Originally created 01/19/00

Mauresmo out in opening round



MELBOURNE, Australia -- Amelie Mauresmo crashed from a dream week to a nightmare exit in the Australian Open.

Mauresmo, a finalist a year ago and victor over three of the top five players in a tournament title run last week, succumbed to her own wildness and the wily tactics of left-hander Patty Schnyder 6-4, 6-4 in the second round today.

"Today was one of those days you should probably stay in bed," the seventh-seeded Mauresmo said. "Of course, I'm very disappointed, but it's one of those days where nothing is really working. Every part of my game was down."

Andre Agassi, the top-seeded man, had no trouble cruising into the third round, serving an ace to close out a 7-5, 6-0, 6-4 victory over Sjeng Schalken. No. 9 Richard Krajicek became the sixth seeded man to fall in the first three days. Nicolas Escude of France beat the 1996 Wimbledon champion 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.

Mauresmo had trouble with Schnyder's heavy topspin and occasional drop shots, committed 48 unforced errors and suffered one disastrous game in each set.

A week earlier, in a warm-up tournament in Sydney, Mauresmo beat No. 5 Mary Pierce, No. 1 Martina Hingis and No. 2 Lindsay Davenport on her way to the title. That earned her the No. 6 ranking, her highest ever.

"It's different for me to come in as a favorite, it's difficult, but it's something I might have to get used to," Mauresmo said.

Last year, ranked No. 29, she became the lowest-ranked player since 1979 to reach the Australian Open final, where she lost to Hingis. She beat Schnyder in the second round and Davenport in the semifinal.

Mauresmo's loss was the biggest upset so far in the women's draw, though No. 3 Serena Williams nearly preceded her.

Looking lost, worried and terribly tired, Williams turned to her mother in the stands as if seeking a shoulder to lean on.

Oracene Williams could do no more than stare back glumly and helplessly, her chin on her hands.

They had flown 20 hours from Florida to the Australian Open, arriving jet-lagged just four days before Tuesday night's first-round match. Serena hadn't played a match in three months, her back hurt from a lingering injury and her legs felt dead.

And now an unknown, an Australian wild card playing in her first major tournament, No. 261 Amanda Grahame, stood across the net -- two games from sending the U.S. Open champion and her mother-coach right back home.

Somehow, the third-seeded Williams summoned the strength to serve out the next game at love, then break Grahame on the third match-point to win 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. It was a two-hour test of endurance and will that began in muggy heat and ended, after a half-hour rain delay in the second set, under the center court's retractable roof.

"I can't picture myself losing until the last point is over and I'm shaking her hand, thinking, 'I can't believe it,"' the 18-year-old Williams said. "She played well and she thought she was going to win at 4-4. I have that never-say-die spirit. It's just innate, and I'm glad I had it. You can't buy it."