Kournikova loses in comeback match

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The Independent Online

Anna Kournikova lost her first singles match since February when Australia's Nicole Pratt knocked her out of the $750,000 Acura Classic in Carlsbad, California 6–7 (1), 6–1, 6–3 on Tuesday.

A stress fracture caused Kournikova to skip the French Open and Wimbledon. She had an operation on the foot in April and only began practicing two weeks ago in Florida.

The match at the La Costa Resort and Spa lasted 2 hours and 3 minutes, mostly due to long rallies.

The 28–year–old Pratt, ranked 74th in the world, had lost three previous matches – all last year – against Kournikova.

Despite the loss, the 20–year–old Kournikova, the tournament's No. 9 seed, was happy she played as well as she did.

"For the first time I played, it was not so bad," she said. "I was fresher in the first set and had difficulty finishing it off. She is a tough player. She doesn't give you any free points. The ball just keeps coming back."

Kournikova's game wasn't affected by the injury or her rumored marriage to hockey player Sergei Fedorov.

"Those are just false rumors," Kournikova said of published reports in England that she had married the Detroit Red Wings star. "The British tabloids make stuff up."

Kournikova said her foot didn't bother her against Pratt but was sore afterward.

The only injury timeout was called by Pratt, who took a 7–minute break to tend to a sore right Achilles' tendon.

"I was a little edgy at first," Pratt said. "She let me get back in the match in the second set. I think she was holding back. That comes from not enough match play. Her forehand was a little hesitant."

Pratt also agreed that an off the court romance wasn't a factor in Kournikova's loss.

"I don't think it had anything to do with her personal life," Pratt said. "It takes time to get back in form, married or not."

In other action Tuesday, Martina Hingis of Switzerland, conscious of her tenuous hold on the world's No. 1 ranking, banged out a 6–1, 6–4 second–round victory over unheralded Lilia Osterloh of Columbus, Ohio.

Hingis took 61 minutes to dispose of the 1997 NCAA singles champion from Stanford, now ranked 53rd by the WTA.

"In the second set I had a harder time holding serve. It's a tough draw here. I don't want to fall. I want to stay up there (as the world's number one player)," she said.

This was the first match for Hingis since she lost in the first round at Wimbledon to Spain's Virginia Ruano Pascual, then ranked 83rd in the world, 6–4, 6–2.

In the interim, Hingis said, "I took time to practice and now I'm 100 percent mentally and physically back together."

Kournikova and Hingis are paired in the doubles draw and won their opening match on Monday.

Two other singles seeds, all of whom drew first–round byes, won Tuesday.

The No. 6 seed Nathalie Tauziat of France won in two tiebreaker sets from Nadia Petrova, 7–6 (4), 7–6 (5).

Monica Seles, No. 7, defeated Evie Dominikovic of Australia, 6–3, 6–4.

Results from the $750,000 Acura Classic played at The La Costa Resort and Spa (seedings in parentheses):

Singles, First Round

Alexandra Stevenson (US) def. Kristina Brandi (US) 7–6 (5), 6–0.

Elena Bovina (Rus) def. Elena Likhovtseva (Rus) 7–5, 5–3, retired.

Daja Bedanova (Cze) def. Alexandra Fusai (Fra) 6–0, 6–2.

Marlene Weingartner (Ger) def. Iroda Tulyaganova (Uzb) 7–6 (4), 1–6, 7–6 (2).

Second Round

(1) Martina Hingis (Swi) def. Lilia Osterloh (US) 6–1, 6–4.

(6) Nathalie Tauziat (Fra) def. Nadia Petrova (Rus) 7–6 (4), 7–6 (5).

(7) Monica Seles (US) def. Evie Dominikovic (Aus) 6–3, 6–4.

Nicole Pratt (Aus) def. (9) Anna Kournikova (Rus) 6–7 (1), 6–1, 6–3.

(10) Magdalena Maleeva (Bul) def. Allison Bradshaw (US) 6–1, 7–5.

(12) Sandrine Testud (Fra) def. Rita Grande (Ita) 6–4, 7–5.

(16) Barbara Schett (Aus) def. Chanda Rubin (US) 7–6 (4), 6–4.

Doubles, First Round

Jennifer Capriati (US) and Arantxa Sanchez–Vicario (Spa) def. (3) Kimberly Po–Messerli (US) and Nathalie Tauziat (Fra) 6–4, 7–6 (3).

Amy Frazier and Katie Schlukebir (US) def. Janet Lee (Tai) and Wynne Prakusya, (Indon) 6–4, 6–4.

Daja Bedanova (Cze) and Alexandra Stevenson (US) def. Elena Bovina (Rus) and Iroda Tulyaganova (Uzb) 5–7, 6–2, 6–3.