Originally created 05/25/04

Jitters part of play



PARIS - Justine Henin-Hardenne felt queasy at the prospect of returning to work Monday morning, and she took that as a good sign.

Ending a six-week layoff, the top-ranked Belgian overcame butterflies, a slow start and a shaky serve to beat Sandrine Testud, 6-4, 6-4, in the first round of the French Open.

"I wasn't surprised when I woke up this morning that I was nervous," Henin-Hardenne said. "I think all players are nervous, especially before a first round. When I'm not nervous before a match anymore, I think it's going to be time to stop tennis."

Henin-Hardenne looked plenty jittery at first, losing six consecutive points and falling behind 2-0. Then she double-faulted four times in the next game.

The Belgian hit eight double-faults, all in the opening set. She lost serve three times and committed 34 unforced errors.

"I served pretty bad in the first set, but game after game I was serving better," Henin-Hardenne said. "I came through in two sets, and that's the most important thing. Many times we've seen players having trouble in their first matches of a Grand Slam."

Henin-Hardenne's comment proved prescient: Barely an hour later, 1999 champion Andre Agassi was eliminated from the tournament.

There were no comparable upsets on the women's side, where the only seeded losers were No. 24 Jelena Dokic and No. 27 Elena Daniilidou.

The imposing Russian contingent went 6-0, including victories by No. 8 Nadia Petrova and No. 10 Vera Zvonareva. Also advancing were No. 3-seeded Amelie Mauresmo, France's best hope, and No. 5 Lindsay Davenport.

Like Henin-Hardenne, Mauresmo acknowledged battling nerves as she beat Ludmila Cervanova, 6-3, 6-3.

"It has to do with tension, with pressure," Mauresmo said. "I feel that in every single match. It's a bit more here."

Davenport swept Virginie Pichet, 6-4, 6-2. Petrova, a semifinalist last year, defeated Catalina Castano, 6-2, 6-3, and Zvonareva routed Zuzana Kucova, 6-0, 6-2.

Each poses as a potential threat to Henin-Hardenne, whose fitness remains in question following such a lengthy layoff.

Her 90-minute victory on a 65-degree day wasn't much of a test.

"I cannot tell you I'm 100 percent, but I think it's enough to have a lot of ambition here," Henin-Hardenne said.

Henin-Hardenne will next play Tathiana Garbin, who beat Conchita Martinez Granados, 6-1, 6-2.