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Kafelnikov KO'd At French

Yevgeny Kafelnikov was ousted from the French Open Wednesday, doing little to show he is worthy of the No. 1 ranking he gained just three weeks ago.

The top-seeded Russian was whistled off the court by the Roland Garros fans after losing 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 to Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia in the second round.

Andre Agassi was luckier but also had a hard time. Facing an inspired Frenchman playing his best, Agassi held on after losing two sets to beat Arnaud Clement 6-2, 4-6, 2-6, 7-5, 6-0.

Agassi, seeded 13th, won an exhausting fourth set that included two games in which he failed to convert multiple break points. He then surged through the final set against a spent opponent.

Usually a crowd favorite in Paris, Agassi had to defer this time to a player ranked 82nd in the world. The fans chanted "Arnaud! Arnaud!" through much of the match.

The men's field lost another prominent player when No. 5 Richard Krajicek was routed 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 by Vince Spadea.

"When my game is ready, I feel like I can beat anyone in the world," Spadea said.

Kafelnikov, a former French Open champion, will lose his top ranking if Pete Sampras or Patrick Rafter reaches the quarterfinals. This was the second straight year he lost in the second round in Paris.

"When I'm not 100 percent, it's pretty obvious that I'm going to have a tough day at the office," he said.

"Ask any No. 1 how hard it is to be on the top of the world," he added.

Krajicek had a chance of reaching the No. 1 ranking in this tournament. Tim Henman also can move into the top spot but, like Krajicek, he is not at his best on clay.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov's second-round loss takes just 107 minutes.
Yevgeny Kafelnikov's second-round loss takes just 107 minutes. (AP)

Hrbaty, unseeded and ranked 31st in the world, has beaten Kafelnikov three times this year.

Kafelninkov has played poorly since January, when he won the Australian Open, capturing only one title since. He gained the No. 1 ranking on May 3 despite losing six consecutive matches.

"It's not psychological," Kafelnikov said. "It's that I'm No. 1 in the world, and anytime I step on the court, it seems they are playing with a lot of desire."

Among the women, sisters Venus and Serena Williams enjoyed a good family day.

No. 5 Venus went to a tiebreaker in the first set against Natasha Zvereva of Belarus, then shut her out in the second, winning 7-6 (7-3), 6-0. She is delighted that some expect her to win.

"I'm ready!" she said, beaming.

No. 10 Serena, had an easy time as well, beating Mariana Diaz Oliva of Argentina 6-3, 6-4

No. 4 Jana Novotna downed Adriana Gersi of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-2.

Winning on the men's side were, No. 7 Henman, No. 9 Marcelo Rios and unseeded Russian Marat Safin, who always seems to do well at Roland Garros.

Kafelnikov committed a string of unforced errors in the final game, typical of the entire match.

Serving with the advantage at 4-5, he had a chance to even the set. But he double faulted to bring the score to deuce. Then he netted a forehand to set up match point for Hrbaty. Finally, his backhand return went way off the court.

In all, Kafelnikov committed 46 errors, including eight double faults.

"This just goes to show that anyone can beat anyone," Kafelnikov said. But he added: "I'm sure I can win here again."

His loss came after a struggle in the previous round against Michael Chang, another former French Open winner, when he blew a 5-2 fourth-set lead and three match points before salvaging it in the tiebreaker.

Also advancing was the women's fourth-seeded player, Jana Novotna, who beat Adriana Gersi of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-2.

On Tuesday, Sampras barely made it out of the first round, winning a five-setter against Juan Antonio Marin of Costa Rica, who had never won a match in a major tournament.

"Welcome to Paris, I guess," he said.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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