Serena, Agassi sail through; Federer out

Serena Williams began her bid for a 5th consecutive Grand Slam title by beating Barbara Rittner 6-2, 6-1 on Monday in the French Open.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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American stars Serena Williams and Andre Agassi enjoyed comfortable wins at the French Open Monday, but Swiss star Roger Federer was upset by Peru's unseeded Luis Horna. For Horna, a former juniors runner-up at Roland Garros, it was his first win at a Grand Slam. He took just over two hours to beat fifth-seeded Federer 7-6 (6), 6-2, 7-6 (3). "It's the most wonderful feeling in the world," Horna said. Federer, despite three titles this year, could not come to terms with the Peruvian's aggressive groundstrokes. "I've been working hard for several weeks and was taking risks out there," Horna said. Federer, also a first-round loser last year, committed 82 unforced errors and appeared lackluster in the closing moments of the deciding set's tiebreaker. "It's a big disappointment," Federer said. "Very sad to leave so early. I should have played better." Williams, first onto the court in late-morning sunshine, began her bid for a fifth consecutive Grand Slam title Monday by beating Germany's Barbara Rittner 6-2, 6-1. Agassi, the French Open champion in 1999, stuttered at the end of what was otherwise a routine 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 win over Slovakia's unseeded Karol Beck. "I'm here because I believe I can win," said Agassi, at 33 the oldest player in the men's draw. "I've still got a chance." Serving for the match at 40-0, Agassi double-faulted twice and then hit a forehand long _ but regained his composure to set up a second round match against 19-year-old Mario Ancic of Croatia. Ancic progresses as Chile's Marcelo Rios retired suffering a shoulder injury when trailing 1-6, 0-1. In other women's play, No. 4 Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium beat Austria's Patricia Wartusch 6-3, 7-5, while France's Mauresmo, seeded fifth, toppled countrywoman Virginie Razzano by the same score. "The first round in the French Open is never easy, I knew I was going to be tense," Henin-Hardenne said, referring to last year's first round loss to Hungary's Aniko Kapros. "The pressure for me is greater in France because we're close to Belgium, than it is in the US Open or Australia," she added. 2000 champion Mary Pierce of France lost to Argentina's Clarisa Fernandez, a semifinalist last year, 6-2, 6-3. It was Pierce's first opening round loss at Roland Garros since making her debut in 1990. Meanwhile, Williams' win was her 29th in a row at a major tournament - a streak she began at Roland Garros a year ago. She's trying to become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988-89 to win five straight Slam titles. "I think players generally believe that I'm the player to beat in any tournament, especially the Slams, because I like to kick it up to a new level," Williams said. "This is what I play tennis for mostly - to be remembered." Williams looked nervous at the start, even with the stands mostly empty on a warm, sunny morning. In the first three games she over-hit several volleys and committed 10 unforced errors. When she blew an easy overhead in the next game, Williams slumped over with a rueful smile. She soon settled down, won eight games in a row and closed out the victory in 54 minutes. "You always have the feeling like she can put another gear in, and then that's it," Rittner said. "She's very strong. It makes you feel like you have no influence on the game." Watching from the stands was third-seeded Venus Williams, who warmed up her sister 90 minutes before the match on the same court where they played last year's final. "It was really fun to be back out where all the magic began for me last year," Serena said. Venus, who has lost the past four major finals to Serena, plays her opening match Tuesday against Samantha Reeves. Belgium's Kim Clijsters, seeded second, will meet America's Amy Frazier. There was another upset in the men's, where No. 10-seeded Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand lost to Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty 6-4, 3-6, 6-0, 7-5. However, Spain's Carlos Moya, the 1998 champion, beat Italy's Filippo Volandri 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-2, 6-3; while 1996 winner Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia cruised to a three-set win over France's Julien Boutter. Argentina's No. 7-seeded Guillermo Coria, considered a big threat this year, beat Brazil's Andre Sa - also in straight sets. Among the other men who advanced to the second round were, No. 11 Rainer Schuettler of Germany, No. 26 Xavier Malisse of Belgium and Morocco's Younes El Aynaoui, seeded 23rd. Defending men's champion Albert Costa opens Tuesday against lucky loser Sergio Roitman. (AP)