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Local favorite and fifth seed Ai Sugiyama was one of two major casualties of the second round of singles at the Toyota Princess Cup at Tokyo’s Ariake Colosseum on Thursday, after crashing out to unseeded Australian Nicole Pratt 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Sugiyama crumbled in front of an anxious home crowd, failing to stamp her authority on a match she was expected to win.

“Nicole controlled the pace of the game and didn’t allow me to play my shots,” explained Sugiyama. “She has a great forehand and she really came on strong in the third set.”

Sugiyama appeared to have trouble at the net, squandering numerous smashes and routine volleys at key points in the match starting with a smash into the net in the second game of the first set when the ball was going wide by at least 30 cm.

“I didn’t play well at the net today and missed some crucial shots. I have been playing mostly baseline tennis this season although I am a good doubles player so my net play should be better,” said Sugiyama.

The other upset of the day was caused by American Amy Frazier, who had extra reason to celebrate her 30th birthday with a 6-4, 6-3 win over fourth-seeded Israeli Anna Smashnova.

Among the other big names in action, Kim Clijsters overcame a second-set lapse to overcome a game Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets.

The hard-hitting Kuznetsova had threatened to roll over Clijsters after taking no time in winning the second set 6-0. But the experienced Clijsters dug deep and got back into the match and eventually prevailed 6-4, 0-6, 7-5.

Clijsters appeared unsurprised by the performance of the relatively unheralded Kuznetsova.

“I knew she would be tough because she was ranked No. 1 in the juniors last year and has quickly risen to a position in the top 50 in the world,” Clijsters said of her opponent. “She has a big forehand and a good serve. She definitely has a promising future ahead of her.”

In explaining her 6-0 second-set drubbing, Clijsters said: “I lost focus in the second set but kept hanging in there but these are the types of matches that can motivate me for the rest of the tournament.”

Defending champion and second seed Jelena Dokic reminded the crowd that she remains a threat in the tournament with a no-nonsense 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) win over Lina Krasnoroutskaya despite being taken to a tie-breaker in the second set and getting frustrated with the ball girls.

“The first match is always the toughest to come back and play,” said Dokic. “I did well here last year, so for the first match I am happy.”

Date limps off court

Kimiko Date’s return to professional tennis lasted less then an hour Thursday as the former Japanese No. 1 limped out of a second-round doubles match at the Toyota Princess Cup.

Date, teaming up with compatriot Miho Saeki, pulled up at the start of the second set of her match against top seeds Cara Black of New Zealand and Russian Elena Likhovtseva after straining her left Achilles tendon.

“I’m really disappointed. I’ve never had an injury like this before,” said Date, who will undergo tests at a Tokyo hospital to determine the full extent of the damage.

The 31-year-old retired from the WTA Tour in 1996 in the prime of her career after reaching the Wimbledon semifinals and quarterfinals of the season-ending Sanex Championships that year.

Date has made entries in the doubles of the Toyota Princess Cup and the Japan Open, which gets underway in Tokyo on Sept. 30. She said she had no plans to compete on the professional circuit after the Japan Open but would continue to play in exhibition matches.

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