Seldom has the tournament been launched with so much hype around one player, seldom has it ended in such an anti-climax.
A thumb injury, which forced Kournikova's withdrawal from Eastbourne last week, had not healed, and the women's number 12 seed would not be fit enough to play.
The disappointment was palpable - and not just among her army of fans, known as the Annamaniacs.
"A bleedin' tragedy", one photographer put it, as the most photogenic star since Gabriella Sabatini bowed out, and with her a hundred photo opportunities. The news was an early blight on the fortnight-long tournament. There were fears that the match, due to start at 5.30pm, could clash with England's World Cup game against Romania, but officials ruled out showing it on the giant screen in the Aorangi Park practice area, saying "The tennis must come first."
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