Kournikova crashes out

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The Independent Online

Mary Pierce rallied from a set and a break down to subdue Anna Kournikova and reach the quarter-finals of the WTA Tour Chase Championships in New York.

Mary Pierce rallied from a set and a break down to subdue Anna Kournikova and reach the quarter-finals of the WTA Tour Chase Championships in New York.

Kournikova never looked better than in the first set, but by the end of the night she had never looked worse.

Up a set and a break, Kournikova failed to close out the match and endured a monumental third-set collapse as the fifth-seeded Frenchwoman pulled out a 6-7 (3/7) 7-6 (7/5) 6-0 victory.

Barbara Schett was a hit in her Madison Square Garden debut.

Smashing forehands, backhands and overheads, the seventh-seeded Schett easily dominated veteran Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-1, 6-4 Monday night in the opening match of the season-ending Chase Championships of the WTA Tour.

Schett, a 23-year-old from Austria, ripped winners from all over the court in the 12 minutes it took to play the first five games of the match. The small crowd finally had something to cheer when Sanchez-Vicario held from 30 in the sixth game to finally get on the scoreboard.

Nineteen minutes after Schett had struck the first serve of the night, she had wrapped up the opening set.

Sanchez-Vicario, who just barely made it into this elite 16-player field, finally found a few openings in the second set, holding her first three serves, two from deuce. After she lost her serve in the seventh game, she broke right back to level the set 4-4.

Two games later, the Spaniard, who will turn 28 next month, had been eliminated from her 12th Garden tournament. It was her earliest exit since 1995, and only her third first-round loss on the blue carpet.

"It went too fast," Sanchez-Vicario said. "All the games, you know, went on her side really fast."

In the quarterfinals, Schett will face the winner of Wednesday night's match between third-seeded Venus Williams of the united States and Spain's Conchita Martinez, a battle Williams is heavily favored to win.

"She's serving really well," Schett said of Williams. "Especially indoors, it's going to be harder to return her serve well, I think. This is going to be the biggest problem. But I have nothing to lose. And she has to win first."

The first round continues Tuesday morning when sixth-seeded Nathalie Tauziat of France takes on South Africa's Amanda Coetzer. In the evening, U.S. Open champion Serena Williams of the United States, seeded fourth, will take on Belgium's Dominique Van Roost and top-seeded Martina Hingis will begin the defense of her title against Sandrine Testud of France.

Wednesday's matches will complete the opening round. In a day match, No. 8 Julie Halard-Decugis of France takes on Germany's Anke Huber, while the night matches pit No. 2 Lindsay Davenport of the United States, the Wimbledon champion, against Amelie Mauresmo of France, followed by Venus Williams-Martinez.

The winner of Sunday's title match earns $500,000.