Halard-Decugis survives scare in Tokyo

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The Independent Online

First seed Julie Halard-Decugis of France got a scare today at the $970,000 Japan Open in Tokyo, rallying past unseeded local favorite Shinobu Asagoe 6-2 3-6 7-5 in an entertaining second-round match.

First seed Julie Halard-Decugis of France got a scare today at the $970,000 Japan Open in Tokyo, rallying past unseeded local favorite Shinobu Asagoe 6-2 3-6 7-5 in an entertaining second-round match.

The 30-year-old Frenchwoman, ranked 19th in the world, was luckier than men's fifth seed Michael Chang, who fell to unheralded fellow American Cecil Mamiit to become the day's biggest-name casualty.

Coming off a loss to Serena Williams in last week's final at the Toyota Princess Cup in Tokyo, Halard-Decugis seemed to be on her way to an easy win against the 24-year-old Asagoe after drawing a bye Tuesday.

The world No. 69 committed several unforced errors in the first set and seemed rattled. But encouraged by the sparse yet vocal crowd at Center Court, she upped the tempo of her game and wrong-footed Halard-Decugis with a number of accurate crosscourt strokes from the baseline.

An upset seemed to be in the making with the third set tied at 5-5 and Asagoe serving, but Halard-Decugis pulled out the final two games with some of her most creative shots - including a perfect lob that left her opponent stranded at the net.

"I'm extremely disappointed," said Asagoe, who was the highest-ranked of four Japanese woman competing in the singles' tournament. "If I had won I could have gotten close to the top 50, which is my goal."

Halard-Decugis was visibly relieved.

"I didn't focus long enough during the match and let Shinobu come back into the match," Halard-Decugis said. "It was a good fight until the end."

In the surprise of the day, Chang lost 5-7 4-6 to the unseeded Mamiit, whose repeated charges to the net forced the world no. 34 into making an uncharacteristic number of mistakes.

"I wasn't able to put away as many balls as I'd like today," Chang commented afterward.

He built an early lead with a patient baseline game, pushing the ball deep into the corners and breaking Mamiit in the sixth game to go up 4-2.

But the 24-year-old Los Angeles native came back to break Chang twice in the first set as the one-time world No. 2 seemed to lose his composure.

Chang was blanked in the decisive 12th game, losing the set with a wild return from a hard Mamiit serve.

Mamiit, currently ranked 130th in the world, was only 4-10 this year going into his match with Chang, who was making his 10th appearance in the Japan Open.

In other men's action Wednesday, top seed Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil wore down Chile's Nicolas Massu 7-6 (5) 6-0 in a match of big serves and booming strokes.

Back from a trip to the quarterfinals at the Sydney Olympics, the 24-year-old world no. 3 was comfortable simply trading shots from the baseline with Massu.

The 21-year-old Chilean gave as good as he got for most of the first set but appeared to tire in the second, when he was broken three times and struggled with his returns.

Third seed Mark Philippoussis of Australia showed off his own power game in an easy 6-2 7-5 victory over compatriot Wayne Authors.

Other second-round winners in the men's singles included sixth seed Byron Black of Zimbabwe, who defeated Daniel Elsner of Germany 6-2, 6-1.

Black's younger brother Wayne beat American Taylor Dent 6-4, 6-2. Dent was playing as a substitute for German second seed Nicholas Kiefer, who withdrew from the tournament with an injury to his right wrist.

In other women's singles action, second seed American Amy Frazier needed to prevail in two tiebreakers to down fellow countrywoman Corina Morariu 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3).

But three other seeded women were knocked out of the tournament, including no. 3 Kristina Brandi, who retired late in her match with Tara Snyder after complaining of dehydration.

Results from the $970,000 Japan Open tennis tournament at Ariake Colosseum (seedings in parenthesis):


Singles Second Round

Jonas Bjorkman (13), Sweden, def. Takao Suzuki, Japan, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1. Byron Black (6), Zimbabwe, def. Daniel Elsner, Germany, 6-2, 6-1. Harel Levy (15), Israel, def. Lee Hyung-taik, South Korea, 6-2, 6-4. Wayne Black, Zimbabwe, def. Taylor Dent, United States, 6-4, 6-2. Sjeng Schalken (12), Netherlands, def. Sergi Bruguera, Spain, 6-4, 6-2. Yoon Yong-il, South Korea, def. David Prinosil (14), Germany, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. Eric Taino, United States, def. Vincent Spadea, United States, 6-3, 7-5. Cecil Mamiit, United States, def. Michael Chang (5), United States, 7-5, 6-4. Gustavo Kuerten (1), Brazil, def. Nicolas Massu, Chile, 7-6 (5), 6-0. Hicham Arazi (8), Morocco, def. George Bastl, Switzerland, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. Karol Kucera (9), Slovakia, def. Leos Friedl, Czech Republic, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. Kalle Flygt, Sweden, def. Andre Sa, Brazil, 6-4, 6-2. Andrea Gaudenzi, Italy, def. Leander Paes, India, 6-3, 6-2. Mark Philippoussis (3), Australia, def. Wayne Arthurs, Australia, 6-2, 7-5.

Doubles First Round

Thomas Shimada, Japan, and Myles Wakefield, South Africa, def. Goichi Motomura and Takao Suzuki, Japan, 6-4, 6-2. Brent Haygarth, South Africa, and Harel Levy, Israel, def. Byron Black, Zimbabwe, and Johanthan Stark, United States (6), 6-4, 6-3. Paul Goldstein and Jim Thomas, United States, def. Devin Bowen and Jack Waite, United States, 6-2, 6-1. Sjeng Schalken, Netherlands, and Laurence Tieleman, Italy, def. Giorgio Galimberti, Italy, and Andrew Ilie, Australia, 6-4, 7-5. Christophe Rochus and Olivier Rochus, Belgium, def. Tomas Cibulec and Leos Friedl, Czech Republic (7), 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Petr Pala and Pavel Vizner, Czech Republic, def. Hicham Arazi, Morocco, and George Bastl, Switzerland, 5-7, 7-6 (7), 7-5.



Singles Second Round

Tara Snyder, United States, def. Kristina Brandi (3), United States, 6-2, 6-5 (withdrawal due to illness) Sylvia Plischke, Austria, def. Wynne Prakusya, Indonesia, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-3. Joannette Kruger, South Africa, def. Paola Suarez (7), Argentina, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (0). Tamarine Tanasugarn (5), Thailand, def. Lilia Osterloh, United States, 6-3, 6-1. Amy Frazier (2), United States, def. Corina Morariu, United States, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3). Janet Lee, Taiwan, def. Fabiola Zuluaga (4), Colombia, 6-4, 7-5. Miroslava Vavrinec, Switzerland, def. Rita Kuti Kis, Hungary, 6-3, 7-6 (5). Julie Halard-Decugis (1), France, def. Shinobu Asagoe, Japan, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.

Doubles First Round

Rita Grande, Italy, and Meghan Shaughnessy, United States (4), def. Kim Eun-ha, South Korea, and Joannette Kruger, South Africa, 6-2, 6-1. Haruka Inoue and Maiko Inoue, Japan, def. Nannie De Villiers, South Africa, and Iroda Tulyaganova, Uzbekistan, 0-6, 6-4, 6-4. Nana Miyagi, Japan, and Paola Suarez, Argentina (2), def. Lilia Osterloh, United States, and Nicole Pratt, Australia, 6-3, 6-2. Janet Lee, Taiwan, and Wynne Prakusya, Indonesia, def. Annabel Ellwood, Australia, and Rika Hiraki, Japan, 7-6 (6), 6-0.