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Ai Sugiyama’s miserable start to 2005 continued as Japan’s top player was dumped out of the Toray Pan Pacific Open in the first round by Italy’s Roberta Vinci on Tuesday.

News photoShinobu Asagoe plays a shot during her first-round match against Yuka Yoshida at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. Asagoe won 6-2, 6-1.

The fifth-seeded Sugiyama took a commanding lead and won the first set 6-2 at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium but it all went downhill from that point onward as she lost the plot and the next two sets 6-3, 6-2.

Sugiyama made an early exit at last month’s Australian Open and has now been knocked out in the first round of all four tournaments she has played in so far this year.

Short on confidence, the 29-year-old, who has been hampered by an ankle injury, was broken twice at the start of the second set and could not find a way back after losing the first five games.

Unseeded Vinci continued from where she left off in the third set, taking a 4-0 lead before wrapping up the win in 1 hour, 24 minutes.

“I don’t think I was ready for the first two tournaments (of this year) but now my condition is getting better and I was really looking forward to playing in this tournament,” said Sugiyama.

“I’m still not 100 percent yet but I have been practicing well and starting to play better. Unfortunately the match didn’t go the same as practice.

“In the beginning I was OK but towards the end she (Vinci) started to play better and I completely lost my rhythm. Probably that’s a confidence thing too. I just need to get over it,” she shrugged.

Saori Obata thrashed compatriot Miho Saeki 6-0, 6-1 and advanced to the second round, as did Shinobu Asagoe, who beat Yuka Yoshida 6-2, 6-1 in another all-Japanese affair.

In other matches, Czech Iveta Benesova beat Jelena Jankovic of Serbia and Montenegro 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, Russian Maria Kirilenko downed China’s Peng Shuai of 6-3, 6-2 and Marie-Gayanay Mikaelian of Switzerland beat Australian Nicole Pratt 6-4, 6-3.

World No. 1 Lindsay Davenport, who is seeking a record fifth Toray title and teenage Russian prodigy Maria Sharapova have byes into the second round.

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