SYDNEY — Ai Sugiyama’s preparations for the Australian Open suffered a setback Wednesday when Frenchwoman Nathalie Dechy bundled her out of the first round of the Sydney International 6-2, 6-3.
The world No. 10 said she was disappointed with her performance after starting the year strongly with victory in the Australian Women’s Hardcourt Championship on the Gold Coast last week.
“I thought I was ready but she was just too good for me today,” she told reporters. “I think my footwork wasn’t great today, also it was windy so I have to be quicker on the court.”
Sugiyama, the eighth seed for the lead-up tournament to next week’s Australian Open, admitted she had trouble focusing after the match against Dechy was rescheduled from Tuesday night because of rain.
She said she would stay in Sydney to contest the doubles with Liezel Huber before heading to Melbourne for the Open.
Sugiyama’s best performance in the Australian Open came in 2000 when she reached the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, world No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne opened her season with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Conchita Martinez and Mark Philippoussis ended embattled Greg Rusedski’s run.
Henin-Hardenne trailed 0-2 before she rallied to win the first set in blustery conditions. She broke the Spaniard three times in the second set, and finished with 27 winners and 35 unforced errors.
Amelie Mauresmo beat American Meghann Shaughnessy 6-2, 6-3 after wasting a match point on serve at 5-1, while 2000 Australian Open champion Lindsay Davenport rallied for a 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over Vera Zvonareva and said her comeback from foot surgery last October was right on track.
In the men’s second round, Wimbledon finalist Philippoussis clinched a 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 win over Rusedski on his third match point.
Rusedski revealed last week he tested positive to nandrolone at Indianapolis last July. He maintains he didn’t knowingly take the steroid and is allowed to continue playing until his Feb. 9 hearing at Montreal.
“I’ve got to be realistic — that was my fourth match of the year and under everything else that’s going on . . . I’m pleased,” said Rusedski. “I was up against one of the best servers in the world and I went OK.
“If I can improve from today, I’ll do well at the Australian Open,” he added. “I’ll be quite dangerous to a lot of players.”
Two other Australians advanced to the quarterfinals, with former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt reeling off nine consecutive games and coming back from 0-4 to beat Slovakian Karol Kucera 6-4, 6-1 and teenage wild-card entry Todd Reid upsetting Spain’s Felix Mantilla 6-4, 6-1.
His next opponent is Frenchman Arnaud Clement, a 6-4, 7-5 winner over Swedish qualifier Joachim Johansson.
Carlos Moya maintained his unbeaten run in 2004 with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 win over Michael Llodra of France.
He’s in an all-Spanish quarterfinal against Tommy Robredo, who saved two match points and rallied to beat Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4). Paradorn completed his first-round win over Swede Jonas Bjorkman earlier Wednesday after their match was rained out when he led 4-1 in the third set the previous night.
Dutchman Martin Verkerk overcame Max Mirnyi of Belarus 6-7 (0-7), 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5) and will meet Philippoussis in the quarterfinals.
Sixth-seeded Elena Dementieva defeated fellow Russian Elena Bovina 6-2, 6-3 and seventh-seeded Chanda Rubin of the United States beat Lina Krasnoroutskaya 7-5, 6-2.
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