither sister has reached an Australian Open final. Serena's best result was reaching the quarterfinals in 2001. Venus reached the semifinals that year. After playing well in the United States' victory in the Hopman Cup, Serena skipped this year's Sydney tournament. Injury worries Sampras, who leads the list with 14 Grand Slam titles, is skipping the Australian Open. Hewitt, meanwhile, is trying to become the first Australian winner of the country's major since Mark Edmondson in 1976. Last year, weakened by chicken pox, he lost in the first round. "I feel sort of fine with that pressure, that expectation of sitting up there and being the No. 1 Australian. I don't have too many problems with that," he said. Last year's runner-up Safin, seeded third, hurt his right shoulder in Sydney but is expected to be in shape for the Open. Defending champion Thomas Johansson is out with a knee injury. Also among the missing are No 9-ranked Tim Henman and fellow Briton Greg Rusedski; No 11 Tommy Haas; and Chile's Marcelo Rios, runner-up in 1998. (AP)