Tennis: Graf gains little satisfaction

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The Independent Online
The women's top seed at the Australian Open, Steffi Graf, failed to get the first-round warm-up she was hoping for yesterday. Her Slovak opponent, Janette Husarova, collapsed on court and forfeited with a knee injury 22 minutes into their match, when the German led 5-1.

The delay in treating Husarova prompted Graf to call for an increase in the number of physiotherapists on duty at major events.

"It did take a while for someone to come out," Graf said. "Another physiotherapist would be helpful at the beginning of a big tournament like this."

Graf took matters into her own hands by taking a handful of ice cubes to help treat Husarova's injury. Husarova, a 22-year-old from Bratislava, had been trying to change direction to play a volley when her knee buckled under the strain.

"The physios are extremely busy in there [the dressing- rooms] and injuries are occurring a lot more," said Graf, who is chasing her fifth title here after missing the last two Australian Opens because of injury.

Two women's seeds were eliminated on the first day. The 11th seed, Judith Wiesner of Austria, lost to the Romanian Ruxandra Dragomir 4-6, 6-3, 10-8.

The unseeded 1995 champion, Mary Pierce of France, 22 tomorrow and on the comeback trail after two years of injury problems, beat the Russian 13th seed, Elena Likhovtseva 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 although she squandered four match points in a serious wobble towards the finish.

"I'm just working hard every day, I feel I'm getting better and better and I don't think I have anything to prove to myself or anybody," Pierce said after her 2hr 5min victory.

The third seed, Conchita Martinez of Spain, opened her campaign with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Miriam Oremans, of the Netherlands.