Sanchez-Vicario struggles to open US Open

Veteran Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario fought back the upset bid of Joannette Kruger and survived her first-round match at the U.S. Open today when her South African opponent couldn't hold serve in the third-set tiebreak.

Veteran Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario fought back the upset bid of Joannette Kruger and survived her first-round match at the U.S. Open today when her South African opponent couldn't hold serve in the third-set tiebreak.

The ninth-seeded Spaniard, playing the opening match in the year's final Grand Slam tournament, edged Kruger 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (2) in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"It's just the beginning," Sanchez-Vicario said. "I'm glad that I passed my first match. I just look forward for the next one. I don't like to look too much ahead."

Top-seeded Martina Hingis, who won here in 1997, had no such problem, zipping past Alina Jidkova of Russia 6-3, 6-1 in 57 minutes.

"You always try to step up your level at the Grand Slam events," Hingis said. "I'm looking forward to the next matches."

In other early women's matches, No. 15 Jennifer Capriati, seeded at the U.S. Open for the first time since 1993, defeated Emmanuelle Gagliardi of Switzerland 6-4, 6-0, and No. 8 Nathalie Tauziat outlasted Ludmila Cervanova 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

In minor upsets, Maria Alejandra Vento of Venezuela ousted Sabine Appelmans of Belgium 6-4, 6-2 and Marissa Irvin, the former Stanford star, stopped Rita Kuti Kis of Hungary 6-4, 6-7 (11), 7-5.

Kruger served for the match at 5-4 in the third set. But she quickly fell behind 0-40 with three unforced errors, then lost her serve two points later as Sanchez-Vicario pulled even. Two games later, the two went to the tiebreak.

The first four points in the tiebreak went against serve before Sanchez-Vicario took a 3-2 lead with a perfectly executed drop shot. Kruger again failed to win her two serves, falling behind 2-5.

Sanchez-Vicario wasted little time wrapping up the hard-fought victory, closing it out by drilling a forehand down the line.

The two were credited with playing 2 hours, 18 minutes, but all matches that began the tournament had a one hour, 45-minute rain delay, beginning at noon.

"I feel the match helped me to get into the tournament," Sanchez-Vicario said. "It was a good win. You know, tough, but at the end I play well."

The rain had no effect on the 15th-seeded Capriati. Once she got into a groove, it was only a matter of time before she earned a spot in the second round.

At 5-0 in the second set, Gagliardi tumbled to the court when she turned her right ankle as she went to hit a forehand. She limped to her chair and called for a trainer. After being treated, Gagliardi returned to the court and served.

Capriati had no problems breaking at love, ripping service returns that her Swiss opponent, rooted to the baseline with the bad ankle, could only watch sail past.

"I think my tennis has improved since last year," Capriati said. "It's myself, playing a lot of tournaments, playing a lot of matches."

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