- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2008

PARIS - Richard Gasquet withdrew from the French Open yesterday because of a left knee injury.

The eighth-seeded Frenchman pulled out shortly before he was scheduled to play Florent Serra in the first round.

“After practice on Saturday, everything was going fine,” Gasquet said. “In the evening, I started feeling some pain. When I woke up Sunday morning, I felt a strong pain. I could barely put my foot on the ground.

“I asked [the organizers] if I could play on Tuesday, but my request was rejected.”

Gasquet said he expected to recover in time to play at Wimbledon next month.

At Roland Garros, Gasquet was replaced by Santiago Giraldo of Colombia, who lost to Serra 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

The 20-year-old Giraldo said he had only about 30 minutes to prepare for the match.

“The ATP told me, ‘Hey, you play. You replace Gasquet,’ ” Giraldo said. “I was a little bit surprised. Not much time to prepare everything, but it’s OK. It’s a very good surprise.”

Florian Mayer of Germany also withdrew. Mayer, who will be replaced by Evgeny Korolev of Russia, pulled out because of gastroenteritis. Korolev will face Fabrice Santoro in the first round.

Being the youngest player at the French Open can have its advantages.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a 16-year-old Russian qualifier who recently graduated from high school, won for the first time at a major tournament yesterday, beating Maria Emilia Salerni of Argentina 6-1, 6-1 in the first round at Roland Garros.

“Actually, I don’t really have any pressure,” said Pavlyuchenkova, who lost in the first round at Wimbledon last year in her Grand Slam debut. “I have nothing to lose.

“I just go on the court, and I play my best tennis. I don’t think about my opponent. I want to be aggressive. All the things I do in practice, I just want to put them in my match.”

Born in Samara, Russia, Pavlyuchenkova started playing tennis when she was 6 and became the junior world champion in 2006. But the transition to being a professional was tough.

“My results were quite good in juniors. I thought it was going to be OK in seniors,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “When I started losing matches in seniors, I felt disappointed. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I didn’t think there was so much difference. I lost my confidence a little bit.”

Pavlyuchenkova likes to play on clay, and that could be because last year she moved to Paris to train at Patrick Mouratoglou’s tennis academy.

“I’ve changed the way I play. It’s better now,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “I still need to work on my serve to make it a big weapon.”

Pavlyuchenkova is now planning to go to college in Moscow, and she already has considered one option if tennis doesn’t work out as a career.

“Actually, I’d like to be a journalist,” she said.

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