Tennis: Bruguera embarrassed

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SERGI BRUGUERA'S preparations for next week's Australian Open suffered a setback with an embarrassing defeat in the New South Wales Open in Sydney yesterday.

The Spanish clay-court specialist, the sixth seed, was beaten by Michael Tebbutt, an Australian qualifier ranked 870 in the world, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4. Tebbutt, a 22-year- old in the final six months of an economics degree course at North Arizona University, stunned Bruguera, who finished 1992 ranked No 16 in the world.

'I didn't have a game plan, I just went out there to try my best and I never expected to win,' Tebbutt said. 'I'm surprised I even got into this tournament, because the qualifying cut-off is 220 and I'm 870.'

Tebbutt's giant-killing act upstaged the first appearance of the tournament's main attraction, Gabriela Sabatini. The Argentinian world No 3 began the defence of her title with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Japan's Kimiko Date.

Sabatini said that she feels comfortable with her play. Her goals are to win another Grand Slam this year and to move ahead of Monica Seles and Steffi Graf, the world No 1 and No 2's respectively.

'I'm very happy,' she said. 'Mentally I feel very good. I feel I'm playing my best tennis. I think the level is very close between the top players.'

Mary Joe Fernandez, the third seed from the United States, withdrew with a virus but last year's Australian Open finalist plans to play doubles in the lead-up to next week's Grand Slam in Melbourne. Another casualty was Helena Sukova, the No 6 seed from Czechoslovakia, who was forced to retire in her match against Germany's Barbara Rittner. After fighting back from a set down, Sukova fell and injured her leg at 5-5 in the third set.

Jim Courier, of the United States, and Sweden's Stefan Edberg head the entries for the Rio Challenge exhibition tournament starting tomorrow at Memorial Drive, Adelaide. The six-man event features two round-robin groups, with the winner of each group advancing to the final. Courier faces the Australian, Todd Woodbridge, in his opening match while the Czech left-hander, Petr Korda, plays another American, Patrick McEnroe.