Kuerten comeback aces Spadea

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The Independent Online

The French Open champion, Gustavo Kuerten, was twice given a fright by the American qualifier Vincent Spadea yesterday before edging into the Hong Kong Open second round, 7-5, 4-6, 7-5.

The French Open champion, Gustavo Kuerten, was twice given a fright by the American qualifier Vincent Spadea yesterday before edging into the Hong Kong Open second round, 7-5, 4-6, 7-5.

The top-seeded Brazilian trailed 4-1 in the opening set then had to recover from 4-0 down in the decider.

"I didn't expect to come back," Kuerten said. "But when I got a break at 4-1, I thought I had some chance of winning. He was feeling the pressure to beat me and I raised my game a bit in the end."

Kuerten was warned when he slammed the ball high into the stands in the ninth game of the third set, but he calmed down to break back at 5-4. He broke Spadea again in the 11th to lead 6-5 before serving out the match.

"It was a very emotional match for me. I get angry when I am down. Sometimes I play that way," Kuerten said.

The seventh seed, Patrick Rafter, also struggled in his opening match, but proved too strong for the qualifier Kristian Pless of Denmark. The Australian won 6-4, 7-5.

The three times Hong Kong champion and eighth seed, Michael Chang of the United States, comfortably progressed 6-2, 6-0 against the Australian Andrew Ilie.

Andre Agassi has become the fourth player to qualify for the inaugural Tennis Masters Cup which starts in Lisbon on 28 November. The 30-year-old Australian Open champion, ranked eighth in the ATP Champions Race, is guaranteed a place because of a new ruling that guarantees any Grand Slam winner a place in the eight-man, end-of-season event regardless of his final position.

The winners of the other three Grand Slam tournaments, Gustavo Kuerten (French Open), Pete Sampras (Wimbledon) and Marat Safin (US Open) would have qualified anyway because of their Champions Race positions. The other four players will be decidedduring the indoor season.

Lleyton Hewitt, of Australia, the Swedes Thomas Enqvist and Magnus Norman, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, of Russia, and the Spaniards Alex Corretja and Juan Carlos Ferrero are in contention.

Kim Clijsters, of Belgium, won a battle of teenagers yesterday when the up-and-coming 17-year-old overpowered the 18-year-old Russian Anna Kournikova in two sets at the Porsche Grand Prix in Filerstadt, Germany.

Clijsters displayed some of the power, along with quickness, that made her the 1999 Newcomer of the Year to women's tennis in knocking out the sixth-seeded Kournikova, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the second round.

She took control of a hard-fought match in the second set at 3-3, ending a long rally and setting up a break by pulling the Russian to the net with a drop shot. Clijsters then blasted a passing shot past Kournikova that clipped the line, breaking serve after having trailed 40-0 in the game

"That was a very big point. I like to fight hard over the big points and I win a lot of them in long rallies. It's good to show opponents that you'll fight for them," said Clijsters.

In Tokyo, Jelena Dokic, of Australia, cruised into thesecond round of the Princess Cup with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over the American Meghann Shaughnessy. Ai Sugiyama, of Japan, also made a winning start, beating another American, the 1998 Wimbledon semi-finalist Alexandra Stevenson, 6-3, 6-3.

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