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Kafelnikov Survives In Paris


Trying to show he's worthy of the No. 1 ranking, Yevgeny Kafelnikov barely made it out of the first round on opening day at the French Open.

In a match between former French Open champions, Kafelnikov edged Michael Chang today 6-2, 5-7, 6-0, 7-6 (10-8) on the clay at Roland Garros.

Andre Agassi started sluggishly against Franco Squillari of Argentina but won 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-3. Agassi blew a kiss to his fans after closing the match with three straight aces.

"The motivation is there, no question," said Agassi, seeded 13th.

He said his injured shoulder held up "pretty well." He next faces France's Arnaud Clement, who upset countryman Cedric Pioline 3-6, 3-6, 7-6 (10-8), 6-4, 6-3. Pioline, who reached the semifinals last year, failed on two match points in the third set.

Carlos Moya, admittedly nervous about defending his title, also had a rough time, beating Markus Hipfl of Austria 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Goran Ivanisevic became the first seeded player to fall, losing to Hicham Arazi of Morocco, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 6-1.

On the women's side, Martina Hingis, sisters Venus and Serena Williams and defending champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario all won easily.

Kafelnikov, a French champion in 1996, has had a tough year since winning the Australian Open in January, winning only one tournament since and repeatedly losing in the first round.

"I've had my ups and downs," he said. "But I feel like my game is coming back now. I'd like to win once again."

Chang, who won the French in 1989 at 17, split the first two sets with Kafelnikov. Then the Russian cruised through the third 6-0. In the fourth, he had a match point at 5-3 and appeared to hit a winner but the shot was called out.

He double faulted and lost the game on the next point. At 6-5, he had another match point and another contested call. The set went to a tiebreaker, which Kafelnikov won 10-8.

Moya, seeded No. 4, played poorly in the first two sets, having trouble staying within the lines. Early in the fourth, Hipfl, ranked No. 92, began cramping. Moya, despite being down a break in the set, soon gained control.

"I never gave up and I had to fight a lot to win," Moya said. "The important thing is, I won."

Ivanisevic has had bad luck on the red clay in Paris. He lost last year in the first round as well, but didn't seem too upset after this latest loss.

"I played the tennis I was supposed to play," Ivanisevic said. "I lost, but there's nothing more to say."

Top-seeded Hingis breezed by Amanda Hopmans of the Netherlands 6-1, 6-4. Like Moya, Hingis said she was "always a bit nervous at the start of a Grand Slam."

She is headed for a second-round meeting with Amelie Mauresmo of France, whom she defeated in the Australian Open final this year after a flap about Mauresmo's sexual orientation.

Mauresmo, who is gay, defeaed American Tara Snyder 6-3, 6-3. She said what happened with Hingis will give her "more motivation to win. And I will have the public behind me."

Hingis said: "It's definitely going to be a good match. It's going to be like a soccer match, like last time we played."

Mauresmo beat Hingis at an indoor tournament in Paris in February.

Fifth-seeded Venus Williams coasted past Alex Fusai of France 6-1, 6-1, and Serena Williams beat Laurence Curtois of Belgium 6-4, 6-0.

Sanchez Vicario began defense of her title, downing Mirjana Lucic of Croatia 6-2, 6-2.

In other matches, No. 5 Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands downed American Jan-Michael Gambill 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-2.

No. 9 Marcelo Rios of Chile won on his favorite surface, beating Axel Pretzsch of Germany 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.

Britain's Greg Rusedski, seeded 12th, beat David Prinosil of Germany, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7-4), 6-4. Rusedski, a serve-and-volleyer, has said that he has as much chance of winning the French as seeing a UFO land.

Marat Safin of Russia, who emerged as a force at last year's French Open, defeated Jan Kroslak of Slovakia 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.

No. 4 Jana Novotna beat Ludmila Cervanova of Slovakia 6-2, 7-6 (7-4). American Mary Joe Fernandez defeated Alexia Dechaume-Balleret of France, 6-3, 6-2.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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